Another week, and sadly, another deflating loss. While this game was a lot closer than Week 1, there are no moral victories, and it almost hurts more to lose a close game, because we all had our hopes up.
Having said that, it was significantly easier to find things to be happy about this week than in Week 1, and our weekly series about finding the silver (and black) lining continues.
The Silver (And Black) Lining: Week Two
So, losing is never good, but losing by one is a lot better than losing by twenty. So may things went wrong in this game, but the Raiders easily could’ve won this one, against a divisional rival, on the road. Here are the positives to take away from Oakland’s loss.
Luck is for Losers
Nobody likes excuses, but the Raiders have plenty. Ignoring the fact that the team had to play in intense heat in an altitude they weren’t prepared for, so many things could’ve happened differently and the Raiders would’ve won this game easily. It’s actually almost funny just how improbable this loss was, all things considered.
Imagine if Mike Nugent‘s extra point wasn’t blocked? The Raiders probably win, or at the very least, have a shot in overtime. What if Bruce Irvin hadn’t gotten that stupid penalty? Denver has to settle for a field goal instead of a touchdown, and at the end of the game, the lead is too much for the Broncos. If Jon Gruden kicks the field goal late, instead of going for it, the Broncos have to score a touchdown instead of kicking a field goal to win. And sadly, if Keith Smith just holds on to Derek Carr‘s pass, they put the game away and Denver just doesn’t have enough time.
These are things that didn’t happen, but as daunting as an 0-2 start is, it’s important to realize just how close the Raiders really were to winning this game in a hostile environment. It hasn’t been a great start, but there are signs of life, and this team isn’t as hopeless as you might think. Don’t believe me? Then we should go ahead and revisit that Derek Carr guy.
Unlike last week, where many in Raider Nation were deeply concerned about Derek Carr after his three ugly interceptions, he bounced back nicely. Carr completed 29 of 32 passes for 288 yards and a score. Nobody in NFL history had completed 90% of his passes when attempting at least 27 passes until Carr did it on Sunday afternoon.
And these weren’t west coast, game managing dinks and dunks, either. Carr averaged nine yards per attempt, and actually threw the ball past the first down marker a few times, unlike last week. Against the Rams, Carr only targeted receivers nine times on 40 attempts. This week, 21 of his 32 attempts were to Amari Cooper, Jordy Nelson, Seth Roberts, or Martavis Bryant.
Carr scrambled to extend the play with his legs on multiple occasions, the team used the play action more often, and he wasn’t afraid to leave the pocket. He didn’t look skittish, he didn’t look gun shy, and it is such a relief to be able to say this loss wasn’t Carr’s fault. The future will be bright as long as Carr keeps playing like he did on Sunday.
— Oakland Raiders (@Raiders) September 16, 2018
Amari Cooper: Number One Receiver
Seriously, everyone needs to stop what they’re doing and give Amari Cooper a round of applause. After a miserable opening game, Cooper bounced back, catching all ten of his targets for 116 yards, his most since Week 7 of last season. This is the Cooper that the Raiders have been waiting for. This is an Amari that could get a big contract extension next year.
Last week, things felt hopeless because the offense just looked so scared. Carr trusted his number one receiver, and it made a huge difference. Watching Carr get vertical, especially when targeting Cooper, takes a ton of pressure off of the offense moving forward. All the fantasy football gurus thought that Cooper was in line for a huge season, and after that performance? They might’ve been onto something. Here’s hoping it wasn’t a fluke.
Calm Waters Ahead
There’s no such thing as an easy win in the NFL (unless you’re playing Josh Allen‘s Buffalo Bills), but the Raiders had a tough start to the season. They had to contend with Jared Goff, Aaron Donald, Todd Gurley, and an insanely talented Los Angeles Rams team last week, and then they had to travel to suffer Von Miller and Denver Broncos on the road in Week 2! Excuses are a crutch, but the Raiders had a rough go early.
Over the next five weeks, the Raider’s road gets a little easier. They take on Ryan Tannehill and the Miami Dolphins next week, and while the Dolphins are 2-0, they’ve hardly been impressive. It’s not easy to fly across the country, and weird things happen at Miami, but the Raiders should be the better team.
After that, they’ve got Tyrod Taylor‘s Cleveland Browns, who have no semblance of offense, Melvin Gordon‘s Los Angeles Chargers, who gave up 20 points to the hapless Bills, Russell Wilson and the limping Seattle Seahawks in London, and an Indianapolis Colts team that relies completely on Andrew Luck‘s arm.
I’m not saying the Raiders are going to start the season 5-2, but there’s no reason they can’t. The season is long, and the Raiders will eventually win a few games. It was hard loss, especially against a bitter rival, but the season is far, far from over. So take the good, leave the bad, and we’re on to Miami.
Just Win, Baby.