Raiders

Raiders must find answers quick or Chiefs, Bucs can bury them

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Two weeks ago, the Raiders were flying high after beating Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints to open up Allegiant Stadium on "Monday Night Football."

The Raiders were 2-0 and looked ready to take another step forward in Year 3 of Jon Gruden's rebuild. Fourteen days later, all those good feelings have been wiped away and the Raiders find their season at early cross roads.

The Silver and Black were run over by Cam Newton and the New England Patriots in Week 3, and returned home Sunday needing a win against the undefeated Buffalo Bills to stay above .500 with the Kansas City Chiefs and Tampa Bay Buccaneers on deck.

With Henry Ruggs, Bryan Edwards, Trent Brown and Damon Arnette all out with injuries, the Raiders faced an uphill climb against Josh Allen and the Bills. But the Raiders' defense offered little resistance Sunday at Allegiant Stadium as the Silver and Black fell 30-23 in a game that didn't feel that close.

Now, the Raiders sit at 2-2 staring at two of the NFL's best teams up next on the schedule.

The Raiders' defense, a unit expected to make a leap this season, has been atrocious and that's being kind. Through four games they are giving up 30 points per game, 138.2 rushing yards and 250 passing yards per game. Other than a stinky performance from Drew Brees in Week 2, opposing offenses have been doing whatever they want against Paul Guenther's defense.

But their issues go well beyond a defense that is getting gashed by both air and ground. The offense, which looked impressive in wins over the Carolina Panthers and New Orleans Saints, has started to revert back to its 2019 form.

 

After not turning the ball over in their first two games, the Raiders have turned it over five times in their last two, three of which were fumbles by Carr. The Raiders scored garbage-time touchdowns against both the Patriots and Bills to make losses look closer than they were. But on their other 18 drives in those two losses, they scored just two touchdowns.

They are averaging 27.8 points per game, a number that is buoyed by the 34 they put up in Week 1. They are averaging only 115 rushing yards per game and just 261 passing yards.

Plain and simple, nothing is going right at the moment for the Raiders. Carr, who suffered his 57th loss as Raiders starting quarterback Sunday, is fed up.

“I am sick of losing,” Carr said after Sunday's loss. “It sucks. Enough is enough. … I am tired of it.”

The harsh reality for Carr and the Raiders is that, unless something drastic changes, two more losses are on the horizon and the Raiders will be staring 2-4 in the face needing a late-season charge to fight for a playoff spot.

The Raiders' offense, as potent as it might look at times, has been stuck in the mud far too often over these last two games. Yes, they are down their top two receivers, who are both rookies. Yes, the all-everything right tackle is out. Yes, the road-grading left guard is out.

But none of that matters when losses start piling up.

The Raiders have to do a better job of converting long drives into touchdowns and not settling for field goals. Especially with a defense that struggles to force more than one punt a game.

That's on Gruden to be more aggressive with his offense. He doesn't like taking unnecessary gambles on offense, but he's not coaching a defense with Simeon Rice and Warren Sapp right now.

The Raiders need their offense to carry them. It's clear they will all season. That won't happen with Gruden kicking field goals on fourth-and-short or Carr fumbling in the fourth quarter.

Warts aside, these losses have to be shouldered by Gruden and Carr. They are the brain trust. The faces of the franchise. No, they can't fix a defense with more holes than a 14th-century navy. But they have to do all they can to mitigate that unit's impact on the game's outcome.

Otherwise, the season, which is closely circling the drain, will be over in a blink.

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One look at the schedule before the season and it was clear the Raiders had to tread water early on in order to be alive for a playoff berth come November and December.

The strategy included a must-win against Carolina in the opener. Check. It involved one upset of the Saints, Chiefs or Bucs. Check. It also involved a split with the Bills and Patriots. Two straight losses stuffed that plan in the garbage and now the Raiders are heading to Arrowhead Stadium, a place Carr has never won, needing to find some sort of pulse on both sides of the ball.

 

Back-to-back losses to the Chiefs and Bucs would put the Raiders in a hole they don't have the talent to climb out of. They are young and flawed. This year was supposed to be about progress after a surprise 7-9 season. It was about a team primed for a playoff push.

All that seems far away now. Carr and the Raiders are sick of losing, but they might not have the tools necessary to stop the bleeding with two of the league's most dangerous offenses on deck.