Slow Starts Finally Catch Up To Raiders In Week 4

Undefeated was fun while it lasted, but the Silver and Black took their first loss of the year in Week 4. It simply was not the night for Jon Gruden and the Las Vegas Raiders as the Los Angeles Chargers took care of business, winning 28-14.

Honestly, the game could have been far uglier than that score, though. Any time a team is down 21-0 at halftime, you know that they’ve been outcoached. However, you have to credit where it’s due. Gruden and the Raiders fought back, making a game of it with 14 unanswered points in the third quarter.

It was infuriating watching the Raiders bumble through the first half with the worst offensive performance of the season. The worst part was the Raiders trying incessantly to establish the run when it wasn’t working.

The Raiders’ run game

Yes, Las Vegas needs to run the ball; and coming into the game, the Chargers had not defended the rushing attack well. No, that does not mean you keep at it no matter what the results are. The results were putrid; they finished the game with 18 rushes for just 48 yards.

It wasn’t until the offense gave up running the ball that they finally found a rhythm. Josh Jacobs was a shadow of himself, and they should have just kept him out. With all due respect to Jacobs’s extraordinary talent and will to play through pain, but Las Vegas needs him healthy. This ineffective injured version doesn’t help anybody.

The defense played well enough to win with a better offensive performance. They hassled star quarterback Justin Herbert all night long. According to Pro Football Focus’s premium stats (subscription required), the Raiders had 16 pressures, five hits, two sacks, and six tackles for a loss.

What about the defense?

Most impressive on the night was the linebacker duo of Denzel Perryman and Cory Littleton. PFF credits Littleton with 14 tackles, nine of them solo. As far as Perryman, he had 12 tackles, with eight of them being solo. They both were all over the field; it was Littleton’s best game as a Raider.

Ironically, the best individual defensive play on the night wasn’t from the defense. It was the special teams tackle by Hunter Renfrow on a Chargers fake punt, and it was glorious.

Man, the Raiders need to make sure Renfrow never plays for any other team. The guy looks like a science teacher but can still lay a perfectly timed hit like that; he is special. He already is deserving of being a Raider for life.

Renfrow also had one hell of a touchdown in this game because of his incredible route running. He had the best tackle and the best catch of the game.

In the end, it wasn’t enough after the Raiders comeback attempt stalled. Regardless, they scored 14 unanswered points and got the ball back down just seven but missed a 52-yard field goal attempt. That woke up the Chargers’ offense, and the game was all over when L.A. tacked on one more touchdown.

Still, despite the loss, it was great to see them turn things around. They came that close to a comeback. It also was a hard lesson that hopefully will kickstart the Raiders opening game efforts going forward. Their slow starts are not a winning formula despite overcoming them three out of four games.

Lastly, the narrative that Derek Carr cowered in the face of the Chargers’ relentless pass rush is ridiculous. The picture of Carr giving himself up that’s been used as proof of his cowardliness has been taken out of context.

Here is the picture in question:

Now, here is what he was looking at…

If he tries to throw it: that is either an interception or a fumble with the free rusher barreling in on him. Even if Carr tried to run there, no way he gets away, and again it risks a turnover. With his notorious penchant for fumbling, giving himself up was the right decision.

He was damned if he did and damned if he didn’t on that play. To crucify the guy who has been playing lights out all year and nearly brought the team back again in this one is unfair, to put it gently.

Up next, Da Bears…

Now the pressure is back on him both literally and metaphorically while facing Khalil Mack and the Bears. It will be interesting to see how he responds, especially after the commentary from Joey Bosa.

Carr will need to get back to the MVP level play of the first three weeks, or the criticisms will get loud again. He has not proven he is elite yet, but he has gotten closer than ever this season.

Now he needs a great bounce-back game to put him back on track, and it needs to start right from the first possession against Chicago. The Bears are a team that you have to jump on right away; they make a living off of hanging around because of their talented defense.

A slow start next week plays right into the Bears’ style of play. So, the Raiders need to be all engines go straight out the gates. Another problem is that Vegas’s offensive line was a disaster against the Chargers, and the pass rush is the Bears’ greatest strength.

Both Carr and the offensive line need to be ready for the Bears’ defense. It’s time for the Raiders to have a statement game if they are going to prove they are the 3-0 team and not the one that lost to the Chargers.

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*Top Photo: Naomi Baker/Getty Images

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