LAS VEGAS (AP)The Las Vegas Raiders have not put it together where it matters most since their bye week.
The Raiders lost their third straight game, 32-13 to the Cincinnati Bengals, falling to 5-5 and further out of position in the AFC West behind the first-place Kansas City Chiefs.
Part of the reason for the Raiders’ skid: their failures on third down and in the red zone.
The Raiders rank 24th in the league in third-down conversion rate (42 of 118, 35.5%). They came into the game ranked 26th in red-zone success, scoring 18 TDs in 34 trips inside the 20-yard line, and were 1 for 3 against the Bengals.
Dating to last Sunday night’s loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, Las Vegas had 14 straight unsuccessful third-down attempts. The first conversion against Cincinnati didn’t come until late in the fourth quarter when Derek Carr found Hunter Renfrow for 17 yards.
Two plays later, Carr was strip-sacked by Trey Hendrickson.
”We’re out of sync,” Carr said. ”We’re not doing good enough on third down, we’re not doing good enough in the red zone. It’s my fault.”
The signs were evident from the Raiders’ first offensive possession. Las Vegas took over at the Cincinnati 9-yard line after Yannick Ngakoue’s strip-sack of Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow.
The Raiders ran the ball once, Carr passed twice, and they netted 1 yard, settling for a field goal.
”We gotta stop the bleeding whenever something like that happens as a defense,” Bengals defensive back Eli Apple said. ”So we just came together and we locked in, that’s all.”
Since their 33-22 home victory against the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 7, the Raiders have been outscored 96-43. Las Vegas averaged 25.7 points through the first seven games of the season. An offense that was averaging 393 yards per game over those first seven games has been held to less than 300 each of the past two weeks while scoring a combined 27 points.
Off-the-field problems have likely contributed to those struggles. Coach Jon Gruden was forced to resign after the revelation of his past emails that included racist, homophobic and misogynistic language. And the team cut talented young receiver Henry Ruggs III after he crashed his car into another vehicle, killing a woman and her dog; police say Ruggs was drunk at the time, and he faces decades in prison.
Though he didn’t make excuses, Carr hasn’t been the same recently. He’s thrown four interceptions since the bye week after throwing five in the Raiders’ first seven games. Two plays after the Bengals took 6:39 off the clock with a touchdown, Apple intercepted Carr for his fifth pick in four games.
Carr finished 19 of 27 for 215 yards but didn’t get his wide receivers involved. Tight end Darren Waller had seven receptions and 116 yards on eight targets, but the Raiders’ receivers went a span of 41:25 between receptions.
”They gave us some pressure a little bit and we ended up playing the checkdown game to some degree,” Raiders interim coach Rich Bisaccia said. ”We got some third-and-manageables and we weren’t able to capitalize offensively.”
The Raiders will not have much time to figure out what’s plaguing their offense as they prepare for a Thanksgiving Day matchup with the Dallas Cowboys.
”The men in our room, the way we work, the way we go after things, it shouldn’t always end like this crap,” Carr said. ”We have another one in a few days against a really good football team. If we don’t want to stand up here and have to do this again, we better get it right.”
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