OAKLAND -- It was all there for the Oakland Raiders.
They could have erased an 18-point fourth-quarter deficit. They could have won their second straight home game after being behind by double digits in the second half. They could have won their third straight game and been a real factor in the AFC West and AFC playoff hunt at 4-4.
They could have built an identity of never-say-die and they could have made their home field a terror for opponents to visit. It could have been a season-changing game no one would ever forget.
It almost was a great day in Oakland. Almost never cuts it in the NFL.
The reality is Oakland is now 3-5 and two games behind Denver (5-3) for the top spot in the AFC West. San Diego (4-4) is in second place.
Oakland’s run defense was shredded by Buccaneers rookie Doug Martin, who rushed for 251 yards and four touchdowns on 25 carries. Oakland allowed Tampa Bay to register 515 yards of total offense.
The Raiders suffered several injuries, losing running back Darren McFadden and his backup Mike Goodson to ankle injuries. There was no immediate word on how long McFadden will be out, but the team said X-rays were negative.
The injuries to the tailbacks forced Oakland to rely on the pass too much. Oakland quarterback Carson Palmer attempted 61 passes, completing 39 for 414 yards and he tossed four touchdowns. But Palmer also threw three interceptions, including two in the final three minutes of the game with Oakland desperately trying to rally.
The Raiders almost caught up in the fourth quarter by being patient. Yet, when they got the ball at their own 38-yard line, trailing 35-32 with 2:42 to go, Oakland got anxious and had Palmer air it out. The second play of the drive was a poorly thrown pass that was intercepted. Tampa Bay scored three plays later to seal the game.
That sequence ended what could have been a magical day for Oakland.
From 14:11 to 3:51 remaining in the fourth quarter, Oakland outscored Tampa Bay 22-7 and made it a three-point game after a two-point conversion pass from Palmer to rookie Juron Criner in front of a frenzied crowd.
During that span, everything that needs to happen during wild, unlikely comebacks happened. The Raiders had the Buccaneers on their heels despite the fact that Martin had touchdown runs of 45, 67 and 70 yards in the game.
“Everyone in the building knew we had a chance,” Oakland guard Cooper Carlisle said. “We just couldn’t finish it.”
Carlisle and his teammates know how close they were to making something special happen. They know it was a lost opportunity.
“But there’s still a lot of football left,” Carlisle said. “But we we’re nowhere close to where we’d like to be.”
Oakland is probably where it is supposed to be. It looks like a 3-5 team. Halfway through the season, the Raiders are a team that is rebuilding and dealing with a lot of injuries.
The Raiders are also a team that was so close to experiencing a magical moment.