Raiders

Three things you need to know from Raiders’ 17-16 loss to the Chargers

Three things you need to know from Raiders’ 17-16 loss to the Chargers

OAKLAND – Here are three things you need to know from the Raiders’ 17-16 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 6 on Sunday:

Raiders season already circling drain: The Oakland Raiders are the AFC West’s worst. They’re in last place after six games.

Wrap your head around that.

A team expected to contend for an AFC title is floundering at 2-4, unable to stop what could be a season-defining skid.

They’ve lost four straight, including the last two at home, with the first-place Kansas City Chiefs coming to town Thursday night. They’ve lost as many games in a month as they dropped all last season.

The margin for error might be nil, or darn close to it. Every game is up in the air now, and the Raiders must act quickly or get left in the dust.

“There’s pressure every game. We work in a pressure business,” cornerback David Amerson said. “It’s now or never, if we’re being completely honest. With how tough our division is, and how tough our remaining schedule is, we have to turn it on, man.”

Frustration mounting on offense: The Raiders scored 70 points in the regular season’s first two weeks. They’ve tallied 53 in the last four. That’s right. The vaunted Raiders attack is averaging 13.1 points per game during a disastrous losing streak that has their season on life support.

They aren’t explosive passing downfield. They can’t run consistently. They’ve struggled to sustain drives, stay on schedule and execute well on third down.

You name it, it’s gone wrong.

That’s unexpected from an offensive seemingly loaded at the skill positions and on the offensive line. That was true before Jared Cook, Cordarrelle Patterson and Marshawn Lynch were acquired. This unit was supposed to be elite. It’s the opposite under first-year play caller Todd Downing.

It must be more efficient for the Raiders to be competitive, and it’s something the Raiders continue working on even as losses pile high.

Derek Carr says its little details. Donald Penn says the Raiders are close to things going right. Close doesn’t cut it. They know that. That’s why the temperature’s rising on offense, and frustration’s starting to set in.

“Nobody’s going to feel sorry for us in this world; not even us,” tight end Jared Cook said. “We have to pick ourselves up by the bootstraps and find a way to fix this thing.”

Performing under pressure a 2016 trait: There’s so much continuity from last year’s roster to this one that it’s logical to assume it should share some signature traits.

Coming through in the clutch defined last year’s squad, with so many fourth-quarter comebacks and timely takeaways to win games. This year’s Raiders haven’t been able to do that. Not at all.

The Raiders had 30 takeaways last season. The defense has just three in six games, with two more coming on special teams. The offense hasn’t been able to close games. They had a chance up two with six minutes left, and went three and out.

They had a chance to stop the Chargers early on the game-deciding drive, but never put up much resistance.

Last year’s Raiders won close games, with nine victories by seven points or less. This year’s Raiders have lost the two close games they’ve played.

“This was a typical NFL game,” head coach Jack Del Rio said. “They’re usually close. Comes down to the end. Which team makes plays? We had our chances. You get your chances and you have to live with the results. Didn’t make enough plays today.”

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.”

Del Rio: 'Nobody should feel comfortable,' following Norton firing

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Del Rio: 'Nobody should feel comfortable,' following Norton firing

ALAMEDA – Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio put out a statement Tuesday explaining why he fired defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr.

He went into greater detail Wednesday afternoon, his first time facing the media since a change was made

Specifics will be discussed further down this story. We don’t, however, want to bury the lede.

Del Rio’s main message wasn’t about Norton. It applied to all in Silver and Black. This season has not met lofty expectations. That is unacceptable.

“I know one thing,” Del Rio said. “Nobody should feel comfortable, because what I’ve been watching is not good enough.”

Del Rio didn’t absolve himself from blame. Norton got fired, but everyone has played a part in this disappointing 4-6 record.

“It’s always shared,” Del Rio said. “A change was made, obviously. We all share in it, all of us, starting with me. It’s coaches and players. It’s a team game, and we’re all in it together. And nobody is coming to help us.”

The Raiders must look inward to start a prolonged winning streak they’ve shown little evidence they can create.

The seat will be warm under players and coaches alike, even if only one change was made. Expect further shakeup on the coaching staff after the season, if vast improvements don’t come down the stretch, possibly with several position coaches being shown the door. More than a few higher profile players could be cut or allowed to leave, especially on defense.

While Del Rio has taken more heat the past month than at any other time in his Raiders tenure, expect him to be around a longer term. He was given a contract extension in February, and has significant capitol built after changing the culture in Oakland and re-teaching this team how to win. One bad year, even if this season continues heading downhill, shouldn’t erase that.

Del Rio was looking to shake things up, and Norton was the obvious move. Experienced play caller John Pagano was on staff – he was Chargers defensive coordinator from 2012-2016 – and firing the popular Pagano’s style could create some new waves and looks that any offensive Norton would make an impact in the locker room and prove this story’s opening quote, that no one should feel comfortable.

Del Rio hopes firing Norton will be a shock to the defense’s system.

“I really felt like I needed to shake things up,” Del Rio said. “We couldn’t continue doing what we’ve been doing to this point. So I made the call. The whole idea is to change what we’re doing and make sure…what I’m looking for at the end of the day is for us to play fast on defense. We weren’t playing fast enough. We weren’t playing confident enough.”