The Raiders, now 2-1, actually led 17-3 at halftime. And both the offense and defense dominated the opening quarters.
But the former never got it going in the closing half — plagued by dropped balls, false-start penalties, and conservative play-calling.
The good news is that the struggling Raider defense — historically bad over the first two games — remedied some issues and came up clutch down the stretch.
The oft-criticized secondary corps, for instance, picked off Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota twice, and the D forced him to fumble, as well, racking up three total turnovers, which made the difference in an otherwise evenly matched game.
It’s difficult to say whether the pass coverage was much improved, however. David Amerson’s lock-down play and rookie Karl Joseph’s team-leading ten tackles were notable. But perhaps Titans QB Marcus Mariota is just that unreliable and inconsistent?
Unlike last week’s home debut against Atlanta, Derek Carr and Co. came out the gate with intensity this morning. Carr executed big throws to Latavius Murray and Amari Cooper, and the Raiders notched a touchdown on the opening drive.
But dropped balls were a critical issue for the offense; Seth Roberts, Clive Walford, and Amari Cooper were guilty of drops that otherwise would have led to third-down conversions.
Cooper in particular only snagged four of nine targets — although Carr in part was to blame, as he was a bit off today (leading guys too far, throwing behind on slant routes).
In the second half, the team committed more than a couple senseless, momentum-stalling false-start penalties.
But Michael Crabtree came up big with tough grabs at the right moment and ended with a solid day (eight receptions, 102 yards).
After three games, though, it’s clear that the Raiders will need to tighten up dramatically if they are to win ten or more games this season. Here’s three things the team must drill down and improve on immediately:
1. Stop the run. DeMarco Murray and the Titans racked up a stupid 181 yards on the ground, and the Raiders front line and middle had zero answer for Tennessee attack. This mirrors the troubles last week against the Falcons tandem backfield.
The team still can’t curb the run. And Khalil Mack in particular was a non-factor again — just one solo tackle — another head-scratching performance.
2. Stop the Boneheadedness. A perfect example of Raider “smarts” was Reggie Nelson’s pick at the end of the first half: He intercepted the rock with about eight seconds remaining, in Titan territory and within range for Janikowski, yet he didn’t run out of bounds. This one of more than a handful knuckle-headed moves on both sides of the ball, and Jack Del RIo will need to continue to preach smarts to prevent more bozo moments.
3. Catch the Ball, Eh! Back to those dropped passes, which were a problem for Cooper and the squad last year. Must. Remedy. This. Now.
The Raiders will have a tough road game against the improved Baltimore Ravens next week.