The Oakland Raiders headed east again and this time their destination was Nashville, Tennessee to take on the Titans. The Raiders were coming off a 35-28 loss to the Atlanta Falcons and the Titans were coming off a 16-15 win over the Detroit Lions. The Raiders won the toss and deferred to the second half. Kicker Sebastian Janikowski sent the opening kickoff deep into the end zone and the Titans would start at their 25-yard line. Quarterback Marcus Mariota took to the air on first down and completed a 14-yard pass to wide receiver Rishard Matthews. Two carries by running back DeMarco Murray put the Titans in Raider territory. On third and six from the 37, Mariota completed a 20-yard pass to tight end Jace Amaro. It looked like the Titans were going to cruise into the end zone on their first drive of the game. But an incomplete pass, a short run by Murray and a false start penalty put them in a third and 14 situation. Mariota completed a pass to Murray across the middle but he was brought down short of the first down marker. Kicker Ryan Succop came into the game for a 34-yard field goal attempt. The kick was good and the Titans led 3-0 with 9:50 to go in the first quarter.
Things would start out nicely for the Raiders as the ensuing kickoff went out of bounds. That put them at their 40 and quarterback Derek Carr completed a 25-yard pass to wide receiver Amari Cooper on first down. The next two passes were incomplete. On third and ten, Carr tossed a short pass to running back Jalen Richard that went for a gain of 13 yards and a first down at the 22. Running back Latavius Murray capped off the drive with a nice 22-yard touchdown run. Janikowski made the point after and the Raiders led 7-3 with 8:19 to go in the first quarter.
That’s when the punting started. Each team punted on their next two possessions. I was pretty impressed by how the Raider defense was playing. After being gashed by Drew Brees and Matt Ryan, they were actually putting some pressure on Mariota and shutting down the running game. With 10:52 remaining in the second quarter, the Titans got the ball back at their 16. On third and 13 from the 13, Mariota scrambled up the middle. He was hit by linebacker Bruce Irvin and the ball came loose. Safety Reggie Nelson recovered the fumble and that set the Raiders up at the Tennessee 24-yard line. Carr took the snap and went deep down the middle for tight end Clive Walford. He hauled in the pass for a very quick Raider touchdown. Wait a minute. There was a flag on the play. Left tackle Donald Penn was flagged for holding and that wiped out the touchdown. That moved the Raiders back to the 34 and they looked genuinely demoralized. The next three plays gained one yard and they wheeled out the Polish Cannon for a 52-yard field goal attempt. The kick was good and that made Janikowski the all time leader in field goals made from 50 yards or more. The Raiders led 10-3 with 8:13 to go in the second quarter.
After the Titans punted again, the Raiders took over at their nine-yard line with 4:17 to go in the first half. A false start penalty moved the ball back five yards. But completions to wide receivers Andre Holmes, Seth Roberts and Cooper got them back on the right track. On second and eight from the 32, running back DeAndre Washington got loose for a gain of 30 and was brought down at the Tennessee 38-yard line. Two more carries by Washington gained 19 yards. From the 19, Carr tossed a pass to the left side for Roberts. He caught it, shook off a couple of defenders and made it to the end zone for a touchdown. Janikowski made the point after and the Raiders led 17-3 with 33 seconds to go in the first half.
With time running out, the Titans took over at their 25. They still had two timeouts and a couple of passes may have gotten them in field goal range. Mariota scrambled for eight yards and the Titan fans were screaming for them to call a timeout. The clock kept running and on second down, a pass intended for Matthews was incomplete. With eight seconds to go, Mariota looked for Matthews again and the pass was picked off by Nelson. Instead of going down, Nelson weaved his way up the field and ran up the left sideline. It appeared he stepped out of bounds with three seconds left. However, replay showed that the clock operator was asleep at the wheel when the ball was snapped. The clock didn’t start running until Mariota threw the ball. Therefore, there would be no last second field goal attempt for the Raiders and the first half ended with the Raiders leading 17-3.
On their first possession of the second half, the Raiders moved into Tennessee territory but ended up punting. If their receivers knew how to hang on to the ball, that drive may have ended with a touchdown. Marquette King punted and put the Titans at their seven-yard line. Four straight carries by Murray and a pass to Amaro quickly put the Titans at the Oakland 19-yard line. Two plays later, Murray ran up the right side and dove into the corner of the end zone. Succop made the point after and the Raiders led 17-10 with 5:51 to go in the third quarter.
After that, both teams commenced with more punts. The Titans got the ball back with 1:25 to go in the third quarter. From their ten-yard line, running back Derrick Henry got loose for a gain of 13 yards. Two more carries by Murray netted a first down at the 33. An offside penalty on the Raiders gave them five more yards. Despite the fact they were moving the ball well on the ground, the Titans decided to pass on the next play. Big mistake. The pass intended for Matthews was intercepted by cornerback Sean Smith at the Oakland 48-yard line.
Before the next drive started, the announcers were singing high praise for Carr and saying how a touchdown here would be huge and that he hadn’t thrown a pick all year. That is what is known as the kiss of death. Three plays into the drive, Carr looked for wide receiver Michael Crabtree on the left side and the pass was picked off by linebacker Avery Williamson. It looked like there was some contact between Crabtree and cornerback Jason McCourty before the ball got there. But the zebras kept their flags in their pockets.
The Titans would end up punting the ball away and the Raiders started their next drive at their 27-yard line. An illegal formation penalty moved them back five yards. A 31-yard pass to Crabtree moved them down to the Tennessee 46-yard line. Wide receiver Johnny Holton ran up the left side for two yards. That was followed by a three-yard run by Richard. On third and five from the 41, the Raiders inserted five receivers into the game. Carr took the snap and fired a strike to Cooper. He dropped it. There was nothing wrong with the pass. It was right on the money and a first round draft pick should have no problem catching it. But for whatever reason, Cooper couldn’t hang on. If he would have made that catch, it would have gone for a huge gain. With his speed, he may have reached the end zone. But since he didn’t catch it, the Raiders were forced to punt again.
The Titans still couldn’t get the ball rolling and punted the ball right back to the Raiders. I kept thinking if they could just score one more time they could put the game away. They took over at their 26-yard line and some good running by Richard and another catch by Crabtree moved them to the 49. But three straight running plays didn’t gain enough yardage for a first down. With two minutes to go, King punted and it went into the end zone.
Then the Raiders changed everything around. Instead of using an aggressive plan of attack, they went into their prevent defense. I cannot think of a defensive scheme I despise more than the prevent. All of a sudden, Mariota had all kinds of time to find receivers and they were wide open. The drive started with a ten-yard pass to Matthews. Then a 25-yard pass to wide receiver Harry Douglas. Then a 23-yard pass to wide receiver Tajae Sharpe. This was killing me. Every receiver was wide open. Were there any defensive backs on the field? On first down from the Oakland 22, Mariota went deep over the middle for Sharpe and unlike Amari Cooper, he caught the pass for a gain of 19. He was dragged down at the three-yard line.
But for some bizarre reason, left tackle Taylor Lewan jumped on top of the pile after the play was over. That got the flags flying and the Titans were penalized 15 yards for unnecessary roughness. That moved them back to the 18. The next two plays gained five yards and on third and five, Mariota looked for wide receiver Andre Johnson in the end zone. He was wide open and easily made the catch. Wait a minute! There are more zebra droppings on the field! Johnson was flagged for offensive pass interference and that moved them back to the 23-yard line. An 11-yard pass to Murray set up a fourth and four with 12 seconds to go. Mariota took the snap and looked for Douglas in the end zone. There was some contact and Douglas fell to the ground in hope of seeing a flag. No flag was thrown and the Raiders left Nashville with a 17-10 victory. The win gave the Raiders a 2-1 record and the Titans fell to 1-2.
For the Raiders, Derek Carr completed 21 of 35 for 249 yards, one touchdown and one interception. Michael Crabtree led the team in catches with eight and receiving yards with 102. DeAndre Washington was the leading rusher with 57 yards on six carries. As a team, the Raiders rushed for 123 yards on 25 carries. Defensively, rookie safety Karl Joseph and rookie linebacker Cory James led the team in solo tackles with six apiece. Reggie Nelson also had a good game with four tackles, an interception and a fumble recovery.
For the Titans, Marcus Mariota completed 17 of 33 for 214 yards, two interceptions and one lost fumble. DeMarco Murray led the team in receptions with five and Jace Amaro had the most receiving yards with 59. Murray also had a good day carrying the ball and finished the game with 114 yards on 16 carries and a touchdown. As a team, the Titans rushed for 181 yards on 29 carries. Defensively, Avery Williamson and cornerback Perrish Cox tied for the lead in solo tackles with four apiece. Williamson also had an interception.
It was a case of missed opportunities for the Raiders. Lots of dropped passes ended promising drives. They didn’t score a point in the second half and left it up to their defense to get the win. That’s the complete opposite of what happened in the first two games of the season. But a win is a win and they improved their record on the road to 2-0. They go back on the road next week to Baltimore to take on the Ravens. They came away with a hard fought 19-17 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars and they are 3-0 this year. Until then, take it easy.
The Raider Guy