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Raiders-Falcons recap: Porous defense continues as Raiders drop home opener 35-28

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It was a defensive game early on for both teams, with neither team putting points on the board in the first quarter. Neither defense would show up much after that. Mostly the Raiders defense was nowhere to be found.

Even with the Raiders holding the Falcons off the scoreboard early, there were signs that it wouldn’t continue. That first drive, the Falcons were picking up yards in chunks against the Raiders defense. Running back Devonta Freeman had 35 yards in the first quarter on just 5 carries. This after he had 20 total yards in the Falcons’ season opener against he Buccaneers.

It was the Raiders pass rush, that showed up in that first drive which ultimately stopped the Falcons short of a field goal range. A sack by Stacy McGee up the middle helped slow the Falcons down and pressure from Khalil Mack, Denico Autry, and Bruce Irvin ultimately resulted in rushed passes for incompletions and a punt.

Where the Raiders were winning early on was in the field position battle. A 64-yard punt by Marquette King had the Falcons backed up to their own endzone and the field was tilted the rest of the first quarter.

At the tail end of the first quarter, the Falcons started another long drive. And again, the offense was eating up yards in chunks. 11-yard run, 6-yard run, 15-yard catch, 6-yard run, 6-yard catch, 20-yard catch, 16-yard catch. Those were consecutive plays and it set the Falcons up at the Oakland 11-yard line. The defense stiffened up, finally, and the Falcons had to settle for a field goal.

The Raiders would answer with their own scoring drive. The drive was highlighted by a 25-yard catch over the middle by Amari Cooper in which he appeared to defy all laws of physics by hovering in the air to pull down the high Derek Carr pass. The following play was intercepted in the end zone by Robert Alford, but only because he interfered with Michael Crabtree. The penalty gave the Raiders the ball at the one-yard-line and Latavius Murray would score up the gut on the next play.

Then it was once again the Falcons turn to answer with a touchdown of their own. And they did just that. It started out with tight end Jacob Tamme adding to his total with catches for 13 and 19 yards. Those catches brought his total to 61 yards on 4 catches. The drive was sealed when Julio Jones shook Sean Smith to get wide open on a post route for a 21-yard touchdown.

Taiwan Jones would set up in the end zone under the ensuing kick off only to have it go right through his arms and bound out of the end zone. He recovered it at the 2-yard-line. A 26-yard run up the middle from DeAndre Washington would dig the Raiders out of their own black hole, but they couldn’t get the ball out of their own territory and would punt to the Falcons with just under two minutes left in the half.

Special teams would bit the Raiders once again on the punt. King booted it 55 yards, where Eric Weems found room up the left sideline to go 72 yards on the return. King was the last line of defense, but unfortunately he had to commit a horsecollar tackle which put the Falcons in first and goal at the 9-yard-line.

The Falcons weren’t able to get the ball in the end zone, settling for a short field goal to take a 13-7 lead with :40 seconds remaining.

The Raiders would get their chance to put more points on the board, moving the ball to the 40-yard-line with :02 remaining. Sebastian Janikowski came out to attempt a 58-yard field goal. He didn’t get ahold of it, kicking a low liner that fell well short and the Raiders would head into the half down 13-7.

After winning the toss to begin the game and deferring, the Raiders got the ball first to begin the second half. What appeared to be a three-and-out took a big turn when the Raiders challenged that the Falcons fielded 12 men on their punt. The officials reviewed it and the challenge was successful to give the Raiders the first down.

A 14-yard end around by Johnny Holton was followed up by a 12-yard catch by Lee Smith and a 7-yard Latavius Murray run. The drive was capped with Clive Walford breaking open along the left sideline where Derek Carr hit him for a 31-yard touchdown to give the Raiders the lead back 14-13.

The Falcons weren’t going to go quietly and what began as a scoreless game in the first quarter was starting to look like a shootout. Another big play to the tight end, this time Austin Hooper went for 44 yards. They would get to the 11-yard-line and throw for their tight end (of course) Jacob Tamme, but this time David Amerson was there to pick it off in the end zone for a touchback.

The Raiders offense didn’t go far and the Falcons soon got the ball back. And it was more of the same. A 24-yard run set up a 34-yard pass to tight end Austin Hooper and then Tamme took a pass over the middle and put it in the end zone. Up 19-14 now, the Falcons went for two. A quarterback sneak up the middle by Matt Ryan was successful and the Falcons took the lead back 21-14 with 3:50 remaining in the third quarter.

Suddenly this one was looking a lot like the Raiders’ season opener with neither team’s defense able to stop the opposing offense. It was the Raiders turn to drive for a score. Driving to the 20-yard-line, Latavius Murray broke two tackles to go 18 yards to the 2-yard-line. A run for no gain and two incompletions later and the Raiders were looking at fourth and goal at the 2. Jack Del Rio made the gutsy call again and the Raiders went for it. Just like the game-winning two-point conversion in the opener, Derek Carr connected with Michael Crabtree for the score to tie it up at 21-21.

Back to the Falcons who went right back down the field. Julio Jones shot up the field with Reggie Nelson in tow for a 46-yard completion. A couple plays later, the Raiders deflected a pass in the air and Falcons receiver Justin Hardy caught it in the end zone for the score. And the Falcons re-took the lead 28-21.

It appeared for a moment as if the Raiders would tie it up again on a huge play from Derek Carr to Amari Cooper, but Cooper had gone out of bounds before he came back in to catch the pass and was called for an illegal touching. The Raiders went for it on fourth down and 2 and the Jalen Richard run was short to give the Falcons the ball at midfield.

From there it was a quick trip back to the end zone for the Falcons, highlighted by a 20-yard connection with Julio Jones who once again beat Sean Smith. Two plays later, Tevin Coleman ran up the middle for a 13-yard touchdown to give the Falcons a two score lead with 4:35 remaining.

Attempting to make a game of it, the Raiders took what the Falcons were giving up in their prevent defense and marched down to score another touchdown to make it interesting.

Still leading 35-28, the Falcons took the ball with just over two minutes remaining. A first down later and the Falcons drained the clock out.

And, so, after giving up 34 points to the Saints in the season opener, the Raiders gave up 35 points to the Falcons in their home opener. But this time no late game heroics could pull out the win.