Raiders

Instant Analysis: Raiders can't overcome early deficit, lose third straight

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USATSI

Instant Analysis: Raiders can't overcome early deficit, lose third straight

BOX SCORE

OAKLAND – This Raiders season started so well. The first two games went according to plan, easy victories that supported 2017’s lofty expectations.

Then the wheels came off. The Raiders got beat soundly by Washington. They couldn’t keep pace with Denver. And then got owned by the Baltimore Ravens at home.

Sunday’s 30-17 result had little to do with quarterback Derek Carr being sidelined with a bad back. EJ Manuel played well enough.

The Raiders defense got beat time and again on third down, and rarely kept the Ravens off the scoreboard.

The Silver and Black are below .500 following a three-game losing streak that has changed the course of season’s first half.

Sunday’s game was a ‘W’ on paper, especially after Baltimore got beat soundly the past two weeks. It didn’t play out that way.

The Raiders fell down two scores in a flash, and never recovered.

Joe Flacco hit Mike Wallace on a 52-yard bomb to start the game and never looked back. The Ravens scored on their opening possession and the Raiders’ first drive, thanks to a Jared Cook fumble recovered by Jimmy Smith and returned 46 yards for a touchdown.

Baltimore scored on defense and its first three possessions to take a commanding 24-10 halftime lead.

The Raiders’ lone first-half highlight came on a broken play. Manuel bought time in the pocket and threw a 41-yard touchdown strike to Michael Crabtree. That cut the Ravens lead to 21-10.

Baltimore’s offense made it tough to catch up, with one scoring drive after another.

That didn’t stop the Raiders from trying. The deficit dipped to one score late in the third quarter with a Marshawn Lynch touchdown run. Manuel made that drive happen with two key third-down conversions using his legs.

The Ravens re-established their two-score lead with a field goal on the following drive.

The Raiders never got close, and lost their third straight contest.

Smith gets beat (early and often): The Raiders were down David Amerson and Gareon Conley heading into this one, leaving Sean Smith in a vital role at outside cornerback. He has proven vulnerable to speed in the past, and the Ravens capitalized on it. Mike Wallace beat Smith deep twice in the first half on drives that became Ravens touchdowns.

The Raiders couldn’t adjust much with so few defensive backs available, putting them at risk most of the day.

Cooper’s slump continues: Amari Cooper’s unproductive run continued against the Ravens. He had one catch for eight yards in this one, the fourth-straight poor performance by the two-time Pro Bowler.

Carr a no-go: Raiders quarterback Derek Carr pushed to be available for Sunday’s game despite suffering a transverse process fracture the week before, but was ultimately ruled inactive as expected.

He should be back in time to play the Los Angeles Chargers next week.

Raiders shift to Manuel: EJ Manuel started in Derek Carr’s place Sunday afternoon, and wasn’t half bad. Buoyed by a strong running game, he was able to connect on some passes and finished 13-of-26 passing for 159 yards and one touchdown.

Carr admits back injury had an impact: 'I had to deal with it'

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USATSI

Carr admits back injury had an impact: 'I had to deal with it'

Derek Carr was asked several times during the 2017 season whether a Week 4 back injury impacted his throwing motion, his play, his ability to produce. The Raiders quarterback dismissed the inquiries each time, proclaiming full health.

That wasn’t the whole truth. Three transverse process fractures in his back did affect him. Carr didn’t admit that. He didn’t want to use injury as an excuse. His play, Carr figured, should stand on its own.

Now, with the 2017 season in the rearview, Carr was a bit more candid about his physical state.

“When you break three bones in your back, it doesn’t feel good,” Carr said in this week’s episode of the Raiders Insider Podcast (Subscribe right here). “I’m thankful God healed me to the point I could walk around and be able to practice. Injuries will never be something I talk about, especially during the season, but since it’s after the season, the (back issue) was one of those things that was there.”

Denver’s Adam Gotsis kneed Carr in the back during a third-quarter sack. The fractures occurred there, and removed Carr from that 16-10 loss. The original prognosis had Carr out 2-4 weeks. He missed but one game and never stopped to rest. He missed a Wedneday practice, was limited the rest of the week and was questionable for a game backup EJ Manuel ultimately played.

Carr pushed to get back in the lineup. He didn’t miss another game, but that doesn’t mean the back injury was behind him.

“I had to deal with it,” Carr said. “I had to do certain things to manage it, but I just didn’t talk about it. I didn’t want it to be an excuse. It was a want more than anything else. I didn’t want it to be a reason. I couldn’t let that be a reason why I couldn’t do A, B or C.”

Carr’s back wasn’t the sole reason for lackluster offensive output, but it played a part. The Raiders dealt with flux in play calling and scheme preference, especially in the run game. On-field struggles splintered the locker room some, and an ironclad confidence began to soften.

Carr stands three-plus weeks from last season’s end. Distance provides perspective, and Carr wishes he could’ve done something to pull his Raiders out of a tailspin.

“I’ve looked back at the season over the past couple weeks and wondered if I could have done something or said something or acted upon something at a certain time,” Carr said. “You’re always looking to get better. …

“I’ve looked back (at) the way things were handled, things that went down and said, ‘Man. I wish I could’ve had the knowledge I have now. I would go back and fix that.’ That’s how things work. You gain experience from every situation you go through and try to be better the next time.”

Carr excited to work with Gruden: 'I want him to be tough on me'

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AP

Carr excited to work with Gruden: 'I want him to be tough on me'

Jon Gruden has been interviewed several times since becoming Raiders head coach. Quarterback Derek Carr hasn’t listened to most of those sessions, and certainly doesn’t seek them out.

One landed in Carr’s inbox recently, and something Gruden said really resonated.

Gruden’s message, paraphrased: If Derek Carr is not successful, then I’ve failed as a coach.

There are two comments in that one. Gruden considers Carr extremely talented, and he’s taking responsibility for unlocking the quarterback's vast potential.

Gruden will be hands on in Carr’s development, with all the coaching intensity and fire and eyebrow raises that have become Gruden’s signature.

“He’s going to demand of me. He’s going to push me,” Carr said on this week’s episode of the Raiders Insider Podcast, which will drop Tuesday morning (Subcribe right here). “He’s going to make me be the best version of myself.”

Carr had a direct answer to skeptics wondering aloud whether he can thrive under Gruden’s particular coaching style.

“I want him to be tough on me,” Carr said. “For anyone who thinks I want him to be a different way has no clue about me or how I play football or how I prepare to play this game. I don’t need to tell stories about how I prepare or manage myself.

“(Jon) and I are going to get along great. I hope that he demands of me. I hope he’s hard on me. I don’t need to know he loves me. He has already told me that about 20 times. I appreciate that and we’ll be friends forever, but I know he’ll be demanding and tell me what I need to do. Let’s go fix problems that I have and let’s do what I need to do to win championships. Hopefully that will give people some insight and hopefully that’s the story that gets out, because that’s the truth.”

Carr met his new head coach briefly before his introductory press conference, but has known Gruden since filming the Gruden QB Camp segment back in 2014. They got along great then, and in each interaction since.

“We have so much more in common that people realize,” Carr said. “I think it would blow some people’s minds. Him and I are very similar in the way we go about our business and how we carry ourselves. It’s an exciting time.”

Carr’s excited to have some stability in his football life. The three-time Pro Bowl quarterback will start his fifth NFL season with his fourth head coach, fourth go-round with an offensive coordinator and third offensive scheme. Gruden signed a 10-year contract. OC Greg Olson signed a four-year pact. They’ll be here a while, and Carr’s excited about that.

“It’s going to be really nice,” Carr said. “To know Jon signed on for a 10 years and (Olson) signed on for a long time shows me a couple of things. No. 1: that they believe in me. I don’t think Coach Gruden would’ve quit his day job, which I’m thankful he did. To get (Olson) out of a good spot in L.A (with the Rams), shows that they believe in me and that’s awesome. And, No. 2: I’m going to have two people I can talk to in a different language for years to come. We can grow within the relationship, and hopefully we’ll all ride off together. It’s set up that way right now, and we have a lot of work to do to reach that point.”