Oh, how 3-0 feels like it was so long ago.
The Las Vegas Raiders have now dropped two games in a row, going from having a chance to pull away from the rest of the AFC West with an early two-game lead to staring up at the Chargers in the standings.
Yesterday’s performance was especially bad as the game played right into the Bears’ hand and they took the lead early in the second quarter and never looked back. Chicago hoped to play in a defensive struggle and that’s exactly what Las Vegas gave them as there’s plenty of blame to go around for the Silver and Black.
WINNER: Johnathan Abram
I feel like I need to turn the mood around and start with something positive, so I’ll kick things off with Johnathan Abram as he put together another impressive outing yesterday.
Early in the game, the Bears ran a quarterback draw on third down that had just about everyone on the Raiders’ defense fooled and it looked like Fields would pick up the first. However, Abram was sitting there about a yard short of the line to gain and waiting for the rookie. When the two players met, the defender put a good stick on the quarterback to come up with the stop and force a punt.
That wasn’t the only time Fields felt Abram’s presence, though. Abram managed to lead the team with three quarterback hits in the game, and at least one of them led to another Chicago punt.
Watching the three-year veteran grow has been one of the best storylines coming out of Las Vegas this season. He’s gone from a defensive liability to a solid contributor and impact player for the defense.
LOSER: Jon Gruden
On Friday, the story was released about Jon Gruden’s inappropriate emails towards NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith, and it sounds like this story is far from over. Gruden admitted to ESPN’s Chris Mortensen that there are emails where he makes some disparaging remarks about NFL commissioner Roger Goodell as well.
The coach said the emails did not affect the game and his team, but there’s no doubt that the Raiders played flat and they seemed to lack some leadership and accountability as a whole. It was certainly a distraction and if it truly wasn’t a factor, then that would lead to more questions about why the team played the way they did, the honus of which falls directly on the man in charge.
Granted, starting slow is nothing new to Las Vegas this season but again, that doesn’t exactly take Gruden off the hook. It’s on him to try and figure out how to right the ship, which clearly hasn’t happened yet.
Even beyond that story, the Silver and Black played extremely sloppy football. They had 10 penalties for 82 yards and had at least a few plays where multiple players were flagged. Plus, the offense went three and out on five out of nine drives, not including the last drive of the game, all of which is a direct reflection of the head coach.
Gruden has dug himself into a deep hole that likely won’t be getting shallower anytime soon. It’s up to him to work his way out of it, both on and off the field.
WINNER: Hunter Renfrow
While the team as a whole seemed to lack some fight, that wasn’t the case for Hunter Renfrow. The wideout was his typical self, getting open in the short to intermediate areas of the field, making defenders miss after the catch and fighting for every yard. He finished the game as the team leader in catches and receiving yards with six for 56, and he tied Darren Waller for the most targets with eight.
Renfrow also had a nice block against a defensive lineman on a crack toss that helped spring Kenyan Drake for a third-down conversion and set up the team’s first score of the game.
In a contest that lacked energy from the Silver and Black, the slot receiver did everything he could to provide a spark. He continues to establish himself as the team’s most reliable player and that was never more evident than it was yesterday.
LOSER: Defensive Discipline
Don’t get me wrong, the defense was far from the problem yesterday and played well all things considered. The Bears only scored 20 points and the Raiders offense didn't give their counterparts much help. However, a lot of Las Vegas’ defensive mistakes were very avoidable.
As mentioned above, penalties were a major issue for the Raiders and a significant amount of them came on defense and at very inopportune times.
Chicago’s first touchdown drive of the game was aided by three penalties by Las Vegas, all of which resulted in first downs. Later in the game, cornerback Amik Roberston was flagged for pass interference which helped set up a field goal and give the Bears an eight-point lead with two minutes to play after the Raiders had just cut it to a five-point game.
Even beyond the penalties, Gus Bradley’s crew lacked discipline. Chicago’s plan of attack on the ground was simple, they ran a lot of zone runs and waited for the defense to overpursue to hit the cutback lanes. That’s all that difficult to stop, but Las Vegas’ defensive tackles kept getting washed out of their gaps and the linebackers didn’t stay home, leaving wide rushing lanes for Khalil Herbert and Damien Williams to run through.
While yes, talent has something to do with this, the fact that the cutback lanes were so wide open means guys weren’t getting to their spots and playing with gap discipline.
Again, the offense certainly didn’t hold up their end of the bargain, but the defense can’t afford to shoot themselves in the foot with costly penalties and struggle to stop simple run concepts moving forward.
WINNER: Denzel Perryman
As bad as the defense was against the run, Denzel Perryman was the lone bright spot.
He was flying around, making play after play and at times, it seemed like he was the only one on the field who knew what he was doing against the Bears’ ground game.
Perryman ended up leading the team in total and solo tackles with 12 and 10, respectively, and he led both categories by five tackles. A few of his stops came in big moments to force Chicago punts, too.
The linebacker was also active as a pass rusher. He was asked to blitz a lot early in the game and was able to get pressure on Fields and registered one quarterback hit.
Perryman continues to be one of the better players on Las Vegas’ defense and that might have been most evident this week.
LOSER: Brandon Parker
This was a huge opportunity for Brandon Parker to earn a bigger role on the team for the rest of the season. The Raiders have struggled mightily in pass protection and especially at right tackle, so the coaching staff gave Parker a chance to catapult his career. However, he failed to make the most of it.
It was almost like the team didn’t make any changes up front as Derek Carr was sacked three times and got hit on four other dropbacks. Parker was a major culprit in the team’s pass protection issues as he was lined up against Khalil Mack, who had a sack and a quarterback hit yesterday.
What’s frightening is those figures don’t include all of Mack’s pressures and the sack the edge rusher had where he beat the offensive tackle almost immediately off the snap on a two-point conversion.
Parker also left Alex Leatherwood out to dry on Mack’s sack that did count on the stat sheet. The Bears ran an E/T stunt, meaning the defensive end and tackle were twisting with the end going first, so it’s on the tackle to communicate and successfully switch assignments with the guard.
Instead, the three-year veteran couldn’t have bailed and passed the perennial All-Pro off to the rookie any sooner, resulting in the rookie getting caught off-guard and the quarterback getting crunched. If there’s any guy on the Bears defense the offensive line couldn’t lose sight of, it was that guy.
For what it’s worth, Chicago ran a T/E stunt later in the game, so the opposite scenario of the one above, and guard and tackle picked it up seamlessly.
I guess you can argue that Tom Cable and Carr as the real losers here since it doesn’t look like the Raiders have their solution at right tackle on the roster.