CINCINNATI -- Oddsmakers dubbed the Raiders underdogs Sunday against the Bengals, but the Silver and Black came to town with the realistic expectation of leaving with a win.
The Bengals had lost five in a row entering the game with a defense allowing yards and points aplenty.
The Raiders were playing better on offense and defense, but that progress came to a grinding halt.
Oakland couldn’t get much of anything going early, and couldn’t make up enough ground late, and lost 30-16 at Paul Brown Stadium.
The Raiders will head home with two games left to make some progress and finish out the season better than they showed in Cincinnati.
Here are three takeaways from the Raiders’ latest loss:
Offensive line struggles
There was great pregame concern about how the Raiders' interior line would hold up with Kelechi Osemele, Gabe Jackson and sub Jon Feliciano all on the shelf. While fill-ins Chaz Green and Denzelle Good had some bad moments, the main problem came from the left side.
First-round draft pick Kolton Miller was beaten too often by Sam Hubbard and Michael Johnson, especially early on, creating too much pressure on Derek Carr for comfort.
The pocket routinely crashed in on the Raiders quarterback and made life difficult on the offense. Carr lost a fumble on a sack he never saw coming, and was sacked five times and hit seven more times.
Carr can be excellent when protected well and has time to capitalize on smart pre-snap reads. Offensive line depth must be addressed at guard and tackle this offseason to avoid games like this one.
Miller will be fine in the long run, with an offseason to bulk up, get stronger and more technically sound. Competition at right tackle wouldn’t hurt, to fortify a previous team strength.
Run defense takes a step back
The Silver and Black’s run defense had been better in recent weeks, especially when slowing running backs. They came into this game with stopping Joe Mixon the primary objective, especially with backup quarterback Jeff Driskel throwing ducks.
Oakland wasn’t able to slow the slashing back much at all this one. The Oakley native had 129 yards and two touchdowns, averaging 4.8 yards per carry. Driskel has some wheels himself, and averaged 4.6 yards on seven carries.
The Raiders have worked to minimize big plays, and gave up a 47-yard jaunt to Mixon that led to a touchdown. He scored again to ice it and send the Raiders to their 11th loss of the season.
Unable to carry momentum
The Raiders recently have played some good football. They held tough in a loss to the Kansas City Chiefs and came back twice to beat the Pittsburgh Steelers last week. There were encouraging signs in the game tape showing progress had been made in several areas.
Such improvement wasn’t evident against the Bengals, where the Raiders fell back to their mean and struggled to produce anything steadily. They aren’t good but seemed to be getting better. This step back must lead to more steps forward if the Raiders are to end this difficult season on a high note.