Early on the Raiders were firing on all cylinders. They scored on their opening drive and led 13-10 at halftime. Unfortunately for the Raiders things took a turn for the worse in the second half. The Rams coaching staff made halftime adjustments and the Raiders never countered.
The Rams scored 23 unanswered points in the second half and that was it.
There are positives to take from the first week. The defense held tough at times, getting several key third down stops. The Raiders were at least competitive for three quarters of the game against a very good Rams team.
Let’s take a position by position look at the week one Raiders report card.
Aerial attack: C
As Jon Gruden put it, “It was a tale of two halves” and this goes especially for Derek Carr. Carr’s final stat line included 29 of 40 passing (72.5%), 303 yards, 7.6 yards per completion, 3 interceptions and no touchdowns. One of those interceptions was a pick six to Marcus Peters to seal it.
His completion percentage was efficient due in part to several check downs to Jalen Richard. Carr was on fire in the first half completing 20 of 24 passes for 199 yards. He did make one crucial error however. Inside the red zone, Carr under threw a ball to Jared Cook that was intercepted.
The worst play of the game for Carr came mid-way through the fourth quarter. Trailing 23-13, on his own 25 yard line Carr threw an inexplicable interception. After the game Carr described the play as, “one of the dumbest plays you could ever have.”
DC explained this as “the dumbest play.” Frustrating as a fan because we know how many hours he puts into his craft. To be so careless is just mind blogging. pic.twitter.com/W6VJkhAvhs— Evan Groat (@Egroat5) September 11, 2018
There is no excuse for Jordy Nelson, Amari Cooper, and Seth Roberts to only catch a combined four balls for 43 yards. How is that even possible? Was it a combination of them being blanketed by good coverage or was Carr not giving them an opportunity? For what it’s worth Cooper did have a 16-yard reception negated by a penalty.
“It’s not an indication of Amari or anything like that. If the coverage looks a certain way during a certain play, we have different options,” Derek Carr said postgame. “That’s why Jared and the running backs came up big in the pass game for us.”
Tight end Jared Cook was easily the best thing the Raiders had going for them. He accounted for 180 of the Raiders 300 receiving yards on the night. He was targeted by Carr early and often.
First big play of the year. Carr changes the play at the line. Throw wasn’t great but Cook made a great catch. pic.twitter.com/NbfgNMuA3l— Evan Groat (@Egroat5) September 11, 2018
Ground game: B-
For the most part, the running game was a non-factor. Lead back Marshawn Lynch carried the ball only 11 times for 44 yards. Helping the overall grade was his 10-yard touchdown run to finish off the first drive in which he literally dragged defenders into the end-zone.
Jalen Richard chipped in with five carries for 24 yards, followed by Doug Martin’s four touches for 20 yards. The trio combined for 88 yards and one touchdown on 19 carries.
The Rams stout defensive line made creating running lanes an issue all night, though Jalen Richard was useful in the passing game. Derek Carr targeted him 11 times.
If Jon Gruden’s plan is to bring back the smash mouth run game of 1998, the Raiders run game will need to be more productive.
Offensive line: B+
All things considered the offensive line held up well. There are several things to consider when evaluating the offensive line play. A rookie made his first career start at left tackle and Donald Penn made the start at right tackle after only a couple of weeks of practice at his new position. The interior line was facing the Rams combo on Aaron Donald and Ndamkong Suh. And they gave up just one combined sack.
Defensive line: C-
The much anticipated debut of rookies Arden Key, PJ Hall, and Maurice Hurst was rather uneventful. Outside of each of them registering three tackles, it was a quiet night for the threesome.
The defensive line applied zero pressure on Jared Goff, with the exception of one Bruce Irvin strip sack.
One of the issues last night for the defense was lack of pressure. Goff had clean pockets all night. 3.96 secs to throw on this play. pic.twitter.com/BQsecv2ZJK— Evan Groat (@Egroat5) September 11, 2018
At one point in the game Jared Goff was spotted doing his taxes while in the pocket.
In addition to the lack of pass rush the Rams ground game racked up 140 yards on 26 carries. The defensive line was supposedly going to be a strength of the defense. Things need to get turned around quickly.
No news is good news. In my opinion the linebackers didn’t do anything spectacular but also they were not a liability.
Tahir Whitehead showed some flashes, finishing the game with 7 tackles (1 tackle for loss) and a pass deflection on a crucial third down.
Big time 3rd down stop in the third quarter. Double A gap blitz and Whitehead deflects the pass. Rams settles for a 55 yd FG. 23-13 ball game. pic.twitter.com/Cu8rsc9mmI— Evan Groat (@Egroat5) September 11, 2018
In the offseason the secondary was completely re-worked. Last nights starters included only one starter from 2017, Reggie Nelson.
The Rams converted only 36% (4/11) of their third down attempts. The majority of the seven plays that were not converted were a result of someone in the secondary making a play.
Here is one from the first quarter with Rashaan Melvin.
Defense held the Rams to 4/11 on 3rd down conversions. Here is the first one. pic.twitter.com/SJumkRwvXP— Evan Groat (@Egroat5) September 11, 2018
Marcus Gilchrist started the game along side Reggie Nelson at the safety position.
Secondary is much improved. Hope everyone stays healthy. pic.twitter.com/k9r9j9bCOq— Evan Groat (@Egroat5) September 11, 2018
Gareon Conley made a nice play on third down, breaking up a potential touchdown.
Another third down stop by the defense. Zero pressure on Goff. Nice play by Conley. pic.twitter.com/5q9MHu7cMi— Evan Groat (@Egroat5) September 11, 2018
Leon Hall played a great game for the Silver and Black. His pass deflection on third down was a crucial point in the game. It kept the Raiders hopes of a comeback alive.
Another 3rd down stop. Leon Hall made a couple plays last night. Defense did more than enough last night. Three turnovers are killer. pic.twitter.com/XfPqtDaFws— Evan Groat (@Egroat5) September 11, 2018
Special Teams: A-
The teams units were solid on the night. Kicker, Mike Nugent converted both of his field goal opportunities as well as one extra point try. Nugent connected on kicks of 24 and 48 yards.
Rookie punter, Johnny Townsend punted four times for a total of 178 yards. That’s a 44.5 yard average, with a long punt of 55 yards. One of his punts came from the back of his own end zone.
Kick and punt coverage teams performed well, limiting Pharoh Cooper to 12 yards on two punt returns.
One thing to keep an eye on is the status of long snapper Andrew DePaola who left the game in the first quarter with a knee injury. Blocking tight end, Lee Smith filled in as the emergency long snapper.