The Las Vegas Raiders loss on the road to New England isn’t the end of the world, but patterns are starting to develop. Some are good, some are not as we take a look.
For a minority of the Raider Nation, It’s full-blown panic mode after the Raiders loss to the Patriots 36-20 in Week 3. It was a game that simply got away from the Raiders in the second half. There is optimism as the team was competitive early but Jon Gruden and Mike Mayock have a lot to figure out heading into a Week 4 as injuries mount and the stout 3-0 Buffalo Bills roll into Las Vegas.
Here is what was good, ok, and ugly for the Raiders loss to the Patriots in the disappointing Week 3.
The Raiders had some optimism heading into a game where they gave up 29 points on defense. Las Vegas held the Patriots to 162 yards through the air with N’Keal Harry leading New England’s wide receiver corps with just 34 yards. A breath of fresh air for young up and coming secondary. Lamarcus Joyner and Damon Arnette had their best games as Raiders – a good sign for things to come. But, news today about Arnette re-aggravating his thumb injury doesn’t bode well for the Raiders. However, the biggest shining star of the secondary, was second-year stud, Trayvon Mullen. Mullen allowed just eight yards on one catch for the afternoon and allowed a passer rating of just 39.6. Of course, he did struggle mightily in the running packages, but you take what you can get. These numbers made him one of the leagues top corners in Week 3 and they will need every bit of that facing resurgent Stefon Diggs in Week 4. The Raiders loss to the Patriots can’t stick in their heads as they face another tough opponent at Allegiant Stadium
There wasn’t much to be excited about offensively in Week 3 which was a disappointing showing by the offense. Hunter Renfrow was the lone exception in the Raiders loss. Renfrow ended the day with six catches for 84 yards and a touchdown. He narrowly missed the 2nd touchdown to end the first half. Renfrow’s huge 25-yard catch at the goal-line right before half could have been a game-changer. It set the Raiders up to cut the lead to three with the team getting the second-half kickoff. Although the game didn’t go the Raiders way, Renfrow making huge game-changing catches is always welcome. The Raiders now may be missing Henry Ruggs III and Bryan Edwards for an extended period of time, so Renfrow showing up in a big way is going to be key.
The Raiders pass rush is still far from where it needs to be. They struggle to get consistent pressure and will disappear in the pass rush for big chunks of the game. However, as with the Week 2 interception against the Saints, the Raiders interception of Cam Newton early was created by pressure on the quarterback. The Raiders struggle defensively so in order to have winning season they will need to create turnovers. It was also a sight for sore eyes to see Maxx Crosby get two sacks on the afternoon. Those two sacks were Crosby’s only tackles on the day. Although it isn’t great yet, the Raiders improving this week in the pass rush department is something that is welcome and we are all hopeful it continues.
The Raiders run game had the potential to take over this game early. Las Vegas averaged 5.7 yards a carry and seemed to be gaining steam in the first quarter behind Josh Jacobs. The abandoning of the run game is responsible for its “ok” rating. Bellicheck started stacking the box and the Raiders offensive line was allowing more penetration and pressure. Gruden abandoned the run early and the Radiers didn’t fair much better through the air. I think the Raiders have to get the ball in Jacobs hands one way or another and they just didn’t do it enough on Sunday. I don’t think there should be a game going forward where Josh Jacobs has less than 25 carries. Usually, when Jacobs doesn’t get the ball enough, the end result is a Raiders loss.
Just one week ago, I had Derek Carr in the good category and there was no debate. This week, he finds himself in the Ugly column. The stat sheet may say differently, but Derek Carr did not perform up to his or Gruden’s standards Sunday. Two strip-sacks and a plethora of 3-and-out’s really hindered the Raiders Sunday. Although it wasn’t all on Carr, and Bellicheck had a great game plan, his execution and pocket awareness needs improvement. The Raiders had an opportunity early to jump out to an early lead with the Raiders possessing the ball in a 3-3 tie. Then, Chase Winovich came in for the strip-sack on Carr. Denzelle Good got beat on the play but Carr needs to step up and make a play in that situation. He has to feel the pressure and act accordingly. The whole team played stagnantly and I expect Derek and Gruden to take a step forward vs Buffalo next week.
Arguably the Raiders biggest strength coming into the season was their offensive line. Injuries have robbed them of Trent Brown, Richie Incognito, and even Sam Young. The Raiders never really got the run game going and Derek Carr was sacked twice. The biggest issue was the two turnovers caused by bad offensive line play. Two Derek Carr strip-sacks later, the Patriots cashed in with 10 points off those turnovers – a huge deciding factor in this game. I expect the Raiders to play well on the line all year, especially if Brown and Incognito return.
After facing Alvin Kamara and Christian McCaffery to start the season, the Raiders defense got gashed by the vaunted Sony Michel. A running back that has been in talks of riding the bench this season when Damien Harris returns. It was ugly folks, no way around it. Michel averaged 13 yards a carry and his backup Rex Burkhead averaged 8.1 yards a carry. After Week 3 the Raiders lead the league in missed tackles with 35, and that is not a winning formula. Simply, you will not win football games giving up rushing numbers like this. The bad rushing defense really changed the course of this football game and kept the Raiders off the field. This resulted in a 10 minute differential in time of possession, something the Raiders need to control to win a football game.
Overall the Raiders are a long way away from being a top-tier team. There are strides in the right direction. Even after a brutal Raiders loss, the team is 2-1. They have a big chance in an expanded playoff pool of at least creeping in. This team will need to show up in a big way on Sunday and that includes reserve players stepping up because of injury. The Raiders need some guys to come back, and we will keep you updated as the injury reports come out.