The Las Vegas Raiders are a few plays away from easily being 2-0. They lost their first two games by less than a score each. Both times they had opportunities to win the game. Unfortunately, they went the other way and the Raiders are still desperately seeking their first win this season.
Derek Carr’s play, especially on last week’s final drive, inspired lots of conversations. The offense was ineffective in the second half, after looking very good in the first half. Vegas could’ve put the Cardinals away with a score multiple times. Carr looked out of sync with Renfrow and Adams on the final drive.
Vegas also could have sealed the game with a kick, instead of throwing the ball to Hunter Renfrow. The Raiders could have also handed the ball off but they looked aggressive for the first time in the first half and the wrong time. That’s on coaching.
The Raiders defense played in mud in the second half. Tackling Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray is tough, especially when the offense does you no favors. They used a rotation and found success staying in their passing lanes in the first half, but they looked gassed late in the second half. Some blame falls on the front office for sitting on cap space, trading Yannick Ngakoue, bringing in Chandler Jones, and not drafting an interior player.
Raiders must rebound
The real Raiders will show up this week. They lost a close game to a division rival in Week One and lost an emotional game in the home opener. Derek Carr played bad in one game and decent in another. The defense has had moments of good and bad.
Right now, we look like a team that can’t overcome injuries or their own issues. It looks like the new coaching and regime reconfigured away their edge, an edge that helped them secure a playoff bid last year. The X’s and O’s are better this year but the Raiders got to put it all together and win.
Ultimately, the players must execute but the people behind the scenes hold them accountable and puts them in positions to win. How the Raiders respond from getting a game stolen from them will determine if this team can will itself back into relevancy. They could come out emotionless and flat. Tennessee will look for their own spark at home.
Therefore, the Raiders must come out like they won the last two weeks. They must come out like they believe in each other and this coaching staff. It’s still early in the season but the Raiders must show some resiliency.
Playoff teams aren’t built, they are created. The Raiders must show they know how to win and expect themselves to win with a big outing versus the Titans. They can’t keep settling for less than excellence if they want to prove themselves as a postseason team. Vegas’ response is a statement because the Titans will not go down easy.
Tennessee needs a win too
The Titans got popped by the Buffalo Bills on Monday Night. Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill threw two interceptions and running back Derek Henry was held to less than two yards-per-carry on 13 carries. Former Raiders end Denico Autry landed the team’s only sack in the contest. The Titans forced zero interceptions and the game got out of hand with four Buffalo scores in the third quarter.
In Week One, The Titans gave up a big lead and couldn’t score in the final quarter. They took a one-point loss to the Giants. Henry didn’t surpass 100 yards in that game. Tannehill played a bit better with no interceptions and two touchdown passes. Rookie Kyle Phillips was their leading pass catcher. The biggest difference was Tennessee got five sacks in Week One. Jeffrey Simmons registered two sacks. Edge Rashad Weaver registered a sack and Edge Bud Dupree got to the quarterback once. Tennessee might not have an elite pass rush without Harold Landry but they can beat lesser matchups.
More games, more injuries
The Raiders are favored by two on the road, which tells you how far the Titans have fallen. Both teams are trying to avoid going 0-3, while fighting key injuries.
Josh Jacobs traveled to Tennessee despite missing a couple of practices with illness. Jacobs didn’t do much with many carries last week but that’s more on the Raiders being without Andre James. The Raiders are going to need the run game with Hunter Renfrow out. Vegas relies on Renfrow for intermediate work but they’ll need to stay ahead of the chains with the run game this time.
Jacobs should finally get loose this week or we could finally get Zamir White some touches. James was a limited participant in practice this week after missing all last week with a concussion. The Raiders will need James to help the Silver and Black contain Jeffrey Simmons. Either way, the young interior offensive line should benefit from another week’s experience. They must do better getting a push for the run game.
Getting Tre’von Moehrig back is also big for the Raiders. He brings added size and range to the Raiders pass defense. Safety Duron Harmon made consecutive big plays in over time in Moehrig’s place. The Raiders should roll with more three safety looks as linebacker Denzel Perryman will be out again this week.
Run game must get started
The Raiders’ chances for success increase as the run game gets going. Vegas must get push on the double teams and keep Jeffrey Simmons out of the backfield. Keeping the offense out of 3rd and long is key to maintaining drives and scoring.
Get the ball to Adams
No Hunter Renfrow puts pressure on Derek Carr on those third downs. He’s got to find ways to get the ball the ball out fast and down the field. We know Carr and Davante Adams have chemistry but we did not see that in the Raiders overtime. Adams should get the ball early and often. He can get open on every play but Carr’s got to get him the ball down the field. The Raiders need the deep element of their offense to reach their potential. That starts with Carr getting the ball downfield to Adams on any down.
Rely on tight ends
Beyond that, Carr must use his tight ends. Darren Waller and Foster Moreau can counteract the defense’s focus on Adams. Moreau and Waller are walking mismatches even if the Titans have solid safeties. Both can help the Raiders move the sticks.
Don’t forget Henry
On defense, the Raiders must stop the run. The Titans receiving core is nothing compared to the last few seasons. Tennessee needs a big game from Derek Henry and that will be hard with Taylor Lewan out. Henry still always finds a way to tear up the Raiders. Vegas must play discipline and make tackles. Don’t let Henry take this game over with a big burst.
Take the ball away
Additionally, the Silver and Black must find ways to get off the field. Last week, they got killed on long drives but they had opportunities to end the offense’s momentum with a sack or interception. This week, the Raiders must find ways to come up with a big turnover or two to get off the field. They should also get chances to force Ryan Tannehill into a mistake. Lewan out leaves the Titans without their best run and pass blocker. Tannehill will take a chance here and there. It’s up to the Raiders defense to do something when Tannehill takes a chance.
The Raiders defense has made enough plays to win but they have not made the play that helps them win like Arizona did last week. Vegas must force its way off the field by capitalizing on a couple of turnovers.
Make plays, not excuses
Vegas walked into this season with big expectations and now it’s time for them to deliver a victory. It’s time for Derek Carr to prove he’s not ‘that muthafucker,’ or maybe he needs to prove he is. It’s time for this defense to prove their improved with new leaders and key players. It’s time to prove Adams made his decision for football reasons. It’s time to prove Josh McDaniels and the front office knows what they’re doing.
If the Raiders come out and set the tone with their offense by utilizing their mismatches and their defense is not totally crushed by long drives, there is no reason they can’t beat a Titans team that is also suffering from injuries and identity. A win for the Raiders could help them finally get a bit closer to builder an identity.
Don’t forget, the Aces won a title. The Silver and Black are the only Vegas franchise yet to deliver a title. 0-3 just puts a title that much more out of reach.