MINNEAPOLIS – The Raiders entered Sunday’s game in Minnesota as the NFL’s fifth-ranked run defense. They’re going to fall far down the list after coming face-to-face with Dalvin Cook.
The explosive running back had 116 yards and a touchdown on just 10 carries, the featured piece of a Vikings attack that churned out 211 yards on the ground. The Vikings were so comfortable with a massive lead and an efficient run game that they didn't attempt a pass in the fourth quarter of a 34-14 blowout win at U.S. Bank Stadium.
The Raiders only forced two punts. They never took the ball away and couldn’t sack Kirk Cousins.
Defensive leaders took the performance personally. They weren’t downtrodden after a rough showing. They were pissed, and vowed to take immediate action to fix it.
Even if it means some uncomfortable conversations are on the way. Some guys may get called on the carpet this week, with everyone being held accountable for their play.
“It has to be addressed,” defensive end Josh Mauro said. “If it’s uncomfortable, it doesn’t matter because sometimes change is going to be hard. There are a lot of guys who have a lot of pride and put in a lot of work, so feeling comfortable losing like that is unacceptable.”
Mauro and linebacker Tahir Whitehead huddled up after the disappointing loss and discussed that very fact, that this type of performance simply won’t stand. The Raiders believe they’re far better than they showed on Sunday, and won’t tolerate a repeat of what happened here.
“This is something you can’t just move on from,” Whitehead said. “It’s a long road ahead. If we don’t get this corrected, then it is going to be a long season. We need to hold each other accountable and make sure nobody is comfortable after this loss because there is a lot of things that need to be fixed.”
The Raiders weren’t good during a 4-12 season where losing was all too common. Expectations are heightened with an influx of talent through the draft and free agency, and giving up 34 points while getting beat on execution (and a few costly penalties) won’t be tolerated.
“We experienced a long season last year,” Whitehead said. “I am not trying to go through the same thing, and many others on this team will say the same thing. The only way you fix it is by digging deeper. You can’t start pointing fingers because it is a long season. We need to start coming together even tighter, especially being on the road the next few weeks.”
This is the first of five games played away from Oakland. They face Indianapolis next week and head to London immediately for a home game against Chicago. Then comes a bye week followed by game at Green Bay and then Houston.
They’ll go 0-5 during this season-defining stretch if the defense repeats this performance. The veterans understand more is required to get back in the win column.
“Guys are just trying to do too much,” Whitehead said. “This creates gaps in the defense and that’s when big plays happen. We have to get back to the drawing board and make those corrections to move forward. You can’t go out there and keep making the same mistakes over and over again. In this league, you can’t win games when you allow big plays. We need to make sure we are just doing our job.”
Coaches can demand more and hold feet to the fire, but the message also needs to come from inside the locker room.
“It starts with the players,” Mauro said. “The good teams are able to hold each other accountable. We are going to come back and execute a lot better next week.”