Maybe I’m too caught up in the moment but even after sitting on it for about 12 hours, the Las Vegas Raiders Week 3 loss on Sunday Night Football to the Pittsburgh Steelers feels worse than the 28-point drubbing they suffered in Buffalo.
The Raiders were favored and the Steelers had the worst offense in the NFL heading into the game, so it seemed like this was Las Vegas’ chance to get back on track and build some momentum heading into October. However, they fell flat on their faces, leaving fans standing with their palms up in the air screaming: “What the...fudge.” (Sorry, I’ve got to keep things PG around here).
The Silver and Black did have a few standout individual performances to give us some winners to highlight in this week’s column but don’t get it wrong, there was more bad than good Sunday evening.
WINNER: Davante Adams
After getting closer and closer to the century mark during the first two games of the season, Davante Adams cracked triple digits for the first time this year with an impressive 13-catch, 172-yard and two-touchdown performance. He was winning and getting consistently open all night where all the Steelers could do was contain him or hope an errant pass was coming his way.
This was the fourth time in his career that Adams has caught 13 passes, which is also tied for the second-most he’s had in a single game, and Sunday was the sixth time he’s logged at least 170 receiving yards. Also, the wideout is now up to 22 multi-touchdown performances, putting him in a tie with former Raider Art Powell for the sixth-most all-time
So, even in a losing effort, Adams managed to have a historic performance.
LOSER: Jimmy Garoppolo
It’s not often that you’ll see two wide receivers end up as winners and the quarterback lands on the losers list, but that should say something about how bad Jimmy Garoppolo was against the Steelers.
While Graoppolo did throw for over 300 yards, it took him the third-most attempts he’s had in a game with 44. His accuracy was also off as his completion rate of 63.6 percent was a couple of points lower than the league average for this season. Also, he had a few completions where the ball was behind receivers and/or low, limiting the pass-catchers’ ability to create yards after the catch.
Jimmy G also threw another hospital pass for the third week in a row that almost got Adams’ head taken off over the middle of the field. The wideout even had to take a second on the ground to gather himself after the play.
But what might be the most troubling aspect of the quarterback’s play is he’s now up to six interceptions on the year after throwing three on Sunday. He had four in 11 games last season but has managed to throw at least one in every contest as a Raider so far. That plus four three-and-outs simply can’t happen if Las Vegas is going to have a functional offense in 2023.
WINNER: Jakobi Meyers
After missing last week with a concussion, Jakobi Meyers has put together a couple of impressive performances in back-to-back games as a Raider. On Sunday, he was consistently getting open and managed to haul in seven catches for 85 yards, bringing his season total up to 15 grabs and 166 yards with a couple of touchdowns.
So far, Meyers’ two outings in the silver and black have ranked in the top 10 for him personally as seven catches are tied for his eighth-most and his yardage total was seventh-best. Statistically, he’s exceeded expectations so far and has proven to be a good second option behind Adams.
LOSER: Jermaine Eluemunor
Drawing T.J. Watt is a tough matchup for anyone as Watt leads the NFL in sacks with six and he had four coming into the game. But Jermaine Eluemunor was supposed to be a worthy adversary as Eluemunor hadn’t even allowed a pressure during Las Vegas’ first two games.
However, the 2021 Defensive Player of the Year showed his superiority with the couple of sacks referenced above and a couple more pressures coming against Las Vegas’ right tackle. For context, Eluemunor received his lowest pass-blocking grade from Pro Football Focus since Week 2 of last season.
All is not lost for Eluemunor as he’s still a quality right tackle, but this weekend did prove that he’s not quite up for the task of shutting down the elite pass-rushers of the league.
WINNER: Maxx Crosby
Truth be told, Maxx Crosby could probably be a winner just about every week, and he was at it again on Sunday. Crosby was responsible for three total tackles and picked up his second sack of the year while adding nine more pressure, per PFF, bringing his total up to 19 on the campaign which is tied for the most in the NFL.
The Raiders have 41 pressures through three games, and only four other defenders on the team have more than one while Malcolm Koonce and Robert Spillane are tied for second with five each. Clearly, Las Vegas needs to figure out how to get Crosby some help because he’s looking like a one-man show right now.
LOSER: Divine Deablo
Divine Deablo has regressed since his impressive outing in the season opener and Sunday was another big step backward in coverage. According to PFF, he was targeted three times and allowed a completion on all three passes for 44 yards. Every ball thrown his way was significant too as one went for a touchdown and the two others were first downs, resulting in a perfect passer rating (158.3) when the Steelers threw at Deablo.
It also didn’t help matters that the linebacker earned a slightly below-average run defense grade (58.6) from PFF. All-in-all, he just wasn’t good enough to help the Raiders’ cause.
LOSER: Josh McDaniels
Every loss feels significant for a head coach in this league and they’re starting to pile up for Josh McDaniels. He’s now 7-13 in Las Vegas and has a career record of 18-30. But this week’s ‘L’ should weigh heavier on McDaniels’ shoulders for a couple of reasons; the offense’s ineptitude and a head-scratching late-game field goal decision.
The coach’s first 15-play script did seem to work out alright as the Raiders had a seven-play touchdown drive on their second possession of the game. However, he seems to struggle to adjust beyond those pre-planned calls as the Raiders’ offense had the four three-and-outs mentioned above.
Taking a look at the bigger picture, McDaniels is the play-caller for an offense that is averaging 15 points per game, currently tied for the fifth-worst in the league, while the team has the fifth-most cap space ($101.4 million) dedicated to that side of the ball.
Adding to that, the decision to kick a 48-yard field goal down eight points with 3:11 left in the game made little sense, but the coach was bailed out by a penalty that gave the Raiders a first down. However, he ended up doubling down with another field goal on fourth and four from the eight-yard line 50 seconds of game time later.
If that’s what he was going to do, it would make more sense to decline the penalty on the first attempt to give the team more time to work with when they get the ball back. Instead, the Raiders had 12 seconds and no timeouts to come up with a miracle from their 15-yard-line.
McDaniels stood by the decision, saying they would have had to go down and score anyway to win the game. While that’s true, they still needed a touchdown after making the field goal whereas putting the ball in the endzone after or while converting the fourth down would have made it so that a kick could win the game.
Essentially, McDaniels’ logic just ensured that they would need to drive the ball down the field to win instead of giving them an option to just get past mid-field to have a chance at emerging victorious. Also, the decision to kick the field goal took away another chance for the team to tie the game in regulation.