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Published September 12, 2015
Dennis Allen's second season as coach of the Oakland Raiders is starting to look a lot like his first — and that's not necessarily a good thing.
A year ago, the Raiders were 3-4 and showing signs of progress before stumbling down the stretch with eight losses over the final nine games, including a stretch of six straight.
This year's team has almost mirrored that with a similar collapse.
Oakland's 31-24 loss to the Dallas Cowboys on Thanksgiving was its fourth in five weeks after what had been another encouraging 3-4 start. The Raiders have blown second-half leads in three of the losses during their recent slide and five overall this season.
That's left Allen, Oakland's first coach in the post-Al Davis era, with an 8-20 record that could easily land him on the hot seat in the offseason.
"We haven't made enough plays at the end of football games to be able to win those games," Allen said Friday. "(If) we keep giving ourselves opportunities, we keep putting ourselves in those positions, eventually ... we'll make those plays at the end of the games and we'll win those games."
The problem is they haven't.
Oakland built a 21-7 lead over Dallas in the second quarter before the Cowboys stormed back to win. A week earlier, the Raiders let a 19-16 lead slip away in the final moments of a loss to the Tennessee Titans.
They also blew fourth-quarter leads against the Indianapolis Colts and New York Giants, and lost to Washington after holding the advantage at halftime.
Gone is talk of a possible playoff run, replaced by the mere hope of winning out and avoiding a losing record for the ninth time since 2002.
"I understand where we're at from a record standpoint, but these guys have gone out there and given us everything that they've had every single week," Allen said. "I continue to expect to see that for the last four weeks of the season. They're learning experiences for us and hopefully guys are continuing to learn from it."
Oakland has a nine-day break in between games and needs the extra rest.
Running back Rashad Jennings suffered a concussion against Dallas and will have to go through NFL protocol before being cleared to play. Right guard Mike Brisiel was knocked out of the game with a knee injury, while safety Usama Young injured his neck.
Even at full strength, it has been a tough haul for the Raiders in November.
Oakland's last three losses have come by seven points or fewer. The only win came against a Houston team that had dropped seven straight going in.
Along the way, the Raiders have switched quarterbacks, lost their top running back and wide receiver to injury and played with an ever-changing offensive line that has also been beset by injuries.
Undrafted rookie quarterback Matt McGloin, who replaced injured starter Terrelle Pryor before the win against the Texans, had a second straight mediocre outing but is expected to keep his job.
"I don't think he's done anything to play himself out of that position," Allen said. "Really, in every game that he's been the starting quarterback, we've had an opportunity to win those football games. We just haven't been able to pull them out."
That might be the one area in which the Raiders have improved from a year ago.
They lost five games by 21 points or more in 2012. This year, Oakland has had just one lopsided loss — a 49-20 blowout by the Philadelphia Eagles on Nov. 3.
"When you watch us play and you watch us work every day, there is absolutely nothing that would give me any indication that there is anybody in that locker room that has any give up in them," Allen said. "I like this football team. What we've got to do is identify where those plays are that we could have been better and try to put ourselves in better position to make those plays. Then you're talking about a win and not a loss."
Notes: Allen gave the players the weekend off. They'll return for practice Monday. ... CB Mike Jenkins suffered a stinger in Thursday's game.
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org