As our own Marcus Johnson and Matt Holder are apt to say: The tape don’t lie.
“NFL games always can be flipped around in five or six plays,” Raiders head coach Josh McDaniels noted in his mid-week media session when asked what the film from the 38-10 loss to Buffalo showed the team. “I’m not saying that was the only thing we needed to have happen, but we learned from each game we’ve participated in this year. And again, some lessons are harder to learn than others, and we needed to learn them. The biggest thing is it’s a long season, there’s a lot of lessons.”
Las Vegas quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo echoed his coach’s sentiments during his own press conference.
“Oh, yeah. And I just said it after the game, a lot of self-inflicted wounds, just things we could correct, though. I thought we had a pretty good day out here doing that,” Garoppolo said. “Really it’s about getting guys on the same page, getting us into a rhythm and things will take care of themselves from there.”
Rhythm and being on same page is another mantra the Raiders are collectively sharing as they gear up towards their home opener. So much so, it strikes similar to the iconic line author Alexander Dumas wrote in The Three Musketeers.
“You need everybody in football, that’s the thing that makes it the most special and why we celebrate the way we do as a team and all these things, because it takes so much in one play for the play to turn out the right way,” Raiders wide receiver Davante Adams said. “Because I can run the perfect route, or I can run a terrible route and then finally get open late into the linemen block a little longer whatever, so they made that happen. You need everybody. So, I think the biggest thing is just looking at the tape and finding out the things that we weren’t all together.”
We’ll see if Las Vegas’ collective effort is much better. Maybe — just maybe — some home cooking results in a Raiders rebound in Allegiant Stadium. And what a timely course correction that would be. The Raiders (1-1 overall) play host to the Steelers (1-1) in a primetime night game (on NBC) in a game that McDaniels knows a lot of the football viewing world will be watching — “You know you’re the only one on,” is what the Raiders head honcho said.
The Silver & Black lead the all-time regular-season series 14-11 (the two are 3-3 when they meet in the postseason) and the incoming Steelers haven’t gone on the road an beaten the Raiders since Dec. 10, 1995 — a 29-10 win by Pittsburgh. Since then, it’s four straight wins by the host Raiders dating back to the 2006 season, the most recent a 24-21 victory on Dec. 9, 2018 in Oakland.
Both teams are trying to remedy their respective struggles, but if history is any indication of what to expect, the Week 3 matchup between the two teams is likely going to be a physical one. McDaniels expects nothing less and is eyeing a thorough test from Pittsburgh. For example: The Raiders offensive line hasn’t surrendered a single sack while the Steelers defensive line and linebackers are champing at the bit to be the first team to drop Garoppolo.
To meet the Steelers physicality, the Raiders must fight fire with fire and be aggressive on both sides of the ball. Pittsburgh’s offense has been one of the most impotent in the league — it’s defense accounts for 14 of the team’s total 33 points — and to ensure Matt Canada’s Steelers offense doesn’t come to life, the Raiders must apply pressure. For McDaniels, that means when appropriate for defensive coordinator Patrick Graham and his Las Vegas defense.
“I mean it depends. There’s a lot of things that go into that,” McDaniels said when asked if he wants to see more aggressiveness from his team’s defensive play calling. “We blitzed a number of times last week, and sometimes we had a chance to get there and other times they did a good job in pass protection. So, I think Pat calls the game the way we set it up, and he does a good job of that and adjusting if we need to. I’m not going to put out the game plan right now, so we’ll see how it goes.”
An aspect of the Raiders that will be under not only the national spotlight, but the microscope of scrutiny, too, is the performance of rookies and younger players. Much has already been said of No. 7 overall pick Tyree Wilson at defensive end. Ditto for second-round tight end Michael Mayer, third-round wide receiver Tre Tucker and defensive tackle Byron Young, and fourth-round cornerback Jakorian Bennett. Their respective performances — if they’re active — will be something to watch against the Steelers.
“So, you’ve just got to keep pushing forward with a lot of these young players, because their best football you’re probably not seeing it right now,” McDaniels noted. “Our best football is going to be in front of us, and you just try to improve every day that we’re out there with them.”
We’ll find out what kind of improvement the Raiders as a whole made from Week 2 to 3 Sunday night.