The Las Vegas Raiders got out of the gates hot on defense, but couldn’t muster up enough offense and eventually broke down, resulting in a 36-20 loss in Foxborough.
Early in the first quarter of Sunday’s game at Gilette Stadium, the Raiders’ defense came in with high-energy, making timely stops. In fact, the Raiders forced three consecutive stops without a scoring drive — accomplishing a feat they hadn’t reached at any point this season.
Initially, the Raiders’ defense looked to be poised for a big day but as things began to unfold, they took the brunt of the loss, allowing 36 points to the Patriots’ offense renewed and ran by Cam Newton. The 36 points surrendered to the Patriots is the most points the Raiders have allowed to any team over the first three weeks of play.
Getting pounded defensively is no recipe for success, but offensively the Raiders failed to capitalize on key drives, consistently finding themselves in 3rd-and-long situations, and turned the ball over three times. With 375 yards of total offense, the Raiders found the end zone just twice, including one touchdown that came during the final two minutes of the game.
Here are five observations from the Raiders first loss of the 2020 season:
Raiders’ Run-Defense Got Exposed
Entering the Raiders-Patriots matchup, Las Vegas allowed 129 rushing yards in Week 1 and 112 rushing yards in Week 2. While that was a slight concern entering the game against New England, the Patriots found that as a weakness and exploited it in a repetitive manner.
However, it wasn’t quarterback Cam Newton who slashed them on the ground. It was a committee of rushers for the Patriots, who finished the day with 250 rushing yards, averaging 6.6 yards per attempt.
Running back Sony Michel got over the 100-yard threshold on nine carries, including a 48-yard run where he broke free from a loaded front-seven defense. Rex Burkhead gathered 49 rushing yards and 49 receiving yards, while finding the end zone three times.
Newton, who entered the day with an average of 13 rushing attempts per game only ran the ball nine times for 27 yards. Newton was contained as a rusher but New England had other players fill the void for their ground attack, which wound up hurting the Raiders most.
Darren Waller Was Nonexistent in the Passing Game
Last week, Darren Waller showed exactly why he’s the focal point of the Raiders’ passing attack, hauling in 12 catches for 105 yards and one touchdown.
Clearly, the Patriots took full notice of Waller’s monster game. Coach Bill Belichick utilized his 2019 Defensive Player of the Year Stephon Gilmore, in which Waller was held to just two catches for nine yards.
“We didn’t come in here today to target Waller every play,” coach Jon Gruden said after the game. “Credit New England; they had a nice game plan. They got pressure on the quarterback a few times. We had Waller open. The film was out there for everybody to look at, but New England did a nice job. They did a better job than we did today.”
With Waller being the Raiders leading receiver heading into the game, you would think the coaching staff would have several ways to get him involved despite receiving a surplus of national recognition last week. Belichick has a track record of taking away his opponent’s best offensive weapon and once again he did exactly that to the Raiders’ most valuable pass-catcher. Based on his lack of involvement in the offense, something likely didn’t translate to how the coaching staff drew it up in practice.
Derek Carr did connect with backup tight end Foster Moreau for two catches on 25 yards and one touchdown, but he doesn’t bring the same level of a “do-it-all” pass-catcher like Waller brings to the tight end position.
Raiders Third-Down Offense Was Horrendous
The Raiders have had success this season by owning the time of possession battle, and with that comes the need to convert on third downs.
The Raiders held the ball for 25:21 minutes compared to the Patriots 34:39. With the lopsided time of possession, the Raiders defense began to wear down.
Las Vegas only picked up three third-down conversions, with all of them coming in the fourth quarter. Without picking up crucial third-downs, their defense was forced back on the field far to often, resulting in a poor defensive effort by Paul Guenther’s unit.
“We lost the turnover battle, and we lost the situational battle,” Carr said after the loss. “That’s all it is. And it’s one game. If we’re going to blow up everything after the good things that we’ve done after one game, then this ain’t for some of those people.”
It’s obvious that the Raiders’ success will run through their offense, so when they can’t click on that side of the ball, they could be inline for a sloppy outing.
Penalties Held the Raiders Back in Multiple Ways
For several years the Raiders have been known as a team who struggles with discipline, earning their way towards the top of the league in penalties committed. However, entering their Week 3 game, the Raiders had just six penalties on the year — a significant improvement in comparison to years past.
That changed when Las Vegas matched their season total, committing six penalties in today’s contest. The penalties equated to 40 yards but most costly, several of them led to first downs for the Patriots’ offense.
Head coaches often say team penalties are a reflection of themselves. Gruden had held his team in check through the first two games, but after coming off a short week in which they played on Monday Night Football, the penalty situation was a different story in Week 3.
Maxx Crosby and Trayvon Mullen: The Sole Bright Spots on Defense
Defensively, the Raiders had very few areas that looked good on the day. The positives on defense were solely second-year player’s Maxx Crosby and Trayvon Mullen.
Crosby was called early in the game for a costly neutral-zone infraction, but on the same drive bounded back with a sack on Newton. The defensive front still remains to have their hands tied, as they struggle to find ways of generating pressure on opposing quarterbacks but Crosby did get home, recording two sacks.
Mullen contributed against the pass and the run effectively on Sunday. The Patriots dialed up a lot of runs to the outside of the defensive ends, forcing cornerbacks to come up and make the play in run-support. Mullen was up for the task, logging two tackles, including one tackle for loss.
While attempting to stop the Patriots’ passing-game, Mullen was responsible for breaking up three passes. He was targeted often and looked to be every bit of the Raiders No. 1 cornerback on defense.