It’s both shocking and comforting. That’s your rudimentary response and review of the Las Vegas Raiders’ Week 1 performance.
It is appalling that quarterback Derek Carr threw three interceptions in the 24-19 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers this past Sunday. It’s reassuring that the Silver and Black put an emphasis on fundamentals that can right the ship that’s steered a bit off course.
No, I’m not going to delve into the “they only lost by five” and “it could’ve been a lot worse” mantra here. If you want that, go read some fluff from another platform. I agree wholeheartedly with Raiders head coach Josh McDaniels’ assessment of that sentiment.
“You’re never going to hear me talk about moral victories, or anything like that because I don’t believe in that,” McDaniels said during his media session on Monday. “But I liked the competitive spirit of our team. I liked the character that we displayed yesterday. I mean, it’s football; you fall behind, you keep playing. Our job is to catch up, play better, coach better, and catch up. We had a chance to do that. And for that, as I said, I respect the way we played and competed. But that’s every week.”
But kudos to the Raiders for sticking in the fight and making a game of things, but in the end, a win is the only thing that matters, and Las Vegas didn’t get it done against an AFC West foe to begin the 2022 season.
“When we don’t get the ‘W’, I know that’s the only thing they care about. That’s the only thing I care about,” Raiders defensive coordinator Patrick Graham said during his Tuesday media session.
Raiders Blog: It’s not the end of the world, relax.
A season-opening loss isn’t the end of the world. The Raiders know it and are operating as such. There are a bevy of 0-1 teams in the league right now — and that’s not to provide some cushion or leeway for Las Vegas’ performance against Los Angeles. It’s the stone-cold truth.
“Every game is a learning opportunity. Obviously, you want to win more than you lose, but it’s a chance to learn. And there are lessons learned from last week’s game,” Graham noted. “There’ll be lessons learned from this week’s game. It’s the beginning of the season. You just want to make sure we’re getting our fundamentals. The biggest thing is the race to improve. You know, half of the teams are 1-0 and half of the teams are 0-1. It’s a race to improve in this league. Like you said, it’s a marathon. And that’s all we’re going to try to do, just go day by day and just try to improve. But the overreaction, I’m miserable whether we win or lose, so it doesn’t matter.”
Misery does love company, and as such, legitimate concern comes if Las Vegas falls to the incoming Arizona Cardinals this Sunday. Losing that tilt results in the quiet murmurs of concern going from a whisper to a warranted boombastic b*******.
How the Raiders avoid an 0-2 start to a new era in the 2022 campaign harkens back to the team’s going back to the fundamentals. Carr, the 31-year-old franchise quarterback lauded for his accuracy, was anything but meticulous. The nine-year veteran threw short of targets, didn’t move well in the pocket, and that helped the Bolts pounce on the Silver and Black. Fortunately for the Raiders, Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert didn’t continue to surgically pick apart the Vegas defense when gifted the ball a trio of times.
#Raiders D allowed 2 1st downs and forced 3 3-and-outs in final 5 drives yesterday. This is what Raiders offense did in that span:
Turnover on downs
â€” Josh Dubow (@JoshDubowAP) September 12, 2022
So, what about those interceptions?
“There’s a lot that goes into passing the ball, obviously; reading the coverage, making a decision on where you want to go with the ball, and then the actual mechanics of throwing it the way you want to throw it,” McDaniels said when asked about the interceptions. “Any number of those things could deter us from having success. The deep one to (Davante) Tae (Adams) was a little underthrown on that one. Same thing with the one down the middle for (Darren) Waller. Again, it was a decision of how to throw it rather than underthrowing. He put more zip on that one as opposed to touch, and those are decisions that happen in a football game. Like I said, we’re going to learn a lot from this because there are hidden opportunities within possessionsâ€”offensively or defensivelyâ€”to create a different situation.”
Defensively, the Raiders must focus on collapsing the pocket around the opposing quarterbackâ€”something Graham stressed was a must-do against the Chargers but didn’t happen as often as the team would’ve liked. Herbert did a tremendous job avoiding pressure and breaking containment to make off-schedule plays. That’s something Arizona signal-caller Kyler Murray has the potential to do the same. Graham’s unit must maintain a collapsing pocket, devoid of gaps and escape routes, to suffocate Murray. Like against Herbert, that’s easier said than done.
The Raiders’ defense needs to make its mark…
And, finally, the defense needs to make its mark on the turnover margin. The Raiders’ offense gifted the Chargers three, while Vegas’ defense couldn’t force any turnovers. Somehow, someway, that’s got to flip this Sunday in Week 2.
“Well, turnovers are a big indicator of who’s going to win or lose the game. So, I think our focus from day one is that we want ball hawks on the defense, so whether it’s punching out the ball, high-pointing the ball for interceptions, or causing tips. That’s the main focus,” Graham noted. “I mean, most defenses in the league would say that. Each week we try to emphasize it, each week we try to emphasize the targets, and when we don’t get the results, you don’t want to overreact, to steal your term there, but we’ve got to just go back to the drawing board, just keep working on fundamentals and keep working at it. But we’re always focused on as a defense, trying to get the ball away from the offense. The game was about the ball. So, if you could get the ball, that’s a good thing.”
*Top Photo: Jeffrey Brown/Icon Sports Wire