HENDERSON, Nev. (AP)Trip after trip to the red zone Sunday, and the Las Vegas Raiders – with one exception – couldn’t reach the end zone.
They still managed to escape with a 21-17 victory over the New England Patriots, but the margin could have been much bigger.
Las Vegas, which visits the Chicago Bears on Sunday, is in a stretch of winnable games, but like against New England, the team could find itself in a position of potentially missing out on victories if Daniel Carlson continues kicking field goals rather than extra points.
The issues inside the 20-yard line were numerous against the Patriots. Las Vegas hurt itself with untimely penalties, lack of execution and a fluky turnover when Davante Adams was hit hard and the ball popped into the air.
“Down there, it’s all about details and execution,” coach Josh McDaniels said Monday. “There’s very, very little margin for error. When you make an error, it usually is exacerbated, and it ends up in either a negative play or you’re kicking field goals. We fell behind the sticks, I think, three times down there in the red zone, and when you do that, it’s very difficult to overcome.”
This isn’t a new problem. The Raiders are 25th in the NFL in red zone offense at 40.9%, a major reason they are averaging 16.7 points per game, tied with the Cincinnati Bengals for 27th.
Until this game, Las Vegas had gone six games in a row without reaching 20 points. The Raiders only got there this time because of a sack for a safety in the final moments.
The lack of red zone production isn’t conducive to winning.
“We have to do better,” McDaniels said. “I have to do a better job of trying to get us to play penalty free and be able to capitalize on the opportunities that we have. The good about that is you play good enough to get it down there as many times as you do.
“I’m a glass half-full guy and we’re going to try to fix that, and we’re going to do everything we can to do that. I thought we played well on third down enough yesterday to get it down there, and now we’ve got to capitalize on our opportunities.”
Defensive plays under pressure. On Sunday, Maxx Crosby and Bilal Nichols combined to sack Mac Jones for a safety with 1:47 left to clinch the victory over the Patriots. That came six days after Amik Robertson made a fantastic interception in the end zone to seal the win over the Green Bay Packers with 44 seconds remaining.
The Raiders defense hasn’t been known for making clutch plays, but that side of the ball suddenly has become reliable under pressure.
WHAT NEEDS WORK
The quarterback play has been lacking. Jimmy Garoppolo hasn’t provided the lift the Raiders hoped when they signed him. Brian Hoyer, who played in the second half Sunday in place for the injured Garoppolo, is a veteran who can avoid big mistakes, but isn’t someone expected to carry the offense. Rookie Aidan O’Connell had three turnovers in his one start, but is still unproven. The Raiders need to figure out what they have in O’Connell to know whether to go after a QB in next year’s draft.
K Daniel Carlson. He responded to a rare off game to make all four field-goal attempts against the Patriots.
Against the Packers, Carlson had a 53-yarder blocked and hit the right upright from 52 yards. But that shows how high the expectations are for one of the league’s best kickers.
WRs Davante Adams and Hunter Renfrow. Adams is one of the league’s top receivers, but caught only two passes for 29 yards against New England. Renfrow is two years removed from a 1,000-yard season, but has just six receptions for 59 yards.
Garoppolo’s back injury isn’t as bad as originally feared, but that doesn’t mean he will play. His status is something to watch. S Roderic Teamer injured his hamstring against the Patriots.
100 – The percentage of plays Crosby has played defensively the past three games. No other defensive lineman has done that in even one game.
The Raiders begin the first of a two-game road trip with a game at the Chicago Bears on Sunday.
AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/nfl