1. Third and 22 disaster. Who would believe the final dagger in the Bills’ playoff hopes would come as a result of a defensive breakdown on a third-and-22 situation? Down by 19-17, with 5:07 to go, the Bills were ready to get the ball back in good field position. But Derek Carr threw a 51-yard pass to Andre Holmes down the right sideline to the Buffalo 30. The Bills rushed three and dropped eight men back into coverage on the play from the Oakland 19. Corey Graham had Holmes all the way, but Graham slowed his feet at the 50, which allowed Holmes to get behind him. Carr made a big-time throw on the move to his right. Graham caught up to Holmes but was too late to jump for the ball. The 6-foot-4 Holmes jumped and made a relatively easy catch over Graham’s head. The safety on that side of the field, Bacarri Rambo, was covering James Jones on a deep out. Nickell Robey had the underneath zone on that side and passed Jones off to Rambo.
2. McFadden to the 1. The Bills still were in OK shape after the Holmes catch if they could hold the Raiders to a field goal. But two plays later, Darren McFadden ran 25 yards around left end to the 1 to set up the clinching touchdown. It was textbook power football. Oakland used an unbalanced line, with a guard, two offensive tackles and tight end Mychal Rivera all lined up to the left. The line blocked down to the right. Right guard Austin Howard pulled and took out defensive end Jerry Hughes. Tight end Marcel Reese pulled and took out the outside linebacker, Nigel Bradham. Rivera moved downfield and blocked middle linebacker Brandon Spikes. It was clear sailing for McFadden. That set up an easy 1-yard TD pass to put Oakland ahead, 26-17.
3. Chandler TD. Kyle Orton was off target much of the day but threw a perfect ball to get Buffalo within 19-17 on the first play of the fourth quarter. The pass was high down the middle of the field, and Scott Chandler used his 6-foot-7 frame to pick it out of the air and score a 29-yard touchdown. It pulled the Bills within 19-17. The Bills exploited young linebacker Ray-Ray Armstrong, starting just his second game of the year due to an injury to Sio Moore. He was only a half-step behind, but the ball placement from Orton was too perfect.
4. Tompkins to the post. It was third and 13 in the first quarter, and the Raiders beat the Bills’ Cover 2 defense. Receiver Kenbrell Thompkins lined up outside right but inside the numbers. Cornerback Graham passed him off to deep safety Aaron Williams. Thompkins ran a good route, pushing Williams to the outside then cutting to the post, and Carr made a perfect throw for a 50-yard gain to the Bills’ 4. Marcell Dareus slipped on a stunt or he might have affected Carr’s release. It set up the Raiders’ first TD.
5. Third and 1 fail. Down two with 8:26 to go the Bills faced third and 1 from their 46. If the Bills had a shred of confidence in their running game, the drive would have been alive. But they kept seven men in to block, including C.J. Spiller, and Orton tried a “safe” quick out to Chris Hogan from a bunch formation on the left. Armstrong batted it down, but the Raiders had it covered all the way. Not a good play with the season on the line. Bad decision by Orton. The Bills punted.
6. Watkins TD. A little lack of discipline by Oakland and good speed by Sammy Watkins produced the first score of the game. Watkins ran a post pattern on Raiders cornerback DJ Hayden from the right side of the field. Raiders safety Charles Woodson, on Watkins’ side of the field, sucked up on Hogan, who was running an intermediate cross from the left side. Watkins got a free release on Hayden and showed his great hands by plucking the ball out of the air just over the goal line.
7. Woodson INT. When your offense has managed three TDs in the past three games, as Buffalo’s did, you can’t blow scoring chances. The Bills marched to the Raider 33 in the first quarter. But Woodson, a 17-year veteran, made up for his early mistake on Watkins’ TD by intercepting an Orton pass for Chandler up the right seam. Bad decision by Orton. If a linebacker was covering Chandler, maybe it’s a worthwhile throw, even though there was no separation. But not a veteran free safety. Woodson was in Chandler’s pocket. It was the 60th career interception for Woodson, an eight-time Pro Bowler. He’s 11th on the all-time INT list.
8. Screen right. The Raiders got a field goal late in the first half, and it was set up by an excellent, 17-yard screen pass to Latavius Murray. Bills linebacker Preston Brown was beaten on the play. He didn’t recognize the screen to his side, instead watching a receiver crossing in the other direction. Murray raced to the Buffalo 42.
9. Murray for 25. It wasn’t a great day for Brown, the Bills’ rookie linebacker. He got sealed off by Reese, Oakland’s fine blocking tight end, on Murray’s 25-yard run off right guard in the third quarter. It went to the Buffalo 40 and set up a field goal that put Oakland ahead, 16-10. Straight-ahead football. Center Stefan Wisniewski came out to block Spikes. Murray burst through the gap.
10. Mr. Money: Every week, it seems, Dan Carpenter “steals points” for the Bills. He booted a 54-yard field goal on the last play of the half to pull Buffalo within 13-10. On grass, not an easy kick. Carpenter now is 10 for 14 from 50-plus yards this season. That’s tied for second most 50-plus kicks in the league.