Up next for the Oakland Raiders was a visit from the Atlanta Falcons. The Falcons were coming off a 31-24 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Raiders were coming off a 35-34 win over the New Orleans Saints. In that game, they were picked apart by Drew Brees. I was hoping they could make some adjustments on the defensive side of the ball for this game. You don’t always get what you hope for. Kicker Sebastian Janikowski sent the opening kickoff deep and the Falcons began at their 25-yard line. They managed to move the ball to the Oakland 35-yard line and instead of trying a field goal, they opted to punt. As a matter of fact, there was a lot of punting in the first quarter as both offenses couldn’t find the end zone.
With 1:53 to go in the first quarter, the Falcons found themselves at their nine-yard line. But some carries by running back Devonta Freeman quickly got them moving. A 15-yard pass from quarterback Matt Ryan to tight end Jacob Tamme got the Falcons near midfield. Completions to wide receivers Austin Hooper and Aldrick Robinson put the ball at the Oakland 17-yard line. The drive would stall at the two and kicker Matt Bryant had no problem making a 21-yard field goal. With 12 minutes to go in the second quarter, the Falcons led 3-0.
The Raiders would be starting their next drive from their nine-yard line. A ten-yard pass from quarterback Derek Carr to wide receiver Michael Crabtree and a five-yard scramble by Carr moved the ball to the 24. Completions to wide receivers Seth Roberts and Amari Cooper put the Raiders in Atlanta territory. After that deep pass to Cooper, Carr decided to go deep again and he looked for Crabtree in the end zone. But the pass was picked off. Not so fast. Cornerback Robert Alford was flagged for pass interference and the ball was placed at the one-yard line. Running back Latavius Murray capped the drive off with a one-yard touchdown run. Janikowski made the point after and the Raiders led 7-3 with 7:51 to go in the first half.
The Falcons took over at their 19 and Ryan started to pick the Raiders apart. Most of the completions were across the middle and the Raiders simply had no answer for it. Short passes were going for long gains and the Falcons moved the ball down-field with ease. Three carries by Freeman netted a first down at the Oakland 21-yard line. From the 21, wide receiver Julio Jones burned cornerback Sean Smith for a touchdown. Bryant made the point after and the Falcons led 10-7 with 4:46 to go in the first half.
The Raiders punted on their next possession and Marquette King got off another beauty. It was fielded at the Atlanta nine yard-line by return man Eric Weems and he took it up the left side. It looked like he was going to take it all the way back but King literally dragged him down at the 18. He was flagged for a horse collar tackle and the Falcons had the ball at the Oakland nine-yard line. But the Raider defense rose up this time and three plays netted seven yards. Bryant came into the game again and his 20-yard field goal attempt was good. With 55 seconds to go, the Falcons led 13-7.
With time running out, the Raiders moved the ball down to the Atlanta 40-yard line with hopes that Janikowksi could make a 58-yard field goal before the half ended. The kick would be from that stupid infield dirt and it ended up being short and wide left. At halftime, the Falcons maintained their 13-7 lead.
The Raiders took over at their 19-yard line to start the second half. On first down, Carr connected with Crabtree for a ten-yard gain. A couple of carries by Murray gained seven yards and on third down, Carr looked for Roberts and the pass fell incomplete. King came on to punt. He blasted the punt 64 yards into the end zone. But Raider head coach Jack Del Rio threw his red flag and challenged that the Falcons had 12 men on the field. Replay showed that was the case and that ended up being a five-yard penalty and enough to give the Raiders a first down. An end around by rookie wide receiver Johnny Holton gained 16 yards. A false start moved them back five yards, but Carr found tight end Lee Smith for a gain of 16 yards. Murray ran up the left side and was brought down at the Atlanta 31-yard line. From there, Carr looked for tight end Clive Walford and found him for an easy touchdown. Janikowski made the point after and the Raiders led 14-13 with 11:17 to go in the third quarter.
This is where the Raider defense totally collapsed. On second and eight from the 27, Ryan went deep for Hooper and he hauled in the pass for a gain of 44. That was followed by an 18-yard run by Freeman. From the 11, Ryan threw for Tamme in the end zone and the pass was picked off by cornerback David Amerson. Out of all 11 players on the Raider defense, Amerson seems to be the only one who knows what he is doing. The Raiders dodged a bullet there. But a lot more bullets would be coming their way as the game progressed.
A nice 28-yard run by rookie running back Jalen Richard was called back due to a holding penalty and that really took the wind out of the Raider’s sails on their next possession. King punted and the Falcons regained possession at their 15-yard line. A 24-yard pass to running back Tevin Coleman and a 34-yard pass to Hooper moved the ball to the Oakland 27. From there, Ryan hooked up with wide receiver Taylor Gabriel for a gain of nine. Two plays later, Ryan found Tamme in the middle of the end zone for a touchdown. The Falcons lined up to go for two and Ryan ran it up right up the middle for an easy score. That put them up 21-14 with 3:42 to go in the third quarter.
Another touch-back meant the Raiders would be starting at their 25-yard line. Carries by Murray and rookie running back DeAndre Washington had the Raiders looking good. Two completions to Walford and an 11-yard run by fullback Jamize Olawale moved them to the Atlanta 25-yard line. Two more carries by Murray set up a first and goal from the two. Well, it took them four plays but on fourth and goal from the two, Carr had plenty of time to find a receiver and he found Crabtree in the end zone for a touchdown. Janikowski made the point after and the score was tied 21-21 with 12 minutes to go in the game.
It was time for the Raider defense to rise up and give the ball back to the offense. No. I don’t see that happening. On second and seven from the 45, Ryan went deep for Jones and he hauled it in for a gain of 48 yards. Despite the fact that there were two defenders in position, Jones was still able to make the play. He seemed pretty proud of himself after that play and spiked the ball. That got him a five-yard penalty for a delay of game. Three plays later, Ryan fired a pass down the middle. It was deflected high in the air and I was really hoping for an interception. Instead, the ball was picked out of the air by wide receiver Justin Hardy for a touchdown. I couldn’t believe what I just saw. Bryant made the point after and the Falcons led 28-21 with 9:29 to go in the game.
On third and seven from the 28, the Raiders received some help from the zebras. A pass intended for Cooper was incomplete. But a pass interference penalty on the Falcons gave the Raiders a first down at the 41. On third and two, Carr ran to the left and launched a ball to Cooper. He caught it, made some moves and cruised into the end zone for what appeared to be a touchdown. No. That is incorrect. Cooper went out of bounds, came back in and made the catch. You can’t do that. Even though Cooper said he was pushed out of bounds, the call stood and that set up a fourth and two at the 49. Del Rio decided to go for it and Richard ran up the middle. He was stopped short and the Falcons regained possession at the 50. Why wasn’t the ball given to Murray or Olawale? Richard would not have been my choice for that play. That was an absolute killer for the Raiders.
The Falcons knew what they had to do now. That was attack the middle. Every single play they ran on this drive was aimed at the middle of the field. Freeman ran up the middle, Ryan tossed short passes to his receivers down the middle and the drive was capped off by a 13-yard run by Coleman UP THE DAMN MIDDLE! He wasn’t even touched as he crossed the goal line. Bryant made the point after and the Falcons led 35-21 with 4:35 remaining.
The Falcons went into a zone defense and just like what happened to the Raiders on the previous drive, Carr found all kinds of room in the middle of the field. Passes to Murray, Roberts and Olawale set up a first and goal at the six-yard line. From there, Carr found wide receiver Andre Holmes for a touchdown. Janikowski made the point after and the Falcons led 35-28 with 2:12 remaining.
The Raiders had all three timeouts and the two minute warning to work with. But the defense had to stop the Falcons. On third and three from the 20, Ryan took the snap, laughed at the Raiders and their futile attempt to get to him and calmly tossed a short pass across the middle to wide receiver Mohamed Sanu for a first down. The Raiders did manage to get the ball back for one final play. But it went nowhere and the Falcons left Oakland with a 35-28 win.
For the Falcons, Matt Ryan completed 26 of 34 for 396 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. Julio Jones led all receivers in catches with five and yards with 106 and a touchdown. On the ground, Devonta Freeman led the way with 93 yards on 17 carries. As a team, the Falcons rushed for 139 yards on 29 carries. Defensively, safety Kemal Ishmael led the team in solo tackles with 13.
For the Raiders, Derek Carr completed 34 of 45 for 299 yards and three touchdowns. He spread the ball around to 11 different receivers. Clive Walford and Latavius Murray tied for the lead in catches with six apiece. Amari Cooper led the team in receiving yards with 71. Murray led the team in rushing with 57 yards on eight carries and a touchdown. As a team, the Raiders rushed for 155 yards on 25 carries. Safety Reggie Nelson led the team in solo tackles with ten.
Well, that game thoroughly disgusted me. It reminded me of a game several years ago. The Raiders were playing the Baltimore Ravens and every single time they had big gains, the ball was thrown across the middle. The Raiders lost that game 55-20. It wasn’t like the Falcons were doing anything fancy. They sent their receivers on crossing routes and for whatever reason, the defense couldn’t stop them. Middle linebacker Ben Heeney was benched and it wouldn’t really bother me if he gets relegated to special teams. He was TOTALLY lost out there.
The Raiders allowed 528 yards of offense. They are the first team since the 1967 Falcons to allow at least 500 yards in their first two games of the season. They have given up 69 points and looked horrible. Where’s the blitzing? It looks like a 4-3 vanilla defense that doesn’t give a damn. Linebacker Bruce Irvin was quoted after the game and he said “This defense doesn’t communicate. We’re not on the same page.” Well, you better get on the same page or this season is going to be another train wreck.
What is really discouraging is that the offense is playing very well. Carr has had all day to find his receivers, the running backs look good and they are putting up solid numbers. But the defense continually lets the other team stay in the game because they can’t stop them. Could it be they miss the leadership of Charles Woodson and Justin Tuck? Whatever the problem is, it needs to be fixed before they head to Nashville next week to play the Tennessee Titans. Until then, take it easy.
The Raider Guy