John Bazemore / Associated Press
Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020 | 1:48 p.m.
One week after playing their best game of the season, the Raiders turned in their absolute worst on Sunday, malfunctioning on both sides of the ball in a 43-6 loss at Atlanta.
It was a disappointing defeat for a variety of reasons, but most of all because of how closely it mirrored last year’s Week-12 loss to the lowly New York Jets, which dropped the then-Oakland Raiders to 6-5 and portended their late-season collapse. After Jon Gruden and Derek Carr spent the week telling everyone how this year’s team is different, the Las Vegas Raiders are now 6-5, and their playoff chances are on the rocks.
A look at how the game played out:
Carr comes up small
Derek Carr picked a bad time to play his worst game of the year. Going up against a 3-7 Falcons team that fields one of the worst defenses in the league, Carr looked skittish in the pocket, missed open deep throws, got strip-sacked three times and made the costliest mistake of the game when he tossed a pick-6 late in the third quarter, slamming the door on any comeback hopes. Oh, and he failed to get Las Vegas into the end zone even once.
It was a far cry from the Carr we’ve seen for most of the year, and especially last week, when he played like a superstar in a valiant, last-second loss to Kansas City. He finished 22-of-34 passing (64.7 percent) for 215 yards with no touchdowns and the interception, which was returned 67 yards for a touchdown.
The loss can’t be blamed entirely on Carr — the offense was sloppy all around, with soft running by Josh Jacobs (who also lost a fumble), drops by Henry Ruggs and bad penalties that turned a 1st-and-goal at the 3-yard line into a 2nd-and-goal from the 23 — but there’s no sugarcoating it, the team’s franchise quarterback came up extremely small on a day when the Raiders needed him to deliver.
That can’t happen again this season. The Raiders’ margin for error is too slim now to overcome any clunkers from the QB (see below).
Playoff picture gets cloudy
Not only was Sunday an abominable day for the Raiders on the field, it was a bad day for scoreboard watching as well. The Browns, Dolphins and Bills all won, so Las Vegas is officially on the outside looking in when it comes to the playoff picture.
Indianapolis lost to Tennessee, dropping the Colts to 7-4 and tied with Miami for the sixth/seventh seed. Baltimore (6-4), which plays on Tuesday, could also move ahead of Las Vegas for sole possession of eighth place if they beat Pittsburgh.
It’s not a great spot to be in with just five weeks remaining, but the Raiders aren’t buried yet. They’ve got favorable matchups against the Jets, Chargers and Broncos still remaining, and they’ll get to go head to head with their direct Wild Card competitors (Week 14 vs. Baltimore, Week 16 vs. Miami).
Two straight losses have made Las Vegas’ path a bit more precarious, but the Raiders’ postseason fate is still in their hands.
Defense takes a hit
The 43 points on the scoreboard may not reflect it, but the Raiders stood their ground defensively for most of the day. They allowed just 4.3 yards per play and got a takeaway, but their efforts were simply overwhelmed by Las Vegas’ offensive miscues.
Because the Raiders committed five turnovers, Atlanta got a ton of extra possessions and ultimately ran 72 plays on the day (compared to just 58 snaps for Vegas). That led to a 35-25 advantage in time of possession for the Falcons, and given their advantageous field position off turnovers, the dam eventually broke.
It was also a rough day on the injury front. Damon Arnette appeared to suffer a concussion on the first play of the game, and though the Raiders sent him back on the field a few minutes later, the referees stopped play to have Arnette removed again when he continued displaying symptoms. He did not return after that.
The team’s other starting corner, Trayvon Mullen, also exited the game with an announced abdominal injury. Nevin Lawson and Isaiah Johnson struggled in place of the starters, and Las Vegas can’t survive long if Arnette and Mullen miss extended time. Their status will be an important storyline to follow next week as the Raiders gear up for an absolute must-win game at the New York Jets.