Well, Sunday’s loss makes it three in a row for the Las Vegas Raiders, and to be honest, it feels a lot worse than that. Wednesday will make it a full calendar month since the last Raiders victory and the team hasn’t shown many signs of being able to turn things around.
Las Vegas’ offense continues to struggle to put points on the board and while the defense is playing well, they aren’t built or good enough to grind out low-scoring contests, and both were never more evident than yesterday.
The Cincinnati Bengals held only a three-point lead with 11:42 left to play after the Raiders scored on a quick, three-play touchdown drive. But the Bengals dominated the time of possession battle by about 15 minutes so the Raiders' defense got worn and couldn’t hold by the end of the game. Clearly, Las Vegas’ offense didn’t give their teammates much help as they went 1-7 on third downs and 1-3 in the red zone, two issues that have been a trend during the team’s skid.
With that, the defense is well represented in this week’s winners and there’s not a list long enough to fit all of the offensive losers.
WINNER: Denzel Perryman
Sitting back and taking a look at it, it’s been a crazy year for Denzel Perryman.
He signed a rather low two-year, $6 million contract with the Carolina Panthers in the offseason, only to seemingly fall out of their favor by the end of training camp and get traded to the Raiders for a sixth-round pick. Now, he’s blossomed into one of the Silver and Black’s best defensive players and that was never more evident than yesterday.
Perryman once again led the team in tackles with 12 which brings his season total up to 114, one behind Bobby Wagner for the league lead. But what’s most impressive is his tackles are quality tackles and not just boxscore-stuffing stats.
He had seven defensive stops on Sunday which is tied for the second-most among linebackers this week, and he has the most at the position for the entire year with 46. The free-agent signing also had an average depth of tackle against the run of 0.6 yards versus the Bengals, the fifth-lowest of any backer that made a tackle in Week 11.
Even in coverage, Perryman had a good outing. He was targeted seven times and allowed four completions for 18 yards, two pass breakups and a passer rating of 62.2.
The former Charger and short-time Panther was well worth a sixth-round pick, and he might even be in line for a raise this offseason.
LOSER: Raiders playoff hopes
We’ve reached the point of the year where every game is a big one and has some form of postseason implications on the line, but yesterday’s matchup had the most at stake for both teams.
The Raiders and Bengals came into the week tied at 5-4 for the first spot outside of the playoff bracket, so neither team had much margin for error. Now, Cincinnati holds the AFC’s five seed and Las Vegas has slipped down to No. 11.
While there still is a good-sized collection of 6-4 to 5-5 teams - or team’s that are one game a part of each other - who are battling it out for the conference’s three Wild Card spots, the Raiders have managed to put themselves at the bottom of that list. And the Denver Broncos are the only contending team that they currently hold a tiebreaker against.
The Colts and Browns were able to gain ground on the Silver and Black, while the Steelers have the record advantage at 5-4-1, and the Chiefs and Chargers were able to pull away with wins of their own this week.
To summarize, the Raiders have four teams ahead of them for a wild card spot, are a game and a half behind in the division, and five out of their next seven opponents have a legitimate shot at a postseason berth. That doesn’t exactly bode well for their own playoff aspirations.
WINNER: Defensive backs
It might go somewhat unnoticed since the team did end up surrendering 32 points, but the Raiders' defensive backs put together an outstanding performance collectively.
Joe Burrow only threw for 148 yards and the Bengals didn’t have a single receiver eclipse more than 50 receiving yards, including superstar rookie Ja’Marr Chase who only had three catches for 32 yards on the day.
Las Vegas’ defensive backfield got contributions from their main contributors, Nate Hobbs, Casey Hayward and Tre’von Moehrig. Those three combined were targeted three times and allowed two completions for 11 yards and a 72.9 pass rating, while individually they recorded PFF coverage grades of 73.1, 66.9 and 72.8, respectively.
Moehrig was even able to get a pass breakup, but it was the contributions that the defense got from the rest of the depth chart that made it an impressive performance as a whole.
Dallin Leavitt only participated in 13 defensive snaps but made just about every one of them count. He was credited with four total tackles, two of which went down as stops, he recovered a fumble and earned an 89.8 overall PFF grade, by far a career-best.
The career-long special teamer has been getting more reps on defense lately and that trend will continue if he keeps playing like this.
Even Brandon Facyson, who didn’t have his best game and struggled down the stretch a bit, was able to add in three PBUs and hold Cincy to just 45 yards as the primary defender in coverage.
The Raiders coverage unit also played a hand in the team’s three sacks, as at least a couple of them were coverage sacks. So, if there’s anything positive that the team can take away from yesterday’s performance, it’s the overall play of their defensive backs.
LOSER: Derek Carr
To say Derek Carr has hit a rough patch would be a bit of an understatement.
In Weeks 1 through 7, Carr averaged just over three big-time throws (BTT) and just under one turnover-worthy play (TWP) per game, according to PFF. However, in the three games since then, he’s down to just two BTTs and up to over two TWP per game. So, he’s gone from a ratio of three impressive plays to one head-shaking play each outing, to a higher rate of negative plays.
Also, his three lowest overall PFF grades on the season have come in the last few weeks, going from the site’s fifth-highest graded quarterback to the 12th-highest in that short timeframe.
In the red zone and on third downs are where Carr’s struggles have been most apparent. The offense has only scored three touchdowns on their last 11 trips inside the 20 and has only converted six of 28 third-down attempts over the last three games.
While that’s not all on the quarterback, he does have a sub-.500 completion percentage and only 17 passing yards in the red zone during that time frame, both of which rank in the bottom quarter at the position. Also, he’s about in the middle of the pack in third-down passing attempts for the year, so the offense is putting the ball in his hands frequently in those situations.
The most concerning issue in this situation is late-season collapses have been an issue for Carr and there’s been no indication that will be changing anytime soon.
LOSER: Raiders’ wide receivers
On a related note, I do have to put a good amount of the blame for the Raiders’ lack of offensive success on the wide receivers as a whole. It’s been obvious that the team has missed Henry Ruggs III as the wideouts have struggled to consistently create separation and yesterday was a perfect example of that.
Only two receivers caught passes against the Bengals, Hunter Renfrow and Zay Jones, and they combined for five catches and 50 yards, with Renfrow accounting for four and 30 of the respective totals. In other words, Renfrow was the only receiver that did much in the game.
Bryan Edwards didn’t even draw a target and DeSean Jackson barely saw the field while needing help just to get lined up on one play.
Las Vegas has gone from having four wide receivers with a 70 or better PFF receiving grade during the first seven weeks of the season to just one - Renfrow 72.1 - during this three-game skid.
While yes, losing the top player in the position group impacts the passing game as a whole, the dramatic drop-off in individual production suggests there is a serious talent problem at wideout. If things don’t change soon, we’ll be talking about wide receiver being one of the team’s biggest offseason needs, once again.