OAKLAND -- The Raiders were down 14 points in a flash. Three minutes, 38 seconds to be exact.
The Ravens scored a touchdown five plays into Sunday’s opening drive, then another three snaps later.
The Raiders spent the rest of their day chasing a sunset. They ultimately fell 30-17 to a beatable Baltimore team, and never recovered from that terrible start.
Baltimore scored quickly on that opening drive. Sean Smith got torched for 52 yards on the first play. The Ravens combined some good runs and crossed the goal line. The start wasn’t ideal, but those things happen.
What happened next put the Raiders in a bind. Quarterback EJ Manuel found Jared Cook in the left flat and, once the veteran tight end sprinted for open space, Patrick Onwuasor popped the ball out. Jimmy Smith scooped, ran 46 yards and scored the Ravens’ second touchdown.
“I was trying to put the ball in my outside arm, and the defender came through and swiped it and tackled me at the same time,” Cook said. “That was my fault. Self-inflicted wounds are not something we need on this offense. It was a huge mistake that turned into points for them.”
The Raiders wanted to start fast Sunday, especially after falling behind early in consecutive losses. Cook’s error set the Raiders back. They never recovered.
The Silver and Black have been outscored 31-3 in the first quarter of three straight losses. Sunday’s deficit was the biggest. It didn’t force the Raiders to abandon a game plan that featured steady rushing and comfortable passes for backup EJ Manuel. The method worked, just not well enough to overcome another sagging start.
“That’s a hole you don’t want to put yourself in,” right tackle Marshall Newhouse said. “If you do that, you’re digging out the rest of the game. It’s tough. I don’t care who’s playing. That’s not the way you want to start.”
Marshawn Lynch’s 3-yard touchdown run made it a one-score deficit late in the third quarter, but the Raiders defense couldn’t get the ball back quick enough. The Ravens added two late field goals to keep the game out of reach.
“We did our best to fight back, but we have to stay on the field,” Cook said. “It’s on us to be able to covert third downs and keep drives alive to help our defense and turn long drives into points.”