Raiders lack killer instinct

When Lane Kiffin talked about balance after accepting the job as head coach of the Oakland Raiders, operation give-back wasn't what he had in mind.

For the most part, Kiffin's Raiders have demonstrated the ability to stay within striking distance of their opponent in the fourth quarter, but have come up short in many cases because of a disturbing habit of surrendering points immediately after scoring themselves.

"It's an instinct we talk about it all the time," Kiffin said. "It doesn't matter how many three-and-outs you have. It doesn't matter what the score is, because you've got to go back out there and do it one more time."

The most recent example of Oakland's largesse with a lead came in a 29-22 loss to the Minnesota Vikings. Trailing 12-3, the Raiders fought back to take a 13-12 lead on Sebastian Janikowski's 30-yard field goal 11:18 left in the half.

It took the Vikings a second over two minutes to reassert themselves, driving 64 yards in four plays for a 19-13 lead. The Raiders tied the score before halftime, but never led again.

Often, the Raiders have faltered when it matters most, in the fourth quarter. A few examples:

After taking a 6-3 lead against Chicago with 4:04 left, the Bears scored in three plays, with Rex Grossman hitting Bernard Berrian with a 59-yard touchdown pass for a lead they never relinquished.

In a 24-17 loss to Houston, the Raiders were within 17-10 after a one-yard run by Justin Fargas with 11:22 left. Houston immediately drove 80 yards for a touchdown, with the last 42 yards coming on a touchdown pass from Sage Rosenfels to Andre Davis.

In a 28-14 loss to San Diego, Daunte Culpepper's one-yard pass to Zach Miller with 5:18 to play got the Raiders within 21-14. Six plays later, LaDainian Tomlinson capped an 85-yard drive with a 41-yard touchdown run for the final margin of victory.

In a 23-20 overtime loss to Denver in Week 2, Thomas Howard put Oakland in front with 8:55 left by intercepting a Jay Cutler pass and racing 44 yards for a touchdown and a 20-17 lead.

Denver responded with a 78-yard, 15-play drive that resulted in Jason Elam's 20-yard field goal to tie the score. Oakland lost in overtime.

In the season opener, Josh McCown hit Justin Griffith with a seven-yard touchdown pass with 7:43 left to take a 21-20 lead as the Raiders scored touchdowns on three consecutive drives.

Detroit reversed that momentum with a seven-play scoring drive of its own to re-take the lead with Jon Kitna's 32-yard pass to Shaun McDonald.

"We've put ourselves in plenty of ballgames where we could capitalize on a situation, but we haven't for whatever reason that is," defensive tackle Warren Sapp said. "I can't put my finger on it. If I could, I'd damn sure stop it because I've won 14 games since I've been here and that's not a good feeling."

Kiffin has been careful to spread the blame around and not implicate the defense. While the other units have contributed, it's clear Oakland's defense in the fourth quarter has been a sieve.

Opposing quarterbacks have a 93.9 quarterback rating against the Raiders in the fourth quarter, with Oakland having only one of its 11 interceptions. Howard's interception return for a score against Denver was the only fourth-quarter interception for the Raiders this season.

The Vikings rushed for 55 yards on 11 carries in the fourth quarter, continuing a trend that has seen foes rush for 327 fourth-quarter yards.

An Oakland defense that had not recovered a fumble all season through nine games -- the only team in the NFL not to have one -- had four against Minnesota. None came in the fourth quarter.

Sapp has been openly critical of Oakland's discipline overall, and rejects the notion that defenders should be looking to "make a play" with the game on the line.

"It's not, 'I've got to make a play,' " Sapp said. "It's, 'When a play presents itself, I make it.' You can't press and do something extra. You do your job. That's one thing Tony Dungy taught me a long time ago. Just do your job and have faith that the guy next to you is going to do his job. When 11 men are out there doing their job, it's beautiful, and that's what has to happen."


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