10 plays that shaped Raiders' season: No. 9

February, 4, 2014
Feb 4
8:00
AM ET
ALAMEDA, Calif. -- Our chronological journey through the Plays That Defined The Oakland Raiders' season makes a Thanksgiving Day stop in Dallas for Play No. 9.

Nov. 28, at Dallas Cowboys, Brandian Ross and Kevin Burnett whiff on tackle of Jason Witten on third-and-6 in third quarter.

No doubt the Raiders, who once had a 21-7 lead, handed momentum to the strangely blue-clad Cowboys late in the first half by allowing the Turkey Day hosts to drive 73 yards for a touchdown in 1:46, just before halftime.

And it's true, the Cowboys were already having their way with the Raiders with the score tied, 21-21, late in the third quarter when Oakland forgot how to tackle. But the play summed up not only the Raiders' collapse in an eventual 31-24 loss, but also their play in losing eight of their final nine games, including six straight, to finish 4-12.

Facing a third-and-6 at the his own 39-yard line, Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo spotted tight end Witten in the right flat and hit him with a quick pass. Ross and Burnett had Witten bracketed at the line of scrimmage. And then Witten made like a matador and merely brushed the two aside as they closed in on him.

Witten rumbled 19 yards down field for the back-breaking first down before Nick Roach, Tracy Porter, Phillip Adams and Ross rode him to the turf. Six plays later, DeMarco Murray ran it in from 7 yards out for the go-ahead touchdown and the Cowboys, who scored 24 unanswered points, never looked back.

Burnett said the game turned on his missed tackle of Witten.

“I have to be a better tackler,” Burnett said in the postgame locker room, “to understand where my help is. And get them on the ground. Period.

“The coaches put us in perfect plays, and we didn't tackle. That's what it boils down to. We didn't tackle. We would hit them in the backfield. We had six guys around them, and we let them go. That starts with myself, and getting (off the field) on third down. And everybody has to be accountable.”

The Raiders were coming off an emotionally draining home loss to Tennessee in which they allowed the Titans to drive 80 yards in the final six minutes to score a game-winning TD.

“Our guys are beat up,” Raiders coach Dennis Allen said after the Cowboys game, citing Oakland's short week. “Our guys are banged up. It wasn't from a lack of effort (or a) lack of trying. They blocked us and we struggled tacking in the second half of the football game, and therefore we weren't able to stop them.”

The Raiders' defensive fatigue and lack of tackling execution in the second half of the Dallas game showed up continuously the remainder of the season. Check back Wednesday for Play No. 10.

Paul Gutierrez

ESPN San Francisco 49ers reporter

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