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Winless Raiders seek Week 3 bounce in Miami

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A fumbled victory in Denver has the Raiders disappointed yet determined heading into Week 3 against the Dolphins.

Following a game they led throughout until the Broncos’ final field goal, head coach Jon Gruden said his team has to be better at fine-tuning details and finishing games:

“There’s a number of ways we could’ve closed that game out on offense. Maybe call a better play on 4-and-1. Get that conversion. Perhaps improve your field goal protection, your PAT protection. Perhaps eliminate the penalty on second-and-four. Defensively, you have them 2nd-and-20 on their own 10-yard line with no timeouts. Somebody has to make a play. I got to do a better job coaching. It all starts and ends there.”

Gruden also continues to be pelted with Khalil Mack questions, which makes sense as long as the Bears remain at the top in sacks while the Raiders (0-2) linger at the bottom. However, Gruden said he wants the emphasis to be on who is on the roster rather than who isn’t:

“Somebody’s got to step up. We got to keep building our football team and that’s what we are going to do. Hopefully we see more from Arden Key. Hopefully we see more from PJ Hall when he gets healthy. Hopefully, we prove that in the long term we did the right thing.”

Defensive coordinator Paul Guenther doesn’t get caught up in the sack numbers. In fact, he said he doesn’t think sacks are integral to success:

“Obviously, you’d like to have sacks, but if you really look at it guys, and you look at the statistics year in and year out, the teams that are up there in sacks aren’t necessarily playoff teams. A lot of times they’re not. That’s really not the most important thing, but obviously it’s something that you want, to get after the opposing quarterback.”

Keeping the Raiders optimistic is that they were able to correct glaring flaws from Week 1. Derek Carr performed a complete 180, completing 29-of-32 passes for 288 yards and one touchdown. Amari Cooper caught all 10 passes thrown his way, racking up 116 yards in the process. And the penalties shrunk to just four, totaling 30 yards.

Heading into Miami for Week 3, offensive coordinator Greg Olson wants his unit to stay on track against a formidable Dolphins (2-0) defense:

“We always talk about staying on track, in other words, let’s not allow ourselves to get in third-and-unmanageable situations. We felt like we did a good job of putting Derek [Carr] in a third-and-manageable situation. Now it’s more a matter of cleaning up the execution.”

Derek Carr is happy with his improvement in the second game, but he understands that Miami will be pose a third difficult matchup in a row:

“They have good personnel and their scheme is difficult. They try and make things look a certain way and play something else out of them. That’s kind of been fun for me because this coordinator [Matt Burke] kind of thinks the way I do sometimes. It’s a great challenge, he’s very smart. With all of that talent and his brain, they’re a really good defense.”

Prediction

This game will come down to two areas — Oakland’s run defense versus Miami’s ground attack, and Oakland’s passing game versus Miami’s pass defense. The Dolphins are averaging 127.5 rushing yards per game so far, while the Raiders are allowing 154 yards per game on the ground. On the flip side, the Raiders average 290.5 yards per game through the air, while Miami gives up 270 passing yards per game. If Oakland can limit Miami to right around 100 yards on the ground and force Tannehill to make more throws than Dolphins’ head coach Adam Gate would like, they’ll have a great shot. Even though it’s not ideal for the Raiders to have to become one-dimensional, with Carr running the show, they have a much better chance of winning that way.

All things considered, double down on the Raiders this week. They should be 1-1 at this point, and their path to victory is clear after how close they were in Week 2. Any worries about the environment are basically meaningless after the altitude and heat they dealt with in Denver. Oakland wins 23-20.

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