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Raiders’ quick slants: Dolphins edition

Defense shows up, offense clams up in a tale of squandered opportunities for Las Vegas

NFL: Las Vegas Raiders at Miami Dolphins
Las Vegas Raiders linebacker Luke Masterson forces the fumble on Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa during Sunday’s game. The Raiders had three takeaways and only came away with six total points on those turnovers.
Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Patrick Graham’s defense showed up on the East Coast trip, unfortunately for the Las Vegas Raiders, Bo Hardegree’s offense clamed up as the Silver & Black was bested by the Miami Dolphins 20-13 Sunday afternoon.

In a game where the Raiders defense created two takeaways in the first half (forced fumbles and recoveries) and on the first play of the second half (an interception), Las Vegas could only muster six total points off those turnovers and trailing 14-13 was the closest the team would get to Miami. Because by the time the Raiders decided to attack the Dolphins defense, it had the too little, too late feel and that resulted in three turnovers by the Silver & Black.

All three of Miami’s takeaways were intercepting passes from Las Vegas rookie quarterback Aidan O’Connell. After giving up a 46-yard touchdown on a deep bomb connection from O’Connell to wide receiver Davante Adams on the Raiders’ second possession on offense, Vic Fangio’s Dolphins defense allowed only three more points from that point on. Miami’s efforts were aided by conservative play calling and lack of execution from Hardegree’s unit. Which isn’t ideal for any game — on the road or at home.

“I think offensively, we’ve got a lot of things to look at and we’ll do that,” Raiders interim head coach Antonio Pierce said in his postgame press conference. “For our team, I think we fought. Defense battled, special teams played well. We won a play or two back here and there. And again on offense, you’re talking about a game of inches, maybe a yard or two on some throws that are explosive for us and we just didn’t make it.”

NFL: Las Vegas Raiders at Miami Dolphins
Miami Dolphins cornerback Jalen Ramsey (5) intercepts a pass in the end zone that was intended for Las Vegas Raiders wide receiver Tre Tucker in the waning moments of the fourth quarter.
Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

Case in point: Raiders cornerback Nate Hobbs punching the ball out of hands of Dolphins wide receiver Julian Hill and teammate and linebacker Divine Deablo recovering giving Las Vegas the ball on Miami’s 32 yard line with 58 seconds to play in the second quarter.

Not one shot was taken deep or to the end zone. Instead, the first play was a run by Josh Jacobs that went three yards. Las Vegas took it sweet time showing no urgency and looking more than complacent and accepting of a field goal. By the time the Raiders ran the second play on that drive was at the 16 second mark. After two incomplete passes thrown Adams’ way, kicker Daniel Carlson’s 47-yard field goal made it 14-13, and that was the score as both teams went into halftime.

Pierce said the Raiders went into a shell there to protect their rookie quarterback.

“Didn’t want anything negative to happen,” he noted.

But as the old saying goes: “Scared money doesn’t make any money” and the negative thing did happen to Raiders — a defeat and a 5-6 overall record.

In a game where Jacobs and the running game couldn’t get any traction (14 carries for 39 yards for the Raiders’ bell cow tailback), Las Vegas didn’t attack as frequently as it should and when they did have urgency, Miami was ready and waiting to take the ball away.

Cornerback Jalen Ramsey came away with two of the Dolphins’ takeaways with interceptions (one the game-ender in the end zone on a pass intended for rookie wide out Tre Tucker) with edge rusher Jaelan Phillips snaring another as O’Connell tried to get rid of the ball instead of the sack on a fourth-down play.

“I’m learning how hard the NFL is and how hard it is to win,” O’Connell said after the game. “Just kudos to our defense, played so well in the second half. Kept us in the game, with, I think (Miami) scored six points in the second half. “Our defense did an awesome job keeping us in the game. It’s really going to come down to our offense and watching the film to just be better all around and it starts with me.”

Las Vegas Raiders v Miami Dolphins
Miami Dolphins edge rusher Jaelan Phililps (15) is upended after intercepting a pass against the Las Vegas Raiders on Sunday. Phillips also had two sacks.
Photo by Kevin Sabitus/Getty Images

The learning curve for O’Connell steepens in Week 12 as the Raiders play host the AFC West-leading Kansas City Chiefs next Sunday.

Let’s hit the quick slants as fast as the Raiders offense disappeared after the bomb from O’Connell to Adams:

—The crisp nature of Miami’s offense wasn’t present due in large part to the Las Vegas defense. The Dolphins finished 3 for 11 on third down conversions. But fortunately for Miami, the Raiders struggled on third downs too going 4 for 14.

—Miami’s Tyreek Hill led all receivers with 10 catches for 146 yards and a touchdown. He smoked Las Vegas defense on a 38-yard catch and run to cap the Dolphins’ second possession of the ball game.

—Adams paced the Raiders aerial attack with seven grabs for 82 yards and the 46-yard score. He drew 13 targets to lead Las Vegas with Tucker getting seven. Tucker had two catches for 36 yards.

—Rookie tight end Michael Mayer drew targets early for the Raiders offense and finished with five total looks for four catches and 46 yards. He’s seeing more action like slot receiver Hunter Renfrow (five targets for five receptions and 42 yards).

—Safety Isaiah Pola-Mao was the Raider defender with an interception. He read Tagovailoa’s deep pass to start the third quarter well, chased down the ball and made the diving grab for the takeaway. The second-year defender also finished with seven total tackles.

—Linebacker Robert Spillane, who couldn’t snare a pass from Tagovailoa for the would-be interception, led Las Vegas with 13 total tackles. Safety Tre’Von Moehrig was behind him with 10 total tackles.

—Raiders edge rusher Maxx Crosby racked up a sack (with six total tackles, one stop for loss, and two quarterback hits) and has 10.5 on the season. Teams are doing a better job trying to take Mad Maxx out of the equation, but Crosby doesn’t come off the field.

Quote of Note:

“There’s no moral victories, but we know as a defense we’re going in the right direction. We know offensively we’re only going to get better. So there’s no moral victory, but at the end of the day we took a lot of positives from it. We just got to watch the film and keep moving forward.” —Las Vegas Raiders defensive end Maxx Crosby on the loss