Through three weeks, the NFL season is doing a great job of delivering weekly gut punches. Week three brought us Raiders versus Titans, an AFC matchup of bruised head coach egos that fell from the Bill Belichick Tree. 2021 NFL Coach of the Year (yeah, that has the cachet of “Golden Globe Winner”) Mike Vrabel, welcomed New England’s prodigal son, Josh McDaniels. Nothing will make Vrabel lose sleep like game-planning for a guy who owns a sparkling .355 winning percentage calling the shots. If you ever need a get-right game in the NFL, just check and see if the head coach across the field is rocking a visor. If he is, you have nothing to fear, but his No Fear car decal itself. While the game came down to the wire, the Tennessee Titans walked away with a 24-22 victory over the Raiders.
I am sorry for your loss Raiders, but your season is over!
The Raiders really had to operate under the blind confidence afforded to them by the “Any Given Sunday” cliche in football. But, there was some hope there, as the Titans are 100-110 in September, probably because there’s no sense of urgency in the state of Tennessee until the National Weather Service warns them of frost coming overnight.
The Titans led this game from wire-to-wire, helped along by Ryan Tannehill dropping his classic box score: one passing touchdown, one rushing touchdown, and one interception. Tannehill is far from a modern-day offensive weapon, but he can be the game manager that we were promised Kyle Orton would evolve into. Nineteen completions to seven different Titans? That’s a death by a million paper cuts. This wasn’t an offensive onslaught or a quick death, it was the Titans slowly and methodically taking their time as they tortured the Raiders to death, turning Nissan Stadium into a CIA black site.
Critics and cynics will say Derek Carr is, at best, a mid-level quarterback. They may say he can’t get you to a Super Bowl. Well, the man led the league in passing yards last year despite getting sacked 40 times. The Raiders have already given up eight sacks in three weeks, so if my Liberal Arts grasp of forecasting is correct, he’s going to get sacked 45+ times this year, I wouldn’t be surprised if his audible call is, “I have a wife and family!”
The team-level stat line is oddly similar in this one. But, the Titans split from the Raiders in the red zone, where the Titans made the most of their opportunities. Tennessee went 3-for-3 in the red zone, while the Raiders finished just 2-6. They got to the red zone twice as much, but scored fewer times from there? I know, “the game is changing.” but I’m pretty sure you still need to score points in the red zone to win. It’s ironic, that a team based in a city known for making scoring at will easy gets the jitters when they are in the shadow of the promised land.dn
The Raiders dealt with their struggles before the game, as they thought they would be without starting running back Josh Jacobs, who had a case of bubble guts and didn’t fly to Tennesee with the team. He eventually chugged enough Pepto-Bismol to make the flight and play well enough to help the Raiders, but his 18 touches for 97 yards didn’t help the Raiders from stinking up the joint, it just gave observers a distraction, much like the Febreze in his bathroom this week. Unfortunately, the Raiders were without wide receiver Hunter Renfrow, because despite what Russell Wilson tells you, there’s nothing you can chug to offset a concussion. The Raiders’ offensive disappearing act was completed by Davante Adams and Darren Waller, who combined for 15 targets, eight catches, 53 yards and a score. I haven’t seen a Titan devour someone like that since Saturn devoured his son.
The Raiders attempted some late-game heroics, shutting out the Titans in the second half and pulling within two points with under two minutes to play. However, they missed a two-point conversion and their onside kick attempt ended up in the hands of Titans’ tight end Austin Hooper.
Was it the red zone futility that did them in? Or was it allowing three consecutive touchdowns to the Titans to open the game? Or did Chris Berman growling, “da Raiders!” leave them with no will and no room left in their hearts to play? I don’t know, and frankly, we may never know.
The Raiders stand on the cusp of finishing the first month of the season without a win. Fortunately, they get a get-right game with possibly the one head coach in further over his head than Josh McDaniels: Nathaniel Hackett and the Denver Broncos.
But for now, they sit at 0-3 in the AFC West, leaving Raiders fans with the same embarrassment level as the Vegas tourists sitting through a three-hour timeshare presentation for a seafood buffet voucher and $50 in chips. There’s no good way out for either party involved, and the path forward is bleak and without major rewards.