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Tell The Truth: Raiders can’t corral the Broncos

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NFL: Oakland Raiders at Denver Broncos Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

At halftime on the road the Oakland Raiders were giving the Denver Broncos all they could handle. Coming out of the break there was a completely different story. The Raiders were able to keep pace early but eventually fell victim to the stampede.

Making history and breaking rules

Derek Carr rebounded from a shabby game with an NFL-record setting performance completing 29 of 32 passes for a 90.2% completion rating (NFL record for minimum 30 attempts in a game) for 288 yards and one touchdown.

It’s long been the case that when Seth Roberts caught a touchdown pass the Raiders have won. They were 10-0 in games Roberts caught a TD pass. That streak ended Sunday. With 5:31 seconds remaining in the third quarter Roberts gave the Raiders a 19-7 lead and its last score. But the comeback made by the Broncos defense to shutdown the Raiders conservative offense and the offense would score just enough to win.

Why was the defense exhausted down the stretch?

A lot of people seem content to attribute the Raiders lack of being able to close games out to running out of gas. This is ultra concerning to me and a budding source of anger for head coach Jon Gruden. His defense being too tired to do their jobs with the game on the line is inexcusable.

The Raiders defense was on the field for a total of 9:28 seconds in the first half against the Broncos and 8:29 seconds against the LA Rams. In the third quarter the Raiders were on the field for 8:24 seconds against the Broncos and 11:02 seconds, hardly enough time to allow them to be as spent as they were. In the 4th and final quarter the Broncos had the football for nine minutes and the Rams had it for 8:58 seconds.

So if we add the numbers and subtract the excuses from controlled explanations we arrive at this conclusion. The Raiders defense had been on the field for 17:57 seconds out of 45 minutes headed into the fourth quarter against the Broncos. They ultimately went down to the last seconds of the game and couldn’t maintain the lead when they were well-rested.

What the hell is going on? Is it a lack of reps in the preseason? The starters didn’t play long during the preseason if at all around the league and the result has been sloppy football all around. There really was no reason aside from the elevation getting to the Raiders as to why they were dead-dog tired when they had barely been on the field. A pass can be granted to those who were getting play time fresh from their couches. But not from the captains.

Checking off the keys to victory

1. Derek Carr must re-master himself: Yep

The record setting performance was a sight to behold in itself. Carr was on fire and moving the offense at will until they hit the redzone. The best thing I saw from Carr was this incredible heater dropped off to Seth Roberts. After seeing this and the totality of his performance it leads one to believe that Carr is regaining his composure and will be fine.

2. Getting Pressure: Nope

Maurice Hurst got one sack on Case Keenum and that was with the aid of a bad shotgun snap. There were only 4 hits in the quarterback in total, on a more positive note it’s the rookies who have been getting to the quarterback. Hurst recorded the sack and Arden Key recorded two hits on the qb. Sadly once the Broncos went to max protect the pass rush ceased and Keenum was able to lead his team to victory.

3. Block Von Miller: Yep

Truth be told, with the exception of the strip sack of Carr which was overturned because of a defensive holding call, Tom Cable and the offensive line did a fantastic job of neutralizing not only Miller but Bradley Chubb as well. Throughout the offseason fans have been hard on rookie Kolton Miller, but he hasn’t been mentioned hardly at all during games which is an excellent sign that he is doing his job well.

4. Establishing the run: Incomplete

The Raiders used the running game to complement the pass. Marshawn Lynch scored again for the second week in a row got the Raiders on the board first. Raider fans need to understand something about this rushing attack. Lynch is a power back, I have nothing but love and respect for his game and what he has accomplished, but I have to point out an observation. Lynch is fine running downhill, but at the ripe old age of 32, Father Time has come for some of his gifts back.

What has been put on tape is Lynch’s limited secondary burst. Compare when Lynch hits the hole and continues versus when going to the stutter step, stopping, and/or attempting to change directions. You will quickly find out when he stops his feet for either reason he is far less likely to evade the defender without going thru him.

The Raiders offensive line and Lynch are still trying to find their rhythm. They have collaborated on some beautiful displays of power in bulldozing Lynch into the endzone and across first down markers. They have also opened up some holes which need to be utilized. It’s going to take some time because like many teams around the league the starters didn’t play much together. But and this is a major issue which needs addressing, when the Raiders need to run the football they can not.

In short yardage situations they get stuffed, when attempting to run out the clock they can’t keep the chains moving. It was a contributing factor to the loss against the Broncos. With a couple more first downs they could have ended the game emerging victorious and holding back the Broncos.

5. Raiders don’t beat themselves: Yep

In terms of penalties the Raiders had a much better and a much cleaner game in terms of penalties. This was a major improvement for them as they were shooting themselves in the foot previous week against the Rams.

Final thoughts

Another winnable game slipped through the fingers of the Raiders as a blocked extra point was the margin for the Broncos victory. Carr was sensational but not perfect, while both he and Amari Cooper appeared to be much more in sync, Carr missed an opportunity to get Cooper his first TD of the season instead of opting for a field goal. The Raiders are going to need to solve their “conditioning” issue on defense in order to preserve leads and victories. Once again the Raiders dominated nearly all of the stats except for points. There were many more good signs than bad, and it is a matter of time before they get their first win of the season. With Miami and Cleveland coming up in weeks three and four respectively they can get back to .500 early and re-enter the hunt for the AFC West.