A week after a big divisional win at Denver, the Las Vegas Raiders (1-1) returned to reality in the harshest way — they were dominated in almost every facet of the game by the Buffalo Bills in a 38-10 loss.
The Raiders had their miscues, but it was being thoroughly beaten in the trenches that led to the lopsided outcome.
“We’re going to have to be more productive than what we’ve done,” Raiders head coach Josh McDaniels said after the loss. “(And) once you lose control of the line of scrimmage, it’s difficult to have control of the game.”
Las Vegas had no answer for Bills quarterback Josh Allen, who completed 31-of-37 passes for 274 yards and three touchdowns. Raiders quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo was efficient again but turned the ball over twice and ended the day 16-of-24 for 185 yards and two interceptions.
Here are key takeaways for the Raiders:
Las Vegas Raiders’ offense couldn’t find balance
The Raiders did all they could to ensure their top offensive weapon from a year ago, running back Josh Jacobs, was signed and with the team after a holdout erased his training camp.
But Jacobs, for the second-straight week, could not get anything going on the ground against the Bills. Jacobs finished rushing for negative two yards on nine attempts. McDaniels’ offense thrives off balance and with the offensive line unable to win the line of scrimmage against the Bills, the Raiders couldn’t establish the run.
Josh Jacobs, who is the NFL's reigning rushing champion, finished with -2 rushing yards on 9 rushes.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) September 17, 2023
According to @EliasSports, this is the first time since the 1970 merger a reigning NFL rushing champion finished a game with negative rushing yardage. pic.twitter.com/AUYUDOUJ8A
Las Vegas finished with only 55 yards in total rushing on 15 attempts.
If they are to unleash their weapons like Davante Adams, Michael Mayer, Jakobi Meyers and Hunter Renfrow on offense, establishing some run is essential to open up the pass opportunities for Garoppolo. W
Losing the battle up front on offense
The Raiders offensive line ranked No. 1 in pass protection in the league after Week 1. Against the Bills, the offensive line could not stop the pass rush and created zero opportunities to get Jacobs and the run game on track. Although they didn’t give up a sack, Garoppolo was under duress often during the game, including two quarterback hits. While not a big stat day for the Buffalo defensive front, they were in Garoppolo’s face all day, forcing him from the pocket. The Raiders offensive line, bluntly, got beaten up badly.
The Raiders offense could not move the ball throughout the second half, primarily because they rarely possessed it. After a field goal in the second quarter, the Raiders never made it past the Bills 45-yard line and had the ball for just 19:56 the entire game, compared to 40:04 for Buffalo.
Defensive front is downright offensive
Raider Nation has been asking for a competent defense for 25 years. After the Bills game, they’re still wondering when their beloved team may have a pass rush they can be proud of. In addition to being manhandled by the Bills defense, the Raiders’ defense could not win any battles at the line of scrimmage either. Josh Allen could dictate the pace of the game and find open receiver after open receiver because the Raiders could not contain him nor create any semblance of a pass rush.
Although Las Vegas recorded two sacks — Deablo (1), Spillane (1) — the failure of the Raiders to win the line of scrimmage meant easy pickings for the Bills. In addition to Allen’s big day, Bills running back James Cook rushed for 123 yards on 17 carries and wide receiver Gabe Davis led the way in the air with six catches for 92 yards and a touchdown.
Patrick Graham’s defense is struggling again, putting a lot of pressure on his remade defensive backfield. Rookie Jakorian Bennett and second-year player Nate Hobbs struggled without help from a pass rush.
Michael Mayer and Hunter Renfrow still missing in action
The Raiders were praised for stealing talented tight end Michael Mayer in the NFL Draft this past April, but they need to get him involved on offense. Add in the light use of talented slot receiver Hunter Renfrow, and you have to wonder what McDaniels is doing on offense. Although Adams deserves as many targets as possible, and rookie Tre Tucker did have some nice opportunities, why Mayer and Renfrow aren’t involved is perplexing. Mayer needs to improve his blocking but he’s not going to get better unless he can also do what he does best — catch passes.
Renfrow, who makes nearly $14 million this season, was only targeted once on a completion of 23 yards in garbage time. Why the highly-paid wideout isn’t being more utilized is a question that has been asked of McDaniels without a clear answer to why.
The measuring stick
The Buffalo game served as a great way to measure where the state of the Raiders’ roster, and the answer wasn’t pretty. The Raiders has started both games in 2023 with productive offensive drives, and their mental toughness from Week 1 was also a key for potential future growth. Yet, playing one of the top teams in the AFC shows the Raiders are very much a work in progress. Despite the team’s desire not to call its roster revamp “rebuilding,” that’s exactly what is happening in Las Vegas.
The Raiders get a chance to rinse the sour taste of Buffalo out of their mouth as they come home to face the Pittsburgh Steelers, who head into their Monday Night Football matchup at 0-1.