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5 crucial takeaways as Las Vegas Raiders can’t complete comeback, lose another one-possession game

For the third consecutive week, the Las Vegas Raiders could not quite get over the top in a 24-22 loss to the Tennessee Titans at Nissan Stadium in Nashville on Sunday.

In the Raiders’ final drive, they made their way down the field despite facing four fourth-down plays, including being pushed back five yards on fourth-and-10 due to a delay of game penalty. On their final fourth -own play of the drive, the Raiders were at the Titans’ nine-yard line with 1:14 remaining.

Quarterback Derek Carr threw a 50-50 ball to a Raiders receiver who had the hot hand.

No, it was not his former Fresno State teammate Davante Adams. Instead, the pass was intended for Mack Hollins, who leaped to make the catch and give his team the opportunity to tie the game on a two-point conversion.

Carr tried to find tight end Darren Waller, but Titans safety Kevin Byard sealed the game with an interception and prevented the game from gong to overtime.

“The backside safety that they had, Byard was on Darren,” said Carr, who completed 26-of-44 passes for 303 yards and two touchdowns. “Darren had a move to get inside, and the backside safety was coming, so I had to throw it back shoulder, or else that guy would have picked it. I was trying to give Darren a chance, high in the back of the endzone, and we didn’t hit it.”

Here are 5 critical takeaways from the Las Vegas Raiders’ third game.

Related: Sportsnaut’s updated NFL power rankings

Inability to cash in

las vegas raiders takeaways: derek carr
George Walker IV / Tennessean.com / USA TODAY NETWORK

One of the difficulties in the early going so far for the Silver and Black has been their red-zone scoring, which has plagued them over the last few years.

The Las Vegas Raiders were stopped not once, not twice, but three times in the red zone. As a result, kicker Daniel Carlson had to clean up the drive with three field goals.

That means, Las Vegas left 12 points on the field rather than being able to put them on the scoreboard. If the Raiders are able to convert even just one of those field goals into a touchdown, the game is completely different.

A large part to the Raiders not scoring in the red zone was due to self-inflictedpenalties, even on drives that did not even result in a field goal.

The Titans ended their first drive of the second half on an interception caught by Raiders safety Duron Harmon at the Tennessee 43-yard line and returned it to the 31-yard line with short field position.

On the ensuing drive, Carr found Waller for 29 yards and inside the five-yard line. However, a holding penalty against right tackle Jermaine Eluemunor pushed the drive back 10 yards.

After a seven-yard pass to Adams, the Raiders were penalized one more time for delay of game.

Those five yards were critical as it took the team out of Carlson’s field-goal range.

“We have to be better, if not, we’re going to have a sucky feeling after every game. So, you try your best to do it the right way in practice and if you don’t do it right in practice, you can’t expect it to go right in the game. We’ve got to look at that and each man is individual, say, ‘Ok, then I’ve got to be better at this, this and this.’”

Las Vegas Raiders quarterback Derek Carr after the game

Related: Las Vegas Raiders standing in Sportsnaut’s NFL offensive rankings

Las Vegas Raiders wide receiver Mack Hollins has career day

las vegas raiders' mack hollins
Andrew Nelles / Tennessean.com / USA TODAY NETWORK

Hollins was the focal point in the offense on Sunday, especially with Hunter Renfrow unable to play due to a concussion suffered last week against Arizona and with the Titans heavily guarding Adams.

The sixth-year wide receiver tied with Adams with 10 targets but had a game-high eight receptions for 158 yards and the late touchdown.

“Mack plays hard on every play,”Las Vegas Raiders head coach Josh McDaniels said after the game. “(He) had a lot of single-coverage today and made some plays in the passing game as a receiver.”

His leadership and effort stems not only on offense, but also on special teams.

On the Raiders’ punt following the Titans’ interception, Hollins, who was part of the punt return unit, downed the ball at the two-yard line after re-establishing himself in play and refraining the ball from reaching the end zone for a touchback.

Related: Closed-door meeting between Las Vegas Raiders’ Josh McDaniels and Mark Davis

Las Vegas Raiders offensive line still working its way out

NFL: Baltimore Ravens at Las Vegas Raiders
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

A five-piece puzzle seems easy. But when it comes to putting together a five-piece puzzle for an NFL offensive line, it is harder than it is.

The Raiders are still constructing to make the offensive line work so far with eight available players.

With the offensive line being one of the team’s biggest questions, McDaniels and his coaches are still on the lookout to find the best pieces to protect Carr and the ball handlers.

“We’re trying to find the right formula, the right five guys, that will go out and play dependable, do it right over and over, good communication, get the protection sorted out and try to get a body on a body up front,” McDaniels said. “Obviously, nothing’s good going to happen offensively if you don’t do that first. I thought they did a decent job against a good front. I thought they gave Derek the opportunity to have some time to throw.”

One positive from the Las Vegas Raiders O-line was this game marked the second consecutive game of allowing one sack. Yielding just one sack allows time for Carr to find receivers or scramble for more yardage, both of which happened against the Titans.

Related: Las Vegas Raiders schedule and game-by-game predictions

A tale of two halves for the Las Vegas Raiders defense

las vegas raiders takeaways
Andrew Nelles / Tennessean.com / USA TODAY NETWORK

One of the challenges for the Las Vegas Raiders defensively was trying to stop Titans running back Derrick Henry.

Henry had 20 carries for 85 yards and a touchdown along with a team-high five receptions for 58 yards.

“When you’re playing a good player like that, and he’s obviously a great player, you’re going to need everybody to do their assignment right and to play tough and physical. You can’t guarantee the ball’s going to go to one guy or another. So, 11 guys are out there on defense,” McDaniels said.

“We’ve all got to be able to tackle. We’ve all got to be able to pursue the ball and play with great effort. Everybody’s got to do their job the right way if you want to stop someone like that.”

Henry’s touchdown was six of the Titans’ 24 points in the first half.  Tennessee scored a touchdown on each of its first three drives before punting and scoring a field goal on its final two possessions of the first half.

In order for Carr and the offense to mount a comeback, trailing 24-10 at the half, the defense needed to create the opportunities, which it did.

After the Harmon interception, the defense got a turnover on downs and was able to get the Titans punt team on its next two drives.

“I feel like overall, we played better all together, like we took a deep breath and take it one play at a time,” Raiders defensive end Maxx Crosby said after the game. “That’s what we try to emphasize, not overthinking, not overdoing, just going out there and executing one play at a time.”

5. It’s not life or death, but panic mode has set in

Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

The Las Vegas Raiders are now 0-3 for the first time since 2018 and are the only team in the NFL that will begin the month of October winless.

Las Vegas has been through long losing streaks in previous seasons, including losing six of seven last season.

With the optimism last season brought by turning their losing streak into winning ways and a playoff appearance, Carr hopes the team can turn things around and followed suit from a season ago.

“Not the end of the world, but at the same time, there’s an urgency, Carr said. “It’s not like we’re in OTAs and, ‘we’ll get it right eventually.’ We have to get it right now. So, whenever coach gives us our corrections tomorrow, you go in with thick skin and take it and then do better.”

Next week, Carr and the Las Vegas Raiders take on one of their AFC West division opponents, the Denver Broncos inside Allegiant Stadium at 1:25 p.m. PT.