The old adage goes football is a game won and lost in the trenches. The Las Vegas Raiders learned that lesson in brutal fashion in a 38-10 loss this past Sunday at the hands of a determined Buffalo Bills squad.
A week after galloping past the Denver Broncos, Las Vegas went East to be humbled and trampled by Buffalo. The Bills dominated the line of scrimmage so much — on both sides of the ball — Raiders bell cow running back Josh Jacobs (the 2022 NFL rushing leader) finished with -2 yards rushing on nine carries (with a long carry of three yards).
“Once you lose control of the line of scrimmage, it’s difficult to have control of the game,” Raiders head coach Josh McDaniels said after the game. “Not a good way to play on the road.”
Buffalo’s blue wave defensive line was so tip top at the point of attack, it allowed the other defenders to play loose and aggressive. The Bills racked up three takeaways in the lopsided matchup to give the offense plenty of opportunities to surgically dismantle the Raiders defense. In total, the team limited Las Vegas to 55 total rushing yards (Raiders rookie wide receiver Tre Tucker had the longest run of 34 yards on a jet sweep) and 185 yards and one touchdown through the air. On the flip side, Las Vegas’ ineffectiveness in the trenches allowed Buffalo to surge for 183 yards rushing and two scores (running back James Cook paced the team with 123 yards on 17 carries) and 274 yards passing with three more end zone visits.
The performance was so one sided, all Las Vegas could do post game was solemnly lament on what went wrong and what the film will teach them.
“I think execution-wise, we could’ve done better. I just feel like we need to be better up top,” Raiders stalwart left tackle Kolton Miller, said point to his head. “It’s not like we stopped fighting, we just need to perform better.”
“It’s across the board,” said Raiders edge rusher Maxx Crosby when asked how the defensive line needs to get better. “We’ve all got to get home. We all got to win. We all got to be on the same page.”
It definitely appeared Las Vegas as a whole had the same book when facing Buffalo, but different segments of the team were reading different chapters. The disconnect resulted in the lack of complementary football, so much so, the only complementary thing the Raiders did was ineffectiveness. Unable to generate much offense — outside an impressive first drive — combined with inability to defend the Bills and Las Vegas holds quite a dubious distinction after two weeks of regular season action:
Highest completion percentage allowed thru 2 games n NFL history:— Josh Dubow (@JoshDubowAP) September 18, 2023
2023 #Raiders 81.7%
2015 Lions 81.4%
2015 Rams 80.9%
2009 Lions 80.6%
2017 Saints 80.3%
Sunday’s loss is a remind Las Vegas has plenty of work to week to week. And not even practicing and acclimating to East Coast time in West Virginia during the week helped. The defeat is a back to the drawing board sobering one.
“I’ve got to do a better job and get our football team to do more things right if we’re going to compete against teams like this in this type of an environment,” McDaniels said. “A lot of work to do and a lot of lessons to learn.”
Let’s hit the quick slants as fast as the Raiders scored on the opening drive and how quickly the game got out of hand:
—Raiders quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo wasn’t sacked but he did throw two interceptions and finished 16 of 24 for 185 yards and one touchdown. After the initial drive and tipped pass interception, it was all downhill from there.
—Bills signal caller Josh Allen rebounded nicely from his Week 1 face plant going 31 of 37 for 274 yards and three touchdowns. He used his legs to evade pressure and operated mostly behind the line of scrimmage with only three rushes for seven yards.
—The bright spot for the Raiders defense: Linebackers Robert Spillane and Divine Deablo led the team in total tackles (14 and 10 respectively) and racked up the teams two sacks (one each).
—Las Vegas’ offense ran a total of 39 offensive plays for 240 yards against Buffalo. The Bills offense, in comparison, ran 74 plays for 450 yards. The wild thing? Each team had a total of nine drives, apiece.
—Davante Adams led Las Vegas pass catchers with six catches for 84 yards and a score. He paced the team with eight targets.
—Hunter Renfrow was targeted once and the slot receiver hauled that pass in for 23 yards. That, however, was the single look he got in the loss.
—Raiders rookie tight end Michael Mayer hauled in his first NFL pass for two yards. That was the lone target for the second-round pick.
—Tailback Zamir White ran for 22 yards on four carries for the Raiders. But he also lost the ball which was recovered by Buffalo.
Quote of Note
“I thought we created some momentum at the beginning of the game, but momentum is just a word. You need to play well and coach well for 60 minutes. You can’t just live off the momentum of a drive. We had five decent plays and then didn’t play very well the rest of the game.” —Raiders head coach Josh McDaniels after the loss