After a big loss to the Kansas City Chiefs Sunday, Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr was honorable, taking the blame for the loss. He said, “Don’t you blame one coach, one player. It is all my fault.”
Sure, Carr didn’t play well at all Sunday but he also wasn’t put in position to succeed. Offensive coordinator Todd Downing’s game plan was the opposite of what beats the Chiefs.
The Chiefs are susceptible to the run, the deep jerseys china wholesale ball, and the tight end. The Raiders used two of the three to pull out a 31-30 win with running back Marshawn Lynch suspended the first time the two teams played. This time, the Raiders had Lynch coming in hot after his first 100-yard game with them so you’d think they’d use him.
Downing would say that he couldn’t get the running game going because the Raiders fell behind early. But if he got the running game going they might not have fallen behind so quickly. Perhaps two running plays could set up a 3rd-and-short and help the Raiders avoid all those three-and-outs early in the game.
The Raiders might not have been able to get the deep ball going with receiver Amari Cooper on his injured ankle. But they could have gotten it going with Cordarrelle Patterson and/or Johnny Holton. As far as Cooper goes, anything would have been better than sending him out there as a lead blocker on a bubble screen causing him to aggravate his ankle injury.
Tight end Jared Cook had a 100-yard game last time the Raiders played the Chiefs. But Downing didn’t even bother to see if the Chiefs learned how to stop him early on. By the time Downing found out they couldn’t, the game was already out of reach.
Either way, this experiment with Downing has gone horribly wrong and has to end soon. It appeared as if Downing was starting to learn the previous two games after an inconsistent first-10 games. But he is who he is, determined to make his brand work no matter how much it doesn’t fit with the personnel he has.
Oakland Raiders coach Jack Del Rio took a defiant tone in his weekly media conference on Monday, a day after the Raiders, in their most important game of the season, played their worst game.
“As players and coaches, we’re as frustrated and pissed off about what occurred [Sunday] as you can be, as anybody out there is,” Del Rio said, referencing Oakland’s 26-15 loss at the Kansas City Chiefs, a game with first place in the AFC West on the line.
“Losing a game like that hurts. There are no words that I can say here today that are going to take away that pain or make those that care about the Raiders feel better. I’m really not going to try. We have to coach it better. We have to execute it better.”
With so much on the line, the Raiders were shockingly no-shows at Arrowhead Stadium as the Chiefs built a 26-0 lead before Oakland’s offense began playing with any sense of urgency.
“I mean, look at the fourth quarter,” Del Rio said. “Look at the way the fourth quarter played out. Where was that in the first three quarters?”
Indeed. But in the world of the chicken and the egg, is it coaching or players?
The Raiders fell to 6-7 with the loss, behind the Chiefs and Los Angeles Chargers, both of whom are now 7-6. The Chargers play at the Chiefs on Saturday while the Raiders’ next two games are in prime time, at home against the Dallas Cowboys this Sunday night before playing at the Philadelphia Eagles on Dec. 25, and at the Chargers on Dec. 31.
Mathematically, Oakland is not eliminated from the playoffs. But what is so concerning is how a team that went 12-4 last season and seemed to understand the dynamics of playing such a big game in December at a division rival could come out so flat.
“I tell the guys all the time, you get what you earn in this league,” Del Rio said. “What we’ve earned is a 6-7 record. What we have in front of us are three football games. What we have to do is take them one at a time and play good football. Win the next game. See where that takes us.
“We have to man up, step up, go on to the next one and control what we can, which is our effort, our energy and our focus and our determination in the next ball game.”
That same mentality could have, should have been used last week. All season, really. And if it was, the message was not received. And if the message was received, well, the Raiders have more questions than answers. Again.
Truly, it has been this way in Oakland since a Week 3 beatdown in Washington.
Del Rio has already fired defensive coordinator Ken Norton, Jr. and, even though the Raiders have faced relatively mobile quarterbacks like Paxton Lynch, Trevor Siemian, Geno Smith and Alex Smith since John Pagano has taken over as the defensive playcaller, the Raiders have responded with 12 sacks in their past three games, after having a league-low 14 combined sacks in their first 10 games.
First-year offensive coordinator Todd Downing has come under fire after the Raiders’ offense regressed from No. 6 in the NFL last season under Bill Musgrave, when they averaged 373.3 yards per game, to No. 19 entering today, at 329.4 yards per game. Scoring is also down, from being seventh in the NFL at 26.0 points per game to being tied for 21st at 20.3 points per game.
And Derek Carr, who finished tied for third in NFL MVP voting last season despite missing the final game with a broken right fibula, has also regressed. He did suffer a broken bone in his back in Week 4 and does not scramble to extend plays and does not seem to wait for plays to develop in the pocket, either.
His Total QBR of 9.7 against the Chiefs on Sunday, when the Raiders needed him the most, was the third-lowest single-game Total QBR of his career.
“It sucked,” Carr said. “Wasn’t good enough and you put it all on me. Don’t you blame one coach, one player — it’s all my fault.
“There’s no easy way to go through this one. This one sucked.”
Del Rio was asked if he thought Carr was playing tentatively or had lost confidence in his offensive line and receivers.
“I don’t believe so,” Del Rio said. “I don’t believe that he’s lost any confidence in his line. I think that there have been many examples throughout this season where we have not played boldly to go make the plays. I would really like to see that. Because at the end of the day, if you kind of go halfway, it’s not good enough, anyway.
“So, I’d love to see us just let it rip, OK? And go play. Talked about hair on fire, talked about that kind of effort and energy, playing fast, that’s what I believe in, and I’d love to see it more often.”
Time is running out.
That was not the case last year, when Carr engineered seven comeback wins in the fourth quarter or overtime. He has one this season.
Del Rio referenced two heart-wrenching division losses, 16-10 at Denver and 17-16 at home against the Chargers that, had they gone the other way, the conversation would be different.
“Those are close games we didn’t make the play in,” Del Rio said. “You come up a play short, however you want to look at it. That’s the difference between feeling good and not feeling good. Are you, as an organization and football team, are you trying to grow beyond close games that you’re pulling out and start dominating games?
“Yeah, that’s what the goal is. Just hasn’t manifested itself yet.”
What, in all that is holy in Silver and Blackdom, are the Raiders waiting for, then?