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.