Does the drawing board that head coach Josh McDaniels and his Las Vegas Raiders coaching staff go back to after three weeks of football have any usable surface left? Such is the question after Silver & Black fell short 24-22 to the Tennessee Titans this past Sunday.
“We’re going to have to learn to play a full 60 minutes and earn the right to win,” McDaniels said at the post game press conference. “There’s a lot of things we have to do better as coaches and players, and that’s what we’re going to focus on.”
Perhaps, sometime soon, we shall see McDaniels’ Raiders play a full 60 minutes and earn the right to win. The team is 0-3, however, it’s a long season and a turnaround is conceivable — even though that notion seems far fetched at the moment. It’s been written before Las Vegas must play complementary football to win ballgames but thus far, the Silver & Black have played complementary losing football. That must change if the Raiders are to avoid going winless — the team plays AFC West foes in the Denver Broncos and Kansas City Chiefs in back-to-back weeks — heading into the bye.
“Losing gets old, fast. These guys, they compete hard. They play hard. Coaches coach hard. But you have to earn it,” McDaniels said. “There’s good players and good coaches on the other side. We’ve got to learn how to start well, play well in the middle and finish well. Right now, we’ve not figured out that formula yet.”
One formula that should be circled on the drawing board with “don’t erase” emblazoned upon it is the usage of wide receiver Mack Hollins. The special teams ace led the Raiders with eight catches for 158 yards with one touchdown catch — a leaping high-point catch where the 6-foot-4, 221-pound Hollins bodied the Titans defensive back. Hollins tied Davante Adams for the team-lead in targets (10) and has become Las Vegas’ deep threat. Hollins exploits on offense were matched by his special teams wizardry, including downing a punt at the two-yard line.
“Mack plays hard on every play,” McDaniels said of Hollins. “I thought it was a great play that he made, and then being able to re-establish himself quickly to down the punt in there inside the five was obviously a great individual play.
“Had a lot of single coverage today and made some plays in the passing game as a receiver too. Mack always works hard. I think that’s why he was voted as a captain. His effort and the way he performs has been a bright spot for us, for sure.”
Now if the Raiders offense can strike balance with its other plethora of weapons, the team may be onto something. Las Vegas needs to regroup quickly as the next two games against division foes loom large. Only the Raiders and Houston Texans (0-2-1) are winless after three games into the regular season.
“Not the end of the world, but at the same time, there’s an urgency,” Raiders quarterback Derek Carr said post game. “It’s not like we’re in OTAs and we’re like, ‘Oh, we’ll get it right eventually.’ We’ve got to get it right now. Whenever Coach gives us our corrections tomorrow, you go in with thick skin and take it and then do better.”
Let’s hit the quick slants as fast as the Titans came storming out of the gate:
—Out of the 10 targets Adams got, he hauled in five passes for 36 yards and a touchdown. After exploding for 141 yards on 10 catches and as core in Week 1, the elite WR1 has seven catches for 48 and two touchdowns since.
—Adams’ five-yard touchdown dart from Derek Carr is example of even if the wide receiver is bracketed by defenders, you throw him the football. Showcasing concentration, strong hands, and excellent footwork, Adams snatched the ball out of the air, got his feet inbounds, all before falling out the back of the end zone.
—Raiders tight end Darren Waller could’ve had a much bigger day if it weren’t for untimely drops. The well-paid pass catcher drew five targets and caught three passes for 22 yards. Waller tried to haul in a deep pass with one hand — a throw that likely would’ve been a touchdown — in a forgettable day.
—Keelan Cole dropped a would-be touchdown pass right before Carr hooked up with Hollins. After that score, however, the Titans defense snuffed out the two-point conversion attempt by batting the ball intended for Waller up in the air, incomplete. That pretty much summed up the Raiders day — close, but not good enough.
—After yielding 24 first-half points, the Las Vegas defense didn’t allow a single point in the second half. Whether a byproduct of increased Raiders intensity or Tennessee taking its foot off the gas pedal — or both — one has to wonder why that can’t happen from the first through the fourth quarter.
—Anyone that knows me knows I’m quite fond of special teams. Raiders kicker Daniel Carlson and punter AJ Cole continue to hold up their ends of the bargain. Carlson went 3-for-3 with a long of 35 on field goals while Cole punted the ball three times for 144 yards (48.0 per boot average) with a long of 58.
—That said, it’s going quite tiresome to see the Raiders trot out Carlson for gimmie-field goals as the team falters in the red zone. New coach, same problem of dead zone in the red zone.