The Las Vegas Raiders had several opportunities on offense to change the outlook of the game against the Buffalo Bills, but their conservative game plan and costly fumbles led to their second loss of the 2020 season.
This week in the Raiders’ loss to the undefeated Buffalo Bills, Las Vegas was once again exposed early on by their problematic defense. But it wasn’t just their defensive woes that cost them the game. Their offense was unable to capitalize on red zone opportunities, which lead to the 30-23 Bills victory.
The Josh Allen-led Bills found the end zone on their first two offensive drives and the Raiders, again, lost the turnover battle, fumbling the ball away on three separate occasions — including two by quarterback Derek Carr.
Despite the early offensive onslaught by the Bills, Derek Carr answered back, moving the ball downfield effectively but coach Jon Gruden elected to kick a pair of field goals on the first two offensive possessions. Each field goal came in the form of taking the safe points, instead of going for either of the two 4th down conversions. Kicker Daniel Carlson was 3-for-3 on field-goal attempts, while adding two extra points to his perfect outing.
With the Raiders’ defense floundering against one of the NFL’s top offenses, it was surprising to see Gruden not go for the six points. After all, he did display an aggressive game plan throughout the team’s first two victories over the Carolina Panthers and New Orleans Saints.
The Raiders got back within striking distance just before halftime when Carr connected with tight end Jason Witten on a 3-yard touchdown to put them within three points as they trailed 17-13.
To start the third quarter, Carr and the Raiders’ offense looked like a well oiled-machine, converting on third downs to extend the drive. All of which came to a halt inside the red zone, forcing another 4th-and-2 situation. Ultimately, Gruden took the three points and sent Carlson out there to bang it through.
However, on the Bills’ first offensive drive of the third quarter, the Raiders came up with a third-down stop to force a 4th-and-1. Bills’ coach Sean McDermott set forth something Gruden had not, by attempting a 4th down conversion from the 50-yard line, and did so effectively with a jet sweep that caught cornerback Trayvon Mullen flat-footed.
The Bills never trailed in the second half and went on to win by the score of 30-23. Buffalo capitalized on costly errors by the Raiders, as Carr and Waller both committed costly fumbles in the second half. Waller’s occurred in Bills’ territory, which set up a 49-yard completion to Stefon Diggs that wound up leading to a touchdown with under 12 minutes of play remaining.
The Raiders came marching back, finding Darren Waller and Hunter Renfrow, but the damage had already been done. Both fumbles led to Buffalo getting points on the board, while the Raiders shot themselves in the foot. The Raiders move to 2-2 on the season, whereas Buffalo keeps their hot streak going as they move to 4-0.
The Raiders held Buffalo to 62 rushing yards — the least amount they’ve allowed so far this season. Although, Allen and the Bills’ passing game combined for 274 yards and two touchdowns. The Bills had six receivers average over 10 yards per reception.
Carr hit the 300 passing yard threshold — a mark he hadn’t reached this season, and a task he only exceeded one time in 2019. He connected with eight different pass-catchers despite not having either of his two starting outside receivers (Henry Ruggs II and Bryan Edwards). Carr also became the Raiders’ all-time leading passer with his touchdown to Nelson Agholor in the fourth quarter.
The Raiders will now look ahead to the Kansas City Chiefs as they’ll get Patrick Mahomes and Andy Reid coming off a short week. The Chiefs currently sit as 12-point favorites in the early Las Vegas betting lines.