Raiders

Instant Analysis: Carr, Tavecchio lead Raiders to season-opening win vs Titans

Instant Analysis: Carr, Tavecchio lead Raiders to season-opening win vs Titans

BOX SCORE

NASHVILLE – The Raiders entered Sunday’s fourth quarter in a one-score game. Surprise, surprise.

They lived in those moments last year. And fared pretty darn well.

The quarter started with a Raiders touchdown. Then a Titans stop. One deviation from the script: The Raiders didn’t need fourth quarter magic.

They held a late lead and put the Titans away without much drama.

They left with a 26-16 victory, the third win at Nissan Stadium in as many seasons.

Giorgio Tavecchio’s 43-yard field goal sealed it with just over a minute left.

While the offense scored in bunches, the Raiders defense held strong in the first game that matters. They were often criticized this preseason, but looked far better in Nashville. They gave up an early touchdown and put a force field at the goal line after that.

A series of Ryan Succop field goals kept Tennessee in it, but the offense closed things out with an impressive four-minute offense.

Raiders quarterback Derek Carr made it a two-score game with a 19-yard strike to Seth Roberts. That capped a 70-yard drive well orchestrated, with a few nice runs by Marshawn Lynch. He finished with 76 yards on 18 carries.

The Raiders took a 23-13 lead into the final seven minutes and held it to start the season with a win.

The game started with a touchdown exchange. The Raiders cruised downfield to open their season, with a 50-yard touchdown drive that ended with Amari Cooper’s first score.

Marcus Mariota capped his first drive with a 10-yard touchdown run.

That furious pace didn’t continue. Field goals ruled the second and third quarters, with the Raiders winning that battle 3-2.

That set up another close one down the stretch, a position the Raiders were far too used to last season.

TAVECCHIO’S FIRST DAY AT SCHOOL: Giorgio Tavecchio had an easy entry into his first regular-season game. He was charged with making a 20-yard field goal. Chip shot. Easy peasy.

His next effort was far tougher. No matter. He pumped a 52-yard field goal through the uprights to close the first half. He made another from the same distance in the third quarter.

Overall, he was 4-for-4 on field goals after taking over for Sebastian Janikowski, who was placed on injured reserve Saturday with a back injury. It’s uncertain what the Raiders will do at kicker moving forward, but Tavecchio made a solid case to keep the job.

SMITH GETS HIS JOB BACK: Cornerback Sean Smith lost his starting spot in the base defense early in training camp. TJ Carrie took with a nice start to the summer, but he faded as the preseason wore down.

He got picked on during the first half, and was taken out of the base defense. Smith stepped in, with Carrie playing the slot.

QUICK SLANTS

-- The Raiders tried to rotate right tackles in the first half. It didn’t go well. Vadal Alexander came in on the third series and was directly involved in one sack and didn’t help on another. Marshall Newhouse was fare better early after getting the start.

-- Raiders tight end Jared Cook was expected to make an impact on the Raiders offense, and he certainly did. The former Tennessee Titan had five catches for 56 yards.

How John Pagano plans to impact Raiders defense: ‘There is always room for change’

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How John Pagano plans to impact Raiders defense: ‘There is always room for change’

ALAMEDA – John Pagano can’t implement his scheme in a week. He can’t import his plays and preferences cultivated during five seasons as Chargers defensive coordinator. Full offseason programs and training camps are required for that.

Raiders defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. was fired on Tuesday. Pagano will call his first Raiders game five days later against Denver at Oakland Coliseum. The Raiders’ assistant head coach – defense believes he can impact how the Silver and Black does business.

“There’s always room for change and there’s always room for doing things better,” Pagano said Thursday. “Without telling you our game plan, it’s about how we go out and execute the call, bottom line.”

Head coach Jack Del Rio said the Raiders weren’t playing fast enough. They weren’t creating enough turnovers, weren’t doing well enough on third down and weren’t regularly affecting the quarterback due to a lack of both rush and coverage.

That’s why Norton had to go.

Pagano’s first objective, which must get accomplished in a few days, is getting the Raiders to play with confidence. Then he can add some design wrinkles with some of his personality.

“You have to have that ability of going out there, knowing your assignment and playing faster,” Pagano said. “It’s not to say that there have been times where we’ve simplified things, but taking the thinking out of the game and making them react is, I think, most important. Going out there and playing fast and that’s doing the little extra things, the attention to details of studying and getting those things processed. See ball, go get ball.”

That last sentence sums up how Pagano wants his guys to play. He’s a quality play caller and creative blitzer with a knack making simple plays look complex. He can find and exploit opposing weak links. His defenses have always been good creating pressure and turnovers alike. The Raiders need more of both.

To do that Pagano wants to relieve a player’s mental burden and keep them focused on using talent well.

“The one thing I’ve always stressed and always been about is technique, fundamentals and unbelievable effort,” Pagano said. “I think those three things can get you home.”

The Raiders haven’t been home much as a defense. They’re tied for last with 14 sacks. They’re dead last with six turnovers. They’ve gone 10 games without an interception, the longest single-season drought in NFL history.

A lack of big defensive plays has killed the Raiders this season. It obviously increases points allowed. Good field position has been hard to come by. The offense has to earn everything the hard way. That’s a recipe for losing football, a maddening turn after the Raiders finished second with 30 takeaways last year.

Pagano has a chart listing “MOPs,” short for missed opportunities. There have been many, especially in a secondary he oversaw before this week.

“I talked to these guys this week about we need to do simple better,” Pagano said. “What is simple? It’s fundamentals of covering. It’s tackling. It’s communicating. It’s catching the ball when it comes. We’ve had opportunities. It’s not like we’re out there struggling and straining to dive and layout for the thing. It’s hit us in the hands where we’ve had many, many opportunities.”

Missed opportunities have also plagued a pass rush featuring reigning defensive player of the year Khalil Mack. Pagano brought up a moment early in Sunday’s lost to New England, when Treyvon Hester forced a fumble near three teammates that the Patriots somehow recovered.

Pagano’s goal is to improve performance. Players must buy in to do that. Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin headline a large group close to Norton, one with enough pride and professionalism to get behind a new playcaller in Pagano, who could be here long term.

“There is a human element to this,” Pagano said. “We are family. It’s sad any time a member of your family gets dismissed or something. At the end of the day, we have the Broncos coming in here on Sunday and we have to get our minds right to go play this game. That’s something that they’ve done a great job with this week, truly focusing in on what we need to do.”

Irvin, Mack given a day off from Raiders practice

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Irvin, Mack given a day off from Raiders practice

ALAMEDA – Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin were out at Raiders practice Wednesday for the stretching period. Both edge rushers left one-at-a-time during the individual period, which was open to the press, headed into the main building and did not return.

There was no perceived reaction, certainly no surprise, from the coaching staff or players on the field. Irvin and new defensive coordinator John Pagano were seen joking around on the field before practice began in earnest. 

Both Irvin and Mack were given a practice off. A Raiders official called it a day off/rest-type day that was not injury related. The Silver and Black typically practice in pads or shells on Wednesday, but were in jerseys and sweats in the interest of recovery.

This day off's timing did raise an eyebrow.

Wednesday marked the first practice Irvin has missed since training camp. Mack hasn’t missed one in months.

Mack and Irvin’s downtime also came a day after beloved defensive coordinator Ken Norton’s firing.

Several defensive players were upset about Norton's firing, but Mack and Irvin especially were among those loyal to Norton. Mack and Norton developed a bond after the coach was named defensive coordinator in 2015. Norton and Irvin go way back to their days together in Seattle. Irvin credits Norton for helping him get on the right path and stay there.

Neither player was happy Norton got the axe. Irvin made his displeasure clear, tweeting “BULLS***” shortly after news of Norton’s demise broke. Mack told ESPN “I like to keep my thoughts private.” Defensive stars declined comment Wednesday or didn't appear in the locker room when the media was present. 

It isn’t immediately clear if the non-injury related day off was related to Norton’s dismissal. Head coach Jack Del Rio won’t speak to the media again until Friday. New defensive coordinator John Pagano is scheduled to speak Thursday afternoon.

Del Rio addressed the media before Wednesday’s practice, and was asked how he’ll handle players unhappy with the in-season shake-up.

“I don’t try and 'handle' them,” Del Rio said. “I think the biggest thing is to understand the relationship, respect that, give him a little space and then at the end of the day, we’re going to get on with our work. But, I’m human. It wasn’t easy for me either.”