OAKLAND, Calif. — The offseason additions meant to fortify Oakland’s defense have only led to a historically bad start for the Raiders.
The Raiders got gashed for a second straight week and were unable to get bailed out this time by their high-powered offense, dropping the home opener 35-28 to Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons.
“We’re giving away way too many plays that should be routine and easy plays and allowing them not only to be made, but go for chunks,” coach Jack Del Rio said. “It will get corrected.”
For the second straight week Del Rio benched a starter, pulling middle linebacker Ben Heeney late in the game one week after replacing cornerback Sean Smith . Del Rio said he also took over some play-calling duties late from coordinator Ken Norton Jr.
But Del Rio wasn’t passing off any responsibility for a defense that has allowed 1,035 yards and 69 points in two games.
“If you want somebody to blame, blame it on me,” he said. “If you need someone to blame, blame the head coach. I’ll take it. We’ll correct what needs to be corrected and we’ll go forward. This was one game today that didn’t go our way.”
This wasn’t supposed to happen this year after Oakland added proven free-agent starters in Smith, safety Reggie Nelson and linebacker Bruce Irvin and used its top two draft picks on safety Karl Joseph and defensive lineman Jihad Ward.
The Raiders (1-1) allowed the Falcons to score on six of seven drives in one stretch and gave up 528 yards in all as they struggled to stop Atlanta (1-1) on the ground or in the air in a deflating loss.
“I’m speechless,” Irvin said. “I’ve never experienced this experience. Until everybody makes a full commitment to turning this thing around we’re going to be a subpar defense.”
Right now, they are historically bad. The Raiders joined the 1967 Falcons as the only teams to give up at least 500 yards in each of the first two games of the season, according to Pro Football Reference, and the 1,035 total yards allowed through two weeks are the most since at least 1940.
The only reason they have a win at all is because Carr led a late comeback last week and Del Rio made a gutsy call to go for a 2-point conversion that gave Oakland a 35-34 win at New Orleans.
Oakland faced a bit of bad luck when the Falcons scored the go-ahead touchdown on a deflected third-down pass that the Raiders appeared to break up. But the ball popped in the air and went right to Justin Hardy in the end zone for a touchdown that made it 28-21.
But after Oakland was stopped on fourth down near midfield later in the fourth, the defense allowed the Falcons another score on a 13-yard touchdown run by Tevin Coleman .
Then after the Raiders cut the deficit to 35-28 on Carr’s third touchdown pass with 2:12 to go, the defense failed to get the needed stop, allowing a third-down conversion to Mohamed Sanu that allowed Atlanta to run out all but 2 seconds on the clock.
“That game was on us,” star pass rusher Khalil Mack said after being held without a sack for the second straight game. “That game was on us defensively. It was terrible discipline wise. Everything worked in their favor today and we didn’t do much to stop it.”