The Raiders were down two scores to Baltimore Sunday, to paraphrase Jack Del Rio, before butts hit seats. The Ravens scored 14 points in less than four minutes, with a little help from their opposition.
The Silver and Black defense gave up a huge play and lots of efficient runs. Touchdown No. 1. Then Jared Cook lost a fumble returned to the house. Touchdown No. 2.
That sequence was unique, but the outcome has become common. The Raiders are getting their butts kicked in the first quarter during a three-game losing streak.
They didn’t have a first-quarter first down in losses to Washington and Denver. They gave up an opening drive touchdown in two of three defeats and have been outscored 31-3 the last three games.
The Raiders have incurred double-digit deficits in each chapter of this downturn, falling too far to recover before the final whistle.
Raiders left tackle Donald Penn knows the reason why.
“We’re so uptight,” Penn said. “We expected to have a different start these first five games. I think we need to take a deep breath and relax. We’re so on edge. We don’t want to make a mistake. We just want everything to be perfect and, in this game, it’s not going to be that way.
“I think that’s how we’re starting off games especially. We’re so jittery, looking for everything to go right. One we get settled, you can see us start to go. These losses are starting to pile up, and everybody’s trying to spark something instead of going with the flow and doing your job. We’re a little timid at the start because we’re trying to be so perfect.”
The Raiders hope to rectify the situation Sunday against the Los Angeles Chargers. A win puts them back in the mix heading into a Thursday night clash against Kansas City. A loss drops the Raiders into last place.
Penn believes a good start would go a long way. The first two games are proof. The Raiders went up early on Tennessee and the New York Jets, played smart defense and cruised to victory.
“The games we started faster, we won. The last couple games, it’s been hard for us to catch up,” Penn said. “One good, positive thing about this team is that we’re fighters. We fought til the end. I can accept that, and it’s something positive I can take forward. Not matter how far down we are, we’re still fighting. We always think we have a chance to win, no matter what.”
The Raiders aren’t turning on one another, understanding 11 games offers plenty of time to get right.
“We’re positive. We’re upbeat. We know we’re a good team,” Penn said. “We just have to fine tune and get everybody from every phase working together. We haven’t played a complete game as a group.
“It’s going to turn. It had better turn this Sunday. We need a win. We need one, bad.”