Josh McDaniels’ decision to kick a short field goal backfires as Raiders lose to Steelers

A case could possibly be made that NFL head coaches now go on fourth down more often. They have gone from never going for it to being very aggressive over the last few seasons.

But what Las Vegas Raiders head coach Josh McDaniels did in their game against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday night didn’t make much sense.

McDaniels made a very conservative call, kicking a short field goal with a little more than two minutes remaining and going for it instead on fourth-and-four from Pittsburgh’s 8-yard line, trailing 23–15 . The situation told the Raiders to go for it, especially deep into Steelers territory. McDaniels with a kick.

The Steelers ran out most of the remaining clock, scored a crucial first down just before the two-minute warning, and defeated the Raiders 23–18.

McDaniels was asked about the decision after the game, but did not provide any further explanation.

“These are decisions you have to make,” McDaniels said. “I thought the next series we’d put ourselves on third down with the defense to try to make a play to get off the field, and we didn’t handle that play very well… you got another Anyway, you know what I mean? So it’s not a lack of confidence. We went for it. [on fourth down] many times.”

McDaniels has not impressed as the Raiders coach. No one except the Steelers will be happy with his decision to not attend on Sunday night.

raiders crime fight

The night got off to a good start for the Raiders. They went for a big play on fourth-and-1, and Garoppolo hit Davante Adams downfield for a 32-yard touchdown and a 7–0 lead. This is the last we’ll hear about the Raiders offense for some time.

TJ Watt was doing his best to disrupt everything. He defeated right tackle Jermaine Elyumunor. The Raiders couldn’t get anything done on the field – Josh Jacobs stayed away from the team during the preseason, was unhappy with the franchise tag, and got nothing in three weeks of the season – and that put the offense on the shoulders of Garoppolo.

After Adams’ touchdown, here was the output of the Raiders offense: punt, interception, punt, punt, punt, interception, turnover on downs. The blocking was bad. Both were perfect for the Steelers’ defenders. The second throw was thrown blindly into the secondary and was an easy, uncontested interception for Patrick Peterson.

The Raiders finally started to get it going in the fourth quarter, largely due to a questionable harassing the passer penalty on Minkah Fitzpatrick. Adams got his second touchdown of the night with 5:41 left. The two-point conversion cut Pittsburgh’s lead to 23–15. Then the attackers forced three dismissals.

The Raiders tried to give the Steelers a break by kicking a field goal on fourth down with 3:15 left. However, a leverage call on defensive lineman DeMarvin Leal, when he pushed a Raiders lineman to jump and attempt a block, resulted in a 15-yard loss to the Steelers and the Raiders’ first down. Then, after a few plays in a situation that screamed even louder to go for it, the Raiders kicked a field goal.

The Raiders were in the red zone and Garoppolo had to throw it on third-and-4 at Pittsburgh’s 8-yard line. Instead of going for it on fourth down, McDaniels opted for a short field goal. With 2:22 left, the Raiders kicked a 26-yard field goal but trailed 23–18.

Las Vegas had three timeouts and a two-minute warning on their side. And they no longer needed to make a two-point conversion to tie the game. But he also had to get the ball back. Kenny Pickett got a big first down by completing a 6-yard pass to Allen Robinson just before the two-minute warning, and McDaniels’ field-goal decision looked even worse.

McDaniels got a field goal, but he also did not get the ball back until there were only a few seconds left on the clock.

Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker TJ Watt sacks Las Vegas Raiders quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo during Sunday night's game.
Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker TJ Watt sacks Las Vegas Raiders quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo during Sunday night’s game. (Stephen R. Silvani/USA TODAY)

Steelers offense is great

The Steelers’ offense has had its issues. It got off to a slow start Sunday night, although Kelvin Austin III’s 72-yard touchdown run kept the team afloat.

Then the picket became hot. He started killing George Pickens for big profits. Chris Boswell kicked a pair of field goals to give the Steelers a 16–7 lead. Pickett then hit tight end Pat Freiermuth for a touchdown. Given how well the Steelers’ defense was playing, the 23–7 lead seemed pretty safe.

The Steelers were in a bit of trouble again when the Raiders ran on it. But when Pickett needed to make a play, he hit Robinson for a critical first down on third-and-2. The Steelers then played it conservatively but the Raiders had no timeouts and only 12 seconds left to get a miracle touchdown. Garoppolo threw an interception with five seconds remaining and the game was over.

The Steelers would go on to win. He played well in defense and also performed well in attack. But mostly he should thank McDaniels for not putting too much pressure on him in the end when he should have.

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