Oakland, CA – Last week the Raiders defense looked phenomenal. In the first half of today’s game they looked good.
But something happened in the second half, and no one can put their finger on what went wrong! The outcome was the Atlanta Falcons scoring three touchdowns while frustrating Oakland’s defense in the process.
The amount of penalties and one in particular was the collapse of the Raiders 35-28 loss to the Falcons. Late in the third, Oakland had the opportunity to tie the game again. Amari Cooper was pushed out of bounds trying to find a position before running back on the field to connect with Derek Carr for a 51-yard touchdown pass.
“To be honest, I’m not really clear on the rule,” said Cooper. “I know the college rule is if they push you out of bounds, you can come back in and catch the ball, but I think the NFL rule is it doesn’t matter how you get out of bounds, you can’t be the first one to touch the ball. That’s what I think it is, I’m not really sure on that.”
Cooper did step out of bounds, but after being in the league two years. He should know the difference between college rules verses the NFL. Cooper’s touchdown was called back and he was assessed a “illegal touch” penalty. Atlanta got the ball back midfield to setup Tevin Coleman’s 13-yard touchdown up the middle to make it 35-21 game.
“I take full responsibility for the mental aspect of our defense,” Oakland’s head coach Jack Del Rio said. “We have to make sure we’re teaching it better and make sure our guys understand what we’re asking them to do. The bottom line is it’s nowhere near the standard that I expect us to play at. We’ll need to get it rectified.”
Today’s game certainly wasn’t the action packed offensive game we saw last week. But a defensive game never disappoints. Neither the Raiders nor Falcons could get close enough to the end zone to attempt a an offensive push in the first quarter. The Falcons tried a few tricks with their running game, but a dominant Raiders defense made stops when needed to keep it scoreless in the first.
To kick off the second quarter, Atlanta used both their passing and rushing game moving into the end zone but Oakland’s defense forced them to kick a 21-yard field goal to make it a 3-0 game. Facing a tough defense as well, the Raiders caught a break when Carr found an open Cooper in the middle for a 25-yard gain. From there Carr went deep in the end zone where Robert Alford intercepted the ball but flags were thrown everywhere.
“Offensively, there are still things that we can do better,” said Carr. “Anytime we lose—doesn’t matter if we score 2 points or 50 points. Anytime you lose, it doesn’t feel as good.”
A defensive pass interference on the Falcons put Oakland on the goal line. LaTavius Murray rushed in the end zone for a 1-yard touchdown giving the Raiders a 7-3 lead. But that was short lived, Atlanta bounced back scoring a touchdown of their own. They used the passing game behind Matt Ryan who connected with Julio Jones for a 21-yard touchdown extending their lead 10-7.
After that Oakland’s defense began to breakdown. When Marquette King punted for 55 yards, Eric Weems returned the kick for 72 yards and was taken down by King on a horse collar tackle. A 10 yard penalty enforced put Atlanta on the goal line. Again, the Raiders defense made stops when needed and forced the Falcons to kick another 20-yard field goal making it a 13-7 game to end the first half.
“That game was on us, that game was on us defensively,” DE Khalil Mack said. “Yeah, it was terrible today for us discipline-wise, Julio [Jones], deflections, everything worked in their favor today and we didn’t do much to stop it.”
Sebastian Janikowski attempted a 58-yard field goal before the half ended but the kick was too short. A few challenges went the Raiders way that resulted in a few more opportunities. A challenge on too many players on the field for Atlanta led to Clive Walford’s 31-yard touchdown. Before getting injured late in the fourth, David Amerson intercepted Ryan’s touchdown pass in the end zone intended for Jacob Tamme.
Ryan was not afraid to go deep with his offense. He threw for 396 yards which included three touchdowns and one interception. Ryan connected with Tamme again in the third for a 14-yard touchdown pass and ran in for the two-point conversion himself to make it a 21-14 game. Oakland responded by tying the game 21-21 when Carr hit Michael Crabtree for the 2-yard touchdown.
“It’s football and you can’t win them all,” said T Donald Penn. “We went out there and played our tails off. We got some stuff we need to fix this week and it is still early. The good thing is it’s only the second game, but I’m not going to lie, we had a chance to win that game and it is tough when you lose one like that.”
Malcolm Smith provided good coverage on Coleman when the Falcons took over on offense. Ryan made a gutsy move and went deep for a 48-yard pass to put his offense in the red zone. Ryan spotted Coleman in the crowd where Smith got a hand on the pass to Coleman that was deflected by Smith and landed in the hands of Justin Hardy for the touchdown.
Atlanta went on to score two more touchdown before the Raiders scored their final touchdown with 2:33 left in the game. Carr connected with Andre Holmes in the end zone for a 6-yard touchdown pass. But there wasn’t enough time left in the game for Oakland to dig themselves out of a hole dug too deep. There has to be a better solution for both the offense and defense moving forward.
“Yeah, especially at home,” Smith said when asked about the loss. “This is disappointing. Today, for this defense, it’s embarrassing. It’s a disappointment. We better fix it right away.”