It was scripted like a quarterback's dream.
On the road in front of a raucous crowd, down by seven with just over two minutes left and needing to find the end zone to force overtime – and that's exactly the scenario second-year quarterback Derek Carr found himself in Sunday afternoon at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh.
In just seven short plays, Carr masterfully engineered a 69-yard drive for the Raiders, punctuated by a 38-yard, game-tying touchdown strike to Michael Crabtree with 1:21 left in regulation.
However, it just wasn't enough, as the Raiders fell to the Steelers 38-35 on a last-second 18-yard field goal by Chris Boswell, dropping their record to 4-4.
"It hurts to be so close," said Carr during his postgame press conference. "It really does. We have a great group of guys. Not just on offense, this team is a very resilient bunch."
That being said, the Silver and Black didn't play their best game of the season – not by a long shot.
The Steelers defense forced five fumbles, recovering three of them, and Carr threw his first interception since the team's Week 5* *loss to the Denver Broncos.
Despite that, the team scratched and clawed their way back from a 14-point, fourth-quarter deficit and had a shot to force overtime, something that they might not have been able to do just a year ago.
"Things started to fall apart and we just kept fighting," Carr said. "That's good to see."
"That's a good point; I do feel like in years prior, maybe that never say die-mentality wouldn't be there," right tackle Austin Howard added. "We're proud of what we have. We appreciate that mentality that the coaches instill within us as a team, that never say die-mentality and that the game isn't over until the final whistle blows."
At the end of the day though, Sunday's effort came up just a bit short, and as a result, the Raiders returned home to the Bay Area a .500 team.
"There's no such thing as coming close in the National Football League," said safety Larry Asante. "At the end of the day, it's did you get the job done or did you not get the job done? We didn't get the job done today and it was very disappointing. At the end, we played well enough to come back and win, but we needed to make the plays to win the game, and we didn't do it."
Next up on the docket for the Raiders is a home date with the 6-2 Minnesota Vikings – the surprise front-runner in the NFC North halfway through the season.
"The next 24 hours are going to hurt a little bit," Howard said. "We realize we have to move on and get forward and get focused on the next game."
Yes, the Raiders fell Sunday afternoon in front of a capacity crowd at Heinz Field in a game that many of them surely felt they should have won.
Head Coach Del Rio continually preaches that there are no moral victories – and he's right, but he at least can take solace in the fact that the 14-point comeback Carr and the offense engineered might not have been possible just a season ago.
"Coach Del Rio has definitely changed the culture around here; we're fighting," said tight end Mychal Rivera. "You see that we're hanging in there in tight games – if we're losing them, they're nail biters. We just have to continue to get better and continue to learn from the mistakes that we're making."