The Las Vegas Raiders 45-20 loss at the hands of Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday shouldn’t be surprising. The Raiders loss again renewed debate around its lagging defense.
The Raiders face another tough match-up on Sunday when they squared off against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Tom Brady. The team played flat and uninspired football for the majority of the football game despite showing some spark on offense. This Raiders loss shared something in common with the other two – once again, the defense couldn’t keep up.
Did the Covid-19 protocols of the week affect them? Probably. At some point, if the Raiders are a “good” football team, they need to win games consistently, no excuses. In all three losses this season the Raiders were within 1 score in the 2nd half, and the team has let the games get away from them. A combination of a bad run game, and a stagnant defense has caused 3-3 to seem like 0-6 to some. The game wasn’t all bad, there was plenty to be happy about, below I breakdown the good, the ok and the bad once again.
After getting gouged by the New England Patriots in Week 3, the Raiders run defense has produced in three-straight weeks. When you’re giving up 350+ yards through the air, you have to look for some positives, right? Holding the Buccaneers to 3.4 yards per carry, and 85 rushing yards total, is a small win for this football team. Ronald Jones came into this game hot and was held to 13 carries for 34 yards. Being able to stop the run kept the Raiders in the game early and gave them a shot at winning this game. They are going to need every bit of the solid run defense next week against Cleveland. Cleveland averages 157 yards rushing, and even without Nick Chubb, the only way to beat them is to make Baker Mayfield beat you via the pass.
Trayvon Mullen is a weekly candidate for this section and seems to be improving every week. He is clearly the Raiders best defensive player and it’s not particularly close. In this latest Raiders loss, Mullen had some difficult moments but was still the team’s best defender. Last season, Mullen seemed to be heading in the right direction and penalties plagued him. He committed eight defensive penalties last season and was not using his hands correctly. In Sunday’s game, Mullen had two passes defended and seemingly shut down his man the majority of the game. If Mullen keeps this up, the Raiders have a legitimate CB1 on their hands – something the team has needed for 5+ years now. The team is patiently awaiting a healthy Damon Arnette to see what this young duo can do for this defense moving forward.
Derek Carr started off hot but, as with the rest of the team, he cooled off late. The run game never got going and the defense didn’t help at all in the field position battle. In no way am I saying Carr caused this loss, but he had a rough second half, throwing a pick and missing a couple of crucial throws. Carr seemed to lock into one WR in this game it was Nelson Agholor. When Carr begins to force-feed his favorite target, the offense generally stalls. In Week 8, for the Raiders to be successful, they have to spread the ball out and get Ruggs and Waller more involved. Carr finished the afternoon 24-of-36 for 284 and 2 touchdowns. A solid afternoon for him. Now, he’ll face a leaky Cleveland Browns defense in and Carr should make the jump to a great game next week.
For a team that spent big in free agency, Nelson Agholor has quickly become their best offseason acquisition. Agholor came in on a veteran minimum contract and has been worth every penny of that. Agholor finished the afternoon with 5 catches for 107 yards and a TD. He had one brutal drop, and a few other catch-able balls that got away from him, something that has plagued him in the past. However, for a guy that is supposed to be the 5th option on this offense, he is putting up great numbers and producing when he needs to. If the Raiders continue to get good production from him, the offense will continue to hum. Agholor scarring defenses opens up opportunities for Waller, Renfrow, and Co.
It started with the Covid-19 protocols and became a pretty ugly week for the offensive line. Missing two key starters, and losing Sam Young early, didn’t help the offensive line. Against a Top 5 defense, that blitzes often, it spelled disaster several times. The Raiders biggest concern with the O-line right now is run blocking. The team is not opening up holes for star running back Josh Jacobs, and that’s why I don’t have Jacobs in the ugly category. Jacobs had 10 carries for 17 yards, and re-watching them, I’m not sure there is a running back in the NFL that would have done better. This combined with Derek Carr being sacked three times meant the Raiders need the offensive line to produce better. The bread and butter of this team is the offensive line. They should improve with a week of practice and getting back two studs in Trent Brown and Richie Incognito.
Trayvon Mullen was in the “good: category by himself, Tom Brady diced the Raiders apart with Rob Gronkowski, Scotty Miller, and Godwin doing whatever they pleased. Brady finished the game with four touchdowns and over 350 yards passing. I’m not the type to play the blame game, but Nevin Lawson and Lamarcus Joyner take a big part of the blame for the loss on Sunday. The back-breaker came on the final drive of the first half when Miller beat Nevin Lawson for a 34-yard touchdown. The Raiders were down 14-10 with 25 seconds left and the only thing they couldn’t do was give up a bomb, and that’s just what happened. Other than Trayvon Mullens’ two passes defended, Lawson was the only other player on the defense to record one. Brady finished the afternoon with a 127 passer rating. The combination of bad secondary play, and lack of pass rush, is a major issue for the Raiders right now. It’s tough to cover anyone for six seconds, but the Raiders need improvement at all levels of the defense right now. This last Raiders loss had them shorthanded again on the backend and Abram getting back should help significantly.
2nd half adjustments
Second-half adjustments have plagued Jon Gruden in his second tenure as the Raiders head coach. In 2020, it hasn’t changed. The Raiders have been outscored 60-30 in the 2nd half in their losses this season, including 24-10 this past Sunday. The lack of turnovers on defense, and the lack of a solid running game, are causing these games to get away from the Raiders. Getting back the starting offensive line should help the run game as the Raiders will be able to sustain drives better. Gruden knew the run game wasn’t working yesterday and abandoned it. However, getting creative with rookie Henry Ruggs and Waller could mask a lack of running game, the Raiders didn’t utilize their weapons well enough in the second half and instead got away from what they do best.
It’s hard to find one positive for this unit as a collective in the latest Raiders loss. There is nothing to be happy about at the moment. The Raiders gave Tom Brady all day to throw, he could have made his post-game victory video in the pocket. A team that doesn’t have a dominant defense needs to create turnovers and turnovers are created when pressure is provided. The Raiders defensive line caused very little pressure on Tom Brady, amassing only four pressures according to Pro Football Focus.
Where is the 2nd year leap for Maxx Crosby and Clelin Ferrell? Where is free agent signing Maliek Collins? Where is Arden Key?
The Raiders have a major problem on the defensive line and Jon Gruden seemed very upset about it in his post-game presser. I’m not sure if there is a solution on the roster but the Raiders can start with giving Mo Hurst more snaps. Hurst only played 31 snaps yesterday, compared to 44 for Maliek Collins. The Raiders have seven sacks on the season and their second-leading player in sacks is Chris Smith who is on the practice squad. Something needs to change here or the Raiders won’t sniff a playoff spot. Time has run out.
There is a lot of reason for Raiders fans to worry at this point, but not panic. This Raiders loss wasn’t surprising considering the week’s events, but the lack of defensive progress is a deep-seated issue that must be addressed. The team is at 3-3 having lost three-of-their-last-four games. The Raiders next three games will be vital in seeing where this team is at.