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4 winners and losers from Las Vegas Raiders’ heartbreaking loss to Pittsburgh Steelers

Despite having a seven-point lead for most of the game, the Las Vegas Raiders could not hold on for a Christmas Eve victory on the road against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Falling in disappointing fashion 13-10.

After last week’s last-second miracle against New England, the Silver-and-Black could not spark another big win in Week 16. The Raiders (6-9) were unable to contain the Steelers (7-8) late as rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett, who completed 26-of-39 passes for 244 yards, went on a last-minute drive, capped off by a 14-yard touchdown pass to George Pickens with 46 seconds left.

This game had shades of the loss against the Los Angeles Rams two weeks ago as Las Vegas could not hold on to another second-half and two-possession lead.

Related: NFL games today – Get watch times and odds for the Christmas Day action

With that in mind, here are four winners and losers from the Las Vegas Raiders’ sad setback.

Winners: Pittsburgh Steelers defense

las vegas raiders
Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

One of the challenges for the Raiders on Saturday night would be sticking to their identity of the running game, especially going up against a Pittsburgh defense that was able to get through Las Vegas’ offensive line to stop running back Josh Jacobs.

Jacobs, the league’s leading rusher, was limited to 15 carries for 44 yards. The 15 carries for the 2023 Pro Bowler was his lowest mark since Week 9 when he recorded 17 carries at Jacksonville. Whether it was Cameron Heyward, T.J. Watt, or their teammates, the Steelers were able to limit the Raiders and control the line of scrimmage.

Heyward was second on the team with seven tackles but recorded two sacks, three tackles for loss, and a pass deflection. Watt, who is one of the team’s two selections for the Pro Bowl Games, had a tackle for loss and a quarterback hit.

In total, Pittsburgh combined to sack Raiders quarterback Derek Carr three times in addition to its ability to limit Jacobs.  

Losers: Derek Carr

las vegas raiders
Credit: USA Today Network

After completing 9-of-17 for 116 yards with a touchdown in the first half, Derek Carr was unable to find his rhythm in the third and fourth quarters as the Raiders were limited to just 11:40 of possession time and did not put up a single point after halftime.

In the third quarter alone, Carr threw two interceptions that stopped the Las Vegas Raiders from putting points on the board. In total, the 30-year-old completed 16-of-30 passes for 174 yards, one touchdown, and three interceptions.

With the loss, the Raiders are hoping for Miami or the Los Angeles Chargers to both lose on Sunday and Monday to have any chance of making the postseason.

Carr, who is currently in his ninth season and the team’s longest-tenured player, said losing late in the year could wreck the team’s playoff hopes, but he has been resilient and quickly turned the page for next week.

“I just care so much and when you don’t do your best, you let your team down, let your organization, fans down. It breaks your heart. At the end of the day, nobody cares. You get back up, you keep going. That’s how we do it.

– Derek C arr

Losers: Las Vegas Raiders playing smart

las vegas raiders
Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

One of the questions for the Las Vegas Raiders this entire season has been how to be more productive in the second half. Overall, the Raiders had 201 yards of offense on the night, with 50 coming after the break.

Before Carr threw his three second-half interceptions for an NFL-leading 14 picks, linebacker Denzel Perryman got the turnover battle rolling for the team with an interception. However, Carr threw one of his three intos on the ensuing play and Vegas failed on their other three drives.

The Raiders had the opportunity to close the game out with 4:32 left in the game but could not convert first downs. Las Vegas would go three-and-out on that drive leading to a punt and the Steelers’ touchdown drive.

In addition to the turnovers, the Raiders committed a critical penalty late in the third quarter. Jacobs went on a 36-yard run that got them to the edge of the red zone with 2:18 left in the third quarter. However, a flag was thrown for a face mask penalty on tight end Foster Moreau that flipped the field back in favor of the Steelers, leading to a first-and-long situation and an eventual punt.

Penalties have been the team’s Achilles’ heal as of late, especially after being flagged 13 times last week. Although Las Vegas was only called for two penalties for 20 yards, both of those penalties were costly for the team to produce.

Winners: Hunter Renfrow

las vegas raiders
Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Last week, Las Vegas was able to see tight end Darren Waller shine in his return with a touchdown in last week’s 30-24 victory. If there was a bright spot for Las Vegas offensively, it was wide receiver Hunter Renfrow, who played in his second consecutive game since coming off of Injured Reserve last week.

Renfrow caught the team’s lone touchdown of the night for his first score of the season and caught a team-high four passes for 42 yards. In addition, the return of “3rd and Renfrow” was alive, highlighted by his 14-yard touchdown catch to conclude the team’s opening drive.

On a cold night, Carr was able to find his slot receiver in a tight window. Then, Renfrow had to make a move around another defender in order to dive into the end zone.

In addition to Renfrow’s third-down touchdown catch to cap off the opening drive, the Raiders went 3-for-3 on third downs, including a completed short pass to running back Ameer Abdullah for 17 yards on third-and-16 at the Steelers’ 34-yard line with 8:14 left in the first quarter.