Josh McDaniels’ Las Vegas gamble caused the Raiders to bust.
The pinnacle coach made a puzzling decision to kick a field goal while trailing by eight and facing a fourth-and-four on the Steelers’ eight-yard line with 2:25 remaining in Sunday’s 23-18 loss.
The analytics — and most pundits watching the sport — said the Raiders made the improper call in that spot.
Las Vegas eventually got the ball back, but at its own 15-yard line with just 12 seconds left and no timeouts.
Raiders quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo proceeded to throw a game-clinching interception.
“You will have two decisions there,” McDaniels said. “You are trying to make it a five-point game, where you might have a chance to win it with the touchdown when you get the ball back. Or you are trying to go for it there, after which when you occur to convert then you definitely’ve got to make the two-point conversion and all the remaining of it. Those are the choices you bought to make.”
Coaching decisions are all the time magnified in the ultimate minutes of games, they usually especially loom large once they don’t pan out like McDaniels’ call Sunday night.
The Raiders trailed 23-15 once they moved the ball to the Steelers’ 14-yard line with a bit of greater than three minutes remaining.
A fast completion for six yards, followed by two incompletions, arrange the fourth-down call with 2:25 remaining.
ESPN reported the Raiders had a 15.8 percent probability of winning had they gone for the primary down, and only a 10.2 percent probability of winning with a kick.
“An enormous error by McDaniels,” tweeted ESPN analytics author Seth Walder.
McDaniels’ said his decision didn’t indicate a insecurity in his offense.
“You’re going to wish one other possession anyway, you understand what I mean?” McDaniels said. “So, it just isn’t a insecurity. We went for it multiple times.”
Opting to kick meant the suspect Raiders defense needed to make a stop, and the Steelers converted a third-and-two to all but end the sport, as quarterback Kenny Pickett found a wide-open Allen Robinson for a six-yard gain.
“I believed we did an honest job putting ourselves in third down there the following series with the defense to attempt to have a play to get off the sphere, but didn’t handle that play thoroughly,” McDaniels said.
Making McDaniels’ decision much more puzzling is that the Steelers gave the Raiders second life on the aforementioned drive after a penalty on fourth down.
The Raiders opted to kick a 48-yard field goal with a bit of greater than three minutes left while facing a fourth-and-six, however the Steelers were flagged for leverage (which is when a defensive player leaps off or stands on one other player with the intention to block a kick).
Going for it in that spot had only a 0.1-percent win-probability percentage increase than settling for the kick (10.7 to 10.6), per ESPN’s models, making it a real coin flip.
But to then accept a field goal later — and after driving contained in the 10-yard line — meant the Raiders just burned additional time that might have been used to get a defensive stop.
“I believed we had a chance to get the ball back there with perhaps a few minutes to go and have a shot to go down there and win it with a touchdown,” McDaniels said. “That was the thought process.”
He later added: “You may go either way with those.”
Raiders running back Josh Jacobs defended his coach.
“I agree with what coach did,” Jacobs said, per ESPN. “The defense was beginning to play good at the tip of the sport. We could have gotten the ball back with time to attain.”
The Raiders at the moment are 1-2 and visit the Chargers next week, while the Steelers are 2-1 and can hit the road to battle the Texans.