This Sunday’s game against the Buffalo Bills was lightly put, no good! We saw a variation of questionable calls by the referees, but more worrisome was the play calling and being out coached in every facet of the game. Let’s see if we can dissect and identify just what went wrong in this terrible loss on the road.
WHERE IS THE RUNNING GAME?
After a short two weeks it is apparent that this is not the same rushing attack we had last season, even with having a majority of the same players returning and same play calling schemes. While limited yardage was to be expected against a stout defense, no one predicted that Josh Jacobs would total -2 yards on 9 carries (yes you read that correctly). Didn’t help that our first play of the game saw our newly acquired right guard Van Roten get pushed straight into the backfield colliding with Jacobs for a loss, setting the tone for the game going forward. Not only that, but a majority of our 55 rushing yards in this game came on a 34 yard run from our rookie WR Tre Tucker on the first drive of the contest. After the game was essentially in hand and decided, we went with Zamir White to garner any confidence we could going into next week, only to see him fumble in the red zone. Needless to say, we need to make a concerted effort to establish a respectable run game, because relying on Jimmy G to continue shoot outs is not ideal and will result in a long season for the Raider hopeful.
NON-EXISTENT DEFENSIVE LINE PRESSURE
Looking back on it, last weeks two sacks were probably more a product of the competition and not the play of our defensive line. We managed only a handful of pressures with another two sacks, but allowed Josh Allen to go unscathed and unnerved for the entirety of the game while he picked us apart, as proven by his 13-13 completions, over 100+ yards and a touchdown to start the first half. We also managed zero turnovers all game which is a far cry from what we witnessed last week. We allowed 3 different RB’s to average more than 5 yards per carry and 183 yards combined as a unit without Josh Allen being much of a factor in the run game, simply not getting it done defensively. Our very own Big Mike Raider called it when stating he felt that James Cook would have a career day, and he did just that with 123 yards on 17 carries (adding 36 yards on 4 catches). Why Nesta Jade Silvera was not elevated to the active roster is beyond me, but something needs to change if we want to save face for the remaining games on the schedule. If we want any chance at being successful, we cannot continue giving up 7+ yards per play while in zone coverage 90% of the time.
PLAYING AGAINST #13… THE REFEREES
Typically it is never a good look to pin mistakes on the refs, however there were a number of questionable calls that come to mind in this game. Starting with the hometown discount call that was the defensive pass interference on Nate Hobbs in the end zone while covering Stephon Diggs, who had pinned Hobbs’ arm against his body to draw the flag. Not only was that a bad call, but on our ensuing drive a similar play happened along the sideline against Tucker that was later recalled and labeled an incomplete pass with the flag being picked up by officials. Later in the 4th quarter we finally got a positive defensive play by way of an interception, but that was negated by a ticky tack hands to the face penalty on Hobbs yet again, while covering a TE over the middle of the field. Safe to say as it is every year, we are not going to be getting any favorable calls from the refs this season. None the less, we need to get better at playing clean football for a full 4 quarters if we want to be competitive and have a shot at winning more games.
UNTIMELY TURNOVERS CHANGING THE LANDSCAPE
Starting the game we had a beautiful methodically designed drive to go right down the field and score a touchdown, using only 2:44 off the clock leaving a bit to be desired in regards to ball control and time of possession that was scarce all game long. We followed that up with a 3 and out on our first defensive series with a confident and fast unit. After that all hell broke loose for the remainder of the game, starting with an unfortunate tipped pass on a screen play that was intercepted and gave Buffalo excellent field position (that they later turned into a touchdown). That would prove costly as it started a trend of sluggish and lack luster performance on both sides of the ball, particularly when Matt Milano made an unbelievable play and “moss’d” Josh Jacobs for a second INT on the game and second of the season for Milano. Coming into the game I felt this would be a match up to watch, and for most of the game he was a non factor until that play sucked the life out of the team. That would essentially be our last possession that went anywhere besides back to the pine. Then there was the late fumble by Zamir as earlier mentioned, no need for further elaboration.
SIGNS OF HOPE FOR THE FUTURE
A loss is a loss, but no one wants to leave a game feeling this defeated. There are a few glimpses of hope going forward however, and that starts with the ever growing chemistry between Jimmy G and Davante Adams that saw a connection of 6-84-1TD. Improvement between these two is vital and will be a determining factor in having a good season or the same disappointment we have sadly become accustomed to. Tre Tucker becoming a big play threat will allow us to take some pressure off of Jacobs and Adams in a gadget/slasher role, and it was nice to see him make an immediate impact in his first game action. Being better late than never, we finally saw Jimmy connect with Hunter Renfrow on a 23 yard strike, albeit in garbage time with the game in hand and already decided. With the arsenal of weapons on this team, we have to find a way for everyone to eat and be productive in this offense. Let’s just hope it doesn’t take until the end of the season to see it come to fruition. Defensively both our linebackers Robert Spillane and Divine Deablo totaled double digit tackles and notched a sack apiece, showing a certain sense of resiliency even though it was a losing effort.
CLOSING THOUGHTS AND SIGHTS ON NEXT WEEK
One week at a time seems to be the motto across any ball club, but this week we will need to embody that more than most as we move forward. As Josh Jacobs said “we can’t just flush this one and move on, we need to review and make the corrections”. Luckily for us we finally get to host our home opener against a Pittsburgh team that has not lived up to the pre-season hype. We have to dominate this match up in order to prevent being behind the 8 ball and on the outside looking in on the AFC playoff race. If things do not improve quickly, we may be seeing a change at defensive coordinator and possibly QB sooner than expected. Still early in the season, but anxiety has already begun to settle in the Raiders fan base.