LAS VEGAS (KLAS) – Boast at 0-3? The Raiders? Seems unlikely.
But let’s indulge, for the sake of Raider Nation. If there’s a positive to take from Sunday’s loss to the Tennessee Titans, it’s the second-half performance of the defense.
After allowing touchdowns on the Titans’ first three possessions in a 24-22 defeat, the unit pitched a shutout in the second half.
Defensive coordinator Patrick Graham said the second-half showing was his unit just doing its job, getting back to basics.
“At halftime, the discussion is just in terms of [saying], ‘OK, let’s settle down, let’s see what they’re doing. And then let’s do our best to take away what you’re doing,’ “ Graham said when asked Tuesday about what the Raiders did differently after intermission to bottle up the Titans. “Just playing a little bit tighter with the run defense, a little tighter with the coverage and just settling down was really the main thing, and just doing our fundamentals.”
The Raiders have been a team of streaks in their winless start. There’s a stretch of good play by one unit or the other, followed by a bad stretch. So far it’s a futile search for consistency of any kind.
Graham, for example, intimated that his unit failed to focus in the opening half and things quickly spun out of control.
“Most of the time when something like that happens, usually what we do is we go back and focus on the fundamentals,” he said. “Let’s start tackling better, start playing with our hands better, and that was evident when you watch the tape. That was a lot of the stuff that ended up happening better there.
“ … But it usually comes back to fundamentals.”
Coach Josh McDaniels said the quest for consistently good play – “a full 60 minute game” – will continue. “There’s a lot of things we have to do better as coaches and players, and that’s what we’re going to focus on,” he said Sunday after the loss. “…We’ve got to learn how to start well, play well in the middle and finish well, and right now we’ve not figured out that formula yet.”
Several reports from national media outlets said McDaniels and owner Mark Davis had a closed-door meeting after Sunday’s loss, and the players, led by defensive end Maxx Crosby and quarterback Derek Carr, staged a players only meeting. Such reaction is expected when after the first three weeks you’re the lone NFL team without a victory.
The Raiders continue to have offensive line issues and breakdowns in Graham’s defense, especially in the secondary and with the linebackers.
And things don’t get easier. The Raiders face AFC West rivals Denver at home and Kansas City on the road the next two weeks. Sunday’s game versus the Broncos at Allegiant Stadium will be televised by KLAS-8. Kickoff is 4:25 p.m.
One thing missing is making a play at a critical moment, something McDaniels noted, too. “Like most close games are, there’s a handful of plays that that they made and we didn’t that would sway the outcome, and unfortunately that’s three weeks in a row,” McDaniels said Sunday.
Two failures were passes from Carr to standout tight end Darren Waller. The first, with 9:22 remaining, should have been a 3-yard touchdown. But the ball slithered through Waller’s hands, and Tennessee safety Kevin Byard intercepted. The pick preserved a 24-13 Tennessee lead.
The second, with 1:14 left, came on a 2-point conversion try that could have tied the game but was tipped tipped away, with Byard again making the critical play.
In the third quarter, after an interception by safety Duron Harmon gave the Raiders possession at the Tennessee 31, the offense couldn’t convert. No clutch play to be found.
Crosby said he and his teammates are frustrated, especially because “We’re so close.”
Added Carr: “I’ve seen what it takes to win at this level. … I believe in what we’re doing, but we don’t have the results yet.”