ALAMEDA – The Raiders defense has a magic number entering every game. If the opponent hits or falls below the mark, the Raiders should win.
“Our goal is always 17 points,” cornerback TJ Carrie said. “If we hold them to or under, then we feel our offense can do enough to pull out a victory.”
That’s sound logic. It hasn’t produced results. The defense has held an opponent to 17 or less three times. The Raiders are 1-2.
The Raiders have also given up 24 or more in three straight games. They’re 2-1 in those.
At some point, the Raiders must start playing consistently complimentary football. They got some of it in Sunday’s 27-24 victory over Miami. They’re going to need a lot more should the Raiders go on the run required to legitimately get back in the playoff hunt.
The offense must find consistency down the stretch. The defense must improve to get point totals back down.
They’ll try and do so during this bye week and in work leading towards a Nov. 18 showdown with New England.
Del Rio believes his Raiders must do better at the basics.
“When we start (tackling better), and then getting off on third down more regularly, I think you take a big jump,” Del Rio said on Monday. “To me, what it comes down to is the tackling on the back end that has really been poor. You can’t play great defense without being great tacklers. That’s probably the biggest area for us.
“Maybe it’s a tie between the tackling and the turnovers, being able to catch the ball and being able to leverage and tackle better. Those are kind of the two keys in helping us take a big step forward defensively.”
The Raiders were so good creating game-changing plays last year. They had 30 turnovers forced in 16 games. Now they’re also dead last with six total takeaways. They don’t have an interception through nine games. But you know all that.
Defensive backs do, too. They’ve come close to interceptions, without locking one down.
It isn’t maddening, yet. But that unit would like to start squashing drives early, or saving them late.
That would help unfavorable numbers.
The Raiders rank No. 26 in total defense with 361.1 yards allowed per game. They’re No. 22 against the pass, No. 21 against the run and No. 21 with 23.8 points allowed per game.
Turnovers are one way to change games. Sacks are another. They aren’t the only way to impact the passer. Pressures and hits can also caused game-changing plays.
Sacks can be drive killers.
The Raiders had an NFL low 25 sacks last year despite Khalil Mack rushing off one edge. The NFL’s defensive player of the year had 11. Bruce Irvin had seven off the other flank. Nobody else had three.
A robust interior pass rush was supposed to increase pressure on the quarterback.
This year’s pass rush is more diverse, but it isn’t more productive. The Raiders have 13 sacks through nine games. Only Tampa Bay has less.
Mack has 4.5. Mario Edwards Jr. has 3.5. Irvin has 2.5. That isn’t enough from the Silver and Black’s heavy hitters.
“I am a little surprised we haven’t been a little more effective with it,” Del Rio said. “We’ve got good pass rushers, we need to have a little tighter coverage so that the quarterback has to hold the ball. If he’s able to get it out on time and comfortably, throw it in front of us and then make guys miss and get big plays, then why would they hold onto it to look down the field? That’s where I say leverage and tackling is huge for our defense.”