The Raiders are beginning to look a lot like they did in 2014.
The Raiders (4-5) offense took cheap gains when better options were present and the defense allowed explosive plays that should have never happened in their 30-14 loss to the Minnesota Vikings (7-2).
Raiders quarterback Derek Carr missed a wide open Amari Cooper more than 20 yards downfield on one play, choosing to hit running back Jamize Olawale instead on 3rd and 20 from the 40-yard line, the Raiders forced to punt as a result.
On another, Carr dumped it off to running back Latavius Murray for six yards, on 3rd and 10, although there might have been other receivers open if Carr didn’t force the ball out too quickly.
Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio said:
“We just didn’t get it done. We lost the turnover battle. We talk about the three phases in what we had to get done. Stop Peterson, we couldn’t get that done. Make sure we cover real well against their talented returners. Obviously we gave up a touchdown, didn’t do that well. Protect the quarterback, protect the ball. We gave up two turnovers and were minus-two.”
Oakland scored twice, no field goals and no rushing touchdowns.
The ground attack wasn’t a factor at all for Oakland, except they gained 4.4 yards per carry, a solid average, and refused to grind it out through the tackles.
The Raiders ran the ball 19 times, nine times in the first half when they were unable to get much going through the air.
Carr said after the game that one big way to beat cover-2 coverages, where two safeties are taking away big plays down the field, is to run the ball.
Another way is to utilize screen passes, something that the Raiders have become increasingly efficient with.
Oakland didn’t execute one successful screen play.
The Raiders offense did begin clicking late in the fourth quarter, completions to Cooper and Michael Crabtree setting up an eight-yard completion to Murray.
Receiver Seth Roberts caught one first down ball before prancing out of bounds to stop the clock with 2:30 left, but the next attempt, intended for tight end Clive Walford, was tipped by Minnesota defensive end Brian Robinson.
Carr scrambled for a big gain to the 10-yard line, but threw a pick on the next play on a corner fade route to receiver Andre Holmes. Cornerback Terrance Newman intercepted it after Holmes tipped it.
“It was the one time on that drive that we got one-on-ones, and so I just gave Andre a chance and 23 made a great play.”
And on the very next play, Vikings running back Adrian Peterson ran 80 yards to the house.
Just like something that happened over and over during the Raiders’ 2014 season.
The game could have been much worse, too, as tight end Kyle Rudolph dropped a pass in the end zone with no Raiders defenders in a seven yard bubble around him.
The Raiders also managed to allow 263 rushing yards after entering the game as the fifth ranked rush defense in the NFL.
Are the Raiders panicking? Are they feeling like they’ve been exposed? That they aren’t as good as they showed during the first half of the season?
Left tackle Donald Penn answered:
“We’re still even-keeled. We lost a game. We’re not about to go crazy over it. We lost a game. Upset? Yes. Very upset. But, what is it, chapter 10 tomorrow? We check this film and get ready, but there’s no panic at all. There’s none of that at all. Positive upbeat. We’re a little sad and down because we left a lot on the field. I think that’s the biggest thing that you’re going to get from us. Mad at ourselves because we left a lot out there.”
Carr threw for 302 yards, two touchdowns and was intercepted twice, while Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater threw for 140 yards and one touchdown with no interceptions.
Peterson was the workhorse, the difference maker in the game, though, and the result rests on his shoulders.
The Raiders visit the Lions (2-7) next week in Detroit for Week 11.
Jason Leskiw is SFBay’s Oakland Raiders beat writer and member of the Professional Football Writers of America. Follow @SFBay and @LeskiwSFBay on Twitter and at SFBay.ca for full coverage of the Oakland Raiders.