Patriots

AFC: Carr, Raiders beat Titans in season opener, 26-16

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AFC: Carr, Raiders beat Titans in season opener, 26-16

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Derek Carr showed the advantage of having a year of experience and a better supporting cast in a season opener pitting two of the NFL's rising, young quarterbacks.

Carr threw for 262 yards and two touchdowns, and Oakland beat Tennessee 26-16 to give Carr his third straight win over Marcus Mariota and his Titans in as many years.

"It was fun to be back out," Carr said.

Amari Cooper caught a TD pass as the Raiders made the Titans pay for opening the season with an onside kick they couldn't recover.

Marshawn Lynch also looked very refreshed after his year away from football. Lynch finished with 18 carries for 76 yards - 10 in the fourth quarter.

"We're one for one with that," Raiders coach Jack Del Rio said of using Lynch late. "And that's the idea to be able to close these things, and we did that very well."

Giorgio Tavecchio kicked field goals of 20, 52, 52 and 43 yards in his NFL debut. He was signed Friday to fill in for the Raiders' all-time leading scorer and 18-year veteran Sebastian Janikowski, who's on injured reserve with a bad back.

Both Carr and Mariota broke their right leg hours apart on Christmas Eve for season-ending injuries. Carr finished his third season by tying Ezekiel Elliott of Dallas for third in voting for the AP MVP award after leading Oakland to a 12-4 season, while Mariota led the Titans to a 9-7 mark in just his second season.

Mariota looked healthy in running for a 10-yard TD and threw for 256 yards.

While Mariota was healthy for training camp, the Titans' top offseason additions of rookie wide receiver Corey Davis and veteran Eric Decker weren't. The Titans had to settle for a pair of Ryan Succop field goals after driving inside the Oakland 10.

"When you play against a good team like Oakland, you have to hit on all cylinders, and unfortunately we didn't make enough plays," Mariota said.

ONSIDE KICK

The Titans became the first team since 2009 to open a season with an onside kick. The Minnesota Vikings were the previous, and they also didn't recover the kick. Ryan Succop's kick went to Shalom Luani. Carr completed three passes, Lynch rumbled 14 yards on his first carry, and Cooper finished the drive with an 8-yard TD catch for a quick 7-0 lead .

Titans coach Mike Mularkey defended his decision to open with an onside kick, saying he wanted the ball for his offense. No, he didn't second-guess himself. "Not for a second," Mularkey said.

BEAST MODE

Lynch took the first carry of the game for Oakland and rumbled right over Pro Bowl defensive lineman Jurrell Casey on the Raiders' final scoring drive on one of his six rushes to set up the clinching field goal.

Lynch accidentally interrupted Del Rio's postgame interview and told a team official he had been available for three minutes. "They didn't holler at me. I'm good right?" Lynch said to laughter before closing the door and leaving.

BLAME ME

After Lynch picked up a first down on fourth-and-1 inside the Titans 5, the Raiders didn't give him the ball again with Carr throwing three straight passes to Cooper.

The wide receiver dropped the first, Titans rookie Adoree Jackson got a hand in breaking up the second and Titans linebacker Brian Orakpo got his right fingers on the third that Cooper couldn't pull in at the back of the end zone.

Carr complimented Jackson's play while also blaming himself for not making better throws. "I'm completely fine with saying I screwed up," Carr said. "I did a couple times. It always happens in a Week 1, but when you win you can sit back and realize that we could've had so much more."

HITTING CARR

The Raiders led the NFL in 2016 in the fewest sacks allowed and went 10 games allowing one sack or fewer. The Titans sacked Carr on back-to-back plays early in the second quarter with Wesley Woodyard, then Derrick Morgan taking the quarterback down. Tennessee didn't get to Carr again.

UP NEXT

Raiders: Host Jets.

Titans: Visit Jaguars.

Tom Brady on pace for huge numbers, so why is he down on his play of late?

Tom Brady on pace for huge numbers, so why is he down on his play of late?

FOXBORO -- Tom Brady is on pace for 5,224 yards passing in 2017, just a shade under his total from his career-high in 2011. He's on track to have 34 touchdowns and just five picks. Barring a continued run of ridiculous efficiency from Kansas City's Alex Smith, those numbers would be MVP-caliber in all likelihood.

But Brady's not thrilled with the way he's played of late. What gives? 

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In his past two games, he hasn't thrown the football as consistently as he would have liked. After starting the season with a 10-to-0 touchdown-to-interception ratio, he's 3-to-2 in the last couple of weeks. His accuracy has been at times pinpoint (as it was on his 42-yard completion to Brandin Cooks to help set up a Rob Gronkowski score against the Jets), but it has also been uncharacteristically erratic.

He was picked deep down the middle of the field by Buster Skrine last week, but the more concerning throw may have been the quick out-route to Gronkowski that Skrine dropped for what should have been an easy interception. Brady missed Phillip Dorsett on what looked like it could have been a long touchdown with Dorsett running free behind the defense. He threw behind Chris Hogan twice in the game, one of which opened up Hogan to a rib-shot that landed him on the injury report this week.

Against the Jets, Brady was not sacked and he was hit only four times -- a light day for him compared to other weeks this season when he's been battered. Yet he still completed just under 53 percent of his passes for 257 yards and a season-low 6.76 yards per attempt. 

"Well, I've got to hit the open . . . If the throws are there I've got to be able to make them," he said on Friday. "It's disappointing when I don't. To me, it just comes back to technique and fundamentals and making sure everything is working and that's the consistent daily thing that you're working on. I'm always working on my accuracy.

"I wish I hit them all. I'm capable of hitting them all and I need to be able to do that. I said last week that some of these games wouldn't be as close if I was playing better in the red area. I think some of those missed opportunities in the pass game with me hitting guys would really help our team. Hopefully, I can do a better job for this team."

Brady is no longer listed on the Patriots injury report, but he dealt with a left shoulder injury against both the Bucs and the Jets, and it's worth wondering if that somehow impacted how his passes traveled in those games. Balance is key in Brady's world, and even though he can make flat-footed throws look easy, perhaps an injury to his front side limited his ability to place the ball where he wanted. 

Keeping Brady upright could go a long way in helping the 40-year-old regain his form from Weeks 2-4 when he didn't dip below a 104 quarterback rating. Bill Belichick said earlier this week that part of the reason the Jets pass-rush wasn't quite as effective as others they'd faced this year was his team's ability to run the ball. Productive rushing attempts on first and second down mean manageable third downs, which mean shorter pass attempts. Those of course, in theory, lead to less time standing in the pocket and a healthier quarterback.

"It's great," Brady said of his team's recent surge running the football. "I mean, to be able to run the ball consistently in the NFL is important for every offense. It does take a lot of . . . I wouldn't say pressure, it's just production. If 400 yards of offense is what you're looking for and you can get 150 from your running game, the 250 has got to come in the passing game. If you're getting 50 yards in the rushing game then it means you've got to throw for more.

"I don't think it's pressure it's just overall you're going to get production in different areas and the backs are a big part of our offense and handing the ball off to them is an easy way for us to gain yards if we're all coordinated and doing the right thing. But those guys are running hard. The line is doing a great job up front finishing blocks and so forth."

Against the Falcons and their talented -- though underperforming -- offense this weekend, the running game could be key. First, it could help the Patriots defense by controlling possession and keeping Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman off the field. Next are the obvious advantages for the signal-caller who could use a stress-free day in the pocket to help him solve his recent accuracy issues. 

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