Oakland Raiders Observations: Week Two

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I don’t believe in moral victories, and while I’m glad the Raiders were closer in week two than they were in week one, a loss is a loss is a loss. A close loss is almost worse, because you get your hopes up, only for your heart to be broken again. Having said that, introspection is the only way to improve, so if the Raiders want to get it right, they have to realize where they went wrong.

Oakland Raiders Observations: Week Two

It’s so nice to be able to say that Derek Carr wasn’t the reason the Raiders lost. He had a historically good day, throwing the ball down the field, but doing so accurately. He became the first quarterback in NFL history to throw the ball at least 27 times and still complete 90% of his passes. After an ugly week one, Carr rebounded nicely, and it’s not his fault that the Raiders were unable to beat Von Miller‘s Denver Broncos.

Carr improved, Amari Cooper improved, and at points, the offense looked phenomenal. However, there’s one person who hasn’t improved from week one, and while I understand a lot of his decisions, a gamble is a gamble, and you’ve got to pay the piper. That man is Jon Gruden.

Gruden’s Gamble

Hindsight is 20/20, and had Keith Smith caught Derek Carr’s pass on fourth down? He would’ve been a genius. The Raiders could’ve choked out the clock, kicked the field goal, and they would’ve flown home with a win. But unfortunately, they didn’t, and that ended up being brutal. That decision ended up ultimately costing them the game.

The line between genius and idiot is one mistake, never forget that. But if we’re being honest, that’s not the gamble that’s haunting Gruden right now. I know that Raider Nation is absolutely sick of hearing about Khalil Mack, but that narrative isn’t going anywhere. Until we see how good the two first round picks end up being, the jury will be out on Jon Gruden.

There’s a difference between the Cowboys getting a dynasty for Herschel Walker and the Raiders getting basically nothing for Jon Gruden way back when, and as Oakland’s pass rush struggles, Gruden’s decision to ship Mack away will be held against him. Arden Key, Bruce Irvin, and everyone else on Oakland’s defense can try, but they can’t make up for the huge hole he left on that defense.

For the second week in a row, the Raiders had a great first half, went into the break with the lead, and somehow managed to blow it in the end. Carr’s collapse cost the team last week, but this week, a lot of the blame falls on the shoulders of the coaches.

The coaches, and at least one of the team captains.

Bruce Irvin isn’t Khalil Mack

When Bruce Irvin had a strip-sack last week against Jared Goff, I was optimistic. I thought there was a chance that he could step up and bring some real heat for Oakland’s pass rush. This week? He failed. Not only was his impact limited, only contributing one tackle and one quarterback hit with zero sacks, but he had a costly penalty.

Oakland had Denver stopped in the redzone, and seemed to have stopped Bronco’s wide receiver, Demaryius Thomas, one yard short of the first down, when Irvin yelled at the ref, getting the unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, giving the Broncos another set of downs, leading to a Royce Freeman rushing touchdown. That’s gross.

But penalties happen. And with Irvin being Oakland’s most proven pass rusher, it’s totally possible that the Broncos put more effort into blocking him, limiting his numbers. That’s fine. Those are decent excuses.

However, the eye in the sky doesn’t lie, and it’s going to expose how lazy Irvin was at the end of the game, when it mattered the most. In this game, he missed tackles, didn’t make an impact on the quarterback, and didn’t even try on the final drive.

It’s okay to have bad plays, games, and seasons. But with Khalil Mack gone, this is Bruce Irvin’s defense. He wears a C on his jersey because he’s supposed to be a captain. On Sunday afternoon, that’s not what it meant. Against the Broncos, that C was Irvin’s grade, and honestly, I’m being generous. He had as many penalties as he had tackles, and while I’m still very disappointed in his performance, I do have an excuse for Irvin.

The Intangibles

Look, there are some things that happen that just suck. Donald Penn slips up and allows Mike Nugent‘s extra point to be blocked, and instead of a game-tying field goal, Brandon McManus secures the win with a 36 yarder late.

But there are other things that were working against the Raiders that ultimately may have proven to be too much. It was the hottest game in the history of Mile High, in that brutal altitude, on a short week, against a divisional rival, and they lost by one point. That sucks, but it all adds up.

The Raiders had the late-late game on Monday Night Football, and then in less than a week, had to prepare for Denver, travel to Denver, attempt to acclimate, and then play the game in terrible weather. These are excuses, but they make a difference? Don’t believe me? Go back and watch those Raider pass rushers in the fourth quarter.

Watch Arden Key and Bruce Irvin, completely gassed, trying to slow down Case Keenum and the Broncos offense on that final drive. They are absolutely exhausted. Blame the weather, blame the short week, blame the altitude, and blame their conditioning, but that is a hard hill to overcome.

That’s another number in the loss column. Hopefully next week, we’ll be back to talk about how the Oakland Raiders beat the Miami Dolphins. Eastern Standard Time is dangerous, but I can’t think of anything less dangerous than Ryan Tannehill. Here’s hoping I’m not wrong.

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