It’s officially time to hit the panic button for the Las Vegas Raiders.
At 0-2, the odds of making the playoffs were against the Raiders, and after the 24-22 Week 3 loss to the Tennessee Titans, Las Vegas might have better luck winning the lottery than playing in the postseason. Only six NFL teams since 1979 have dropped their first three contests and turned their season around to have a chance at bringing home the Lombardi trophy. It doesn’t take a bunch of bookmakers to figure out that the odds are against the team in the gambling capital of the world.
On the other end of things, you can also apply just about every cliche at this point in the year with the Raiders. It’s still early, there’s a lot of football left, etc., and the Silver and Black have plenty of talent to turn the season around and right the ship.
So, with that, who showed some promise in Nashville, and who needs to step up moving forward?
WINNER: Mack Hollins
We’ll start with the most obvious winner to anyone who watched the game, Mack Hollins.
With eight catches for 158 yards and a touchdown, Hollins had a historic performance. Not only did he set a personal best for a single game but yesterday was also the first time he eclipsed the 75-yard mark, and he logged the second-most receiving yards across the entire league for the week, pre-Monday Night Football. Only the Eagles’ DaVonta Smith had more with 169.
The six-year veteran crossed another individual benchmark. With 240 receiving yards on the year, he’s already set a career-high for the season, surpassing the 235 yards he racked up in 19 games as a rookie in 2017.
It was a banner day for Hollins and hopefully, a coming-out party for him as the Raiders could use a spark offensively.
LOSER: Darren Waller
We’ll go from one offensive weapon who put together the best performance of his career to an offensive weapon that had arguably his worst.
Darren Waller left Tennessee with only three catches on five targets for 22 yards and no touchdowns, but that doesn’t even tell half of the story. On a third and goal during the first drive of the game, he stepped in front of a pass that looked like it was designated for Davante Adams, but Waller couldn’t bring it in after getting his hands on it.
That forced the offense to settle for a field goal, but that play alone isn’t why he lands on this week’s losers list as it likely would have taken an excellent grab by Adams to secure the touchdown anyway. It was a culmination of other opportunities that soured the afternoon for the tight end.
On another third down, Derek Carr threw Waller’s way and successfully kept the ball away from the defender by leading Waller up the field. However, Waller reached out and was able to get one full hand on the ball but couldn’t come down with the grab. It would have been a highlight reel play, but those are the types of catches the highest-paid tight end in the league needs to make and it cost the Raiders another chance at six points.
Finally, thereop that there are absolutely no excuses for and the most costly of them all. Carr once again found Waller for a scoring opportunity, but the latter heard footsteps and let the pass go right through his hands and into the defender’s for an interception in the red zone.
That’s three touchdowns that the superstar tight end took off the board in a game that was decided by two points. Now, there have been plenty of games that he’s won for the Raiders so there’s plenty of reason to believe this was just one bad outing, but the team simply cannot have performances like this from one of its best players.
WINNER: Derek Carr
Carr received quite a bit of criticism after the first two weeks of the season and rightfully so. After the first two games, he had thrown one ‘big time throw’ (BTT) and had six ‘turnover worthy plays’ (TWP) according to Pro Football Focus. However, he silenced some of his critics yesterday with four BTTs to just two TWPs, and the former is currently tied for the second-most among quarterbacks this week.
Obviously, the quarterback played a big role in Hollins’ career day and had an impressive stat line on his own with 26 completions on 44 attempts (59.1 percent) for 303 yards and two touchdowns. What’s even more impressive is there were plenty of yards and completions left on the table as PFF credited the team’s pass-catchers with two drops — which feels low — and had him at a 73.7 adjusted completion percentage. The latter figure counts drops as completions and removes throwaways.
Leading up to the game, many people had been calling for Carr to start running more, and he did that as well, scrambling twice and picking up two first downs with his legs. He even led an impressive second-half comeback effort that included a last-minute touchdown drive to give the team an opportunity to send the game to overtime.
So, Sunday was a bounce-back performance for Carr. Now it’s just about stringing them together and figuring out how to rack up some Ws.
LOSER: Josh McDaniel
For the second week in a row, I’m listing McDaniels as a loser. Last week, it was the halftime collapse that fell squarely on his shoulders, and this week, it’s because the team clearly doesn't know how to win and is lacking attention to detail.
The offense and defense couldn’t get in sync as the Raiders moved the ball well in the first half, but the Titans scored touchdowns on their first three drives and kicked a field goal on their fourth, putting Las Vegas in a 24-10 hole to start the second half. Then, the defense pitches a shutout in the third and fourth quarters and the offense can’t capitalize by putting up enough points to finish off the comeback.
The sequence of plays that illustrate the point above the most comes from the middle of the third quarter. Safety Duron Harmon gets an interception and gives the Raiders the ball on the Titans’ 31, so a perfect scoring opportunity for the offense. However, the offense manages to lose 10 yards, go three and out and has to punt. That is literally the exact opposite of playing complimentary football and falls on the head coach/offensive play caller.
Also, there was all of this talk about the details during the offseason and training camp and the team isn’t doing the little things right, highlighted by the drops and poor spacing on the Waller and Adams play in the back of the endzone.
There is plenty of talent on the roster and this was a playoff team a year ago, so there are no excuses for not winning which I’m sure came up in McDaniels’ lengthy “closed door” meeting with Mark Davis after the game.
WINNER: Foster Moreau
What the tight end gods taketh away from Waller, they giveth to Foster Moreau.
Moreau was another silver lining from Sunday’s loss, with three catches on four targets for 44 yards, as all three grabs went for a first down and he posted an impressive 110.4 passer rating when targeted. He also came down with his lone contested target on the afternoon and forced one missed tackle after the catch, to earn a few snaps in favor of Waller later in the game.
The four-year pro could receive some more playing time down the road too. He’s caught six of seven targets and has 74 yards in the last two games combined, so he’s proving to be a reliable option in the passing game. Also, he’s given the team’s pass protection a boost with a 76.9 pass-blocking grade and zero pressures surrendered on the campaign.
Will Moreau supplant Waller as the team’s top tight end? No, but the LSU product has certainly done enough to carve out a bigger role in the offense moving forward.
LOSER: Johnathan Abram
Johnathan Abram played well for the first two games of the year, however, Sunday was a different story.
In coverage, he was thrown at five times and allowed all five passes to be completed which in itself isn’t that big of a deal, but he ended up surrendering 81 yards in coverage and 51 came after the catch. At this point in his career, we know Abram is going to give up completions but he needs to be in a position to rally and make the tackles to prevent big plays from happening.
Probably the biggest example of this came on a third down where the Titans were backed up in their own end, threw it short and he took a terrible angle to allow the receiver to scamper for the first. That play specifically move the ball from Tennessee’s three-yard line to the 33 and allowed them to flip the field back in their favor.
Against the run, the safety wasn’t much better, logging a 47.5 run defense grade and an even ratio of two total tackles to two misses. That brings his missed tackle total up to five, three games into the season.
Again, Abram has played better for the majority of the campaign, but yesterday was certainly a step in the wrong direction.