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Raiders fall in ATL

(Curtis Compton / Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP

Atlanta Falcons cornerback Darqueze Dennard, right, breaks up a pass to Las Vegas Raiders tight end Darren Walker during the first quarter of an NFL football game on Sunday, Nov 29, 2020, in Atlanta.

The state of the Raiders defense is cause for anxiety. With injuries and COVID-19 issues at every level, it’s fair to wonder if the league’s 28th-ranked D will be up to the challenge on Sunday against the lowly New York Jets.

But then again, that has been the case with the defense all season. The only difference this week is that you have to worry about the Las Vegas offense, as well.

Coming off a humiliating 43-6 loss in Atlanta that saw the Raiders fail to penetrate the end zone, the offense is under the microscope and subject to the same amount of criticism as the defense for the first time in 2020.

Just how bad did things get against the Falcons? Las Vegas rushed for a season-low 40 yards, converted just three third downs (tied for fewest on the year), allowed five sacks and committed five turnovers (both season highs). One of those giveaways was a long pick-6 thrown by Derek Carr, meaning that the Raiders offense actually allowed more points than it scored.

It was a concerning development because the Raiders (6-5) are fighting on the fringe of the AFC playoff race and cannot survive without scoring bushels of points on a weekly basis. Another hiccup like that — or anything close to it — could result in a premature end to the season.

While Carr put forth a less-than-lackluster effort, passing for 215 yards with no touchdowns, an interception and three lost fumbles, some of that could be chalked up to random variance. The running game, however, has sputtered in each of the last two games, producing just 64.5 yards and 3.2 yards per carry in consecutive losses to Kansas City and Atlanta.

And it just so happens that run defense is the one thing the Jets do competently, as New York allows only 3.8 yards per carry (fifth-best in the league). It’s a legitimate cause for concern, especially with star running back Josh Jacobs still battling to find his form.

Against the Falcons, Jacobs carried seven times for 27 yards and got stuffed on an early 4th-and-1 attempt before leaving with an ankle injury. On Wednesday, head coach Jon Gruden said Jacobs is trying to get back on the field in time for the Jets game.

“I talked to Josh earlier this morning and he’s confident he’s going to be able to play,” Gruden said. “I don’t think he was 100 percent yesterday. He tried to fight through it.”

The Raiders need Jacobs to play at a high level, or they need the offensive line to dominate the trenches to the point where one of Jacobs’ backups can also have success. They’ve been able to pull it off at times this season, like when Devontae Booker rushed for a combined 149 yards on 6.2 yards per carry in back-to-back wins over the Chargers and Broncos, which is why it was so surprising to see the Vegas O-line get overwhelmed by Atlanta.

The line is banged up, with right tackle Trent Brown unlikely to return this week, left guard Richie Incognito out for the season and tackles Sam Young and Kolton Miller battling injury.

Despite a poor showing up front against Atlanta, Carr thinks the team has enough blocking to generate yardage on the ground.

“Sometimes there’s stretches where plays being called versus plays that they’re calling are just a perfect match that opens up pass-game stuff, or it opens this or that. So I don’t think there’s a problem. I don’t think there’s anything to worry about or anything like that. I think there’s still creases, I think there’s still room.

“I’ve been on a team that we couldn’t run the ball one foot to save our life,” Carr continued. “I remember those times. It’s not one of those feelings. No matter how many people are in the box, I still feel confident in what we can do.”

On paper this should be the Raiders’ most automatic win of the season, as New York is winless (0-11) and has allowed 29.3 points per game (29th in the NFL). But the Raiders are built to win with offense, and when that fails — as it did in Atlanta — even an opponent that’s trying to lose is capable of beating them.

Mike Grimala can be reached at 702-948-7844 or [email protected]. Follow Mike on Twitter at

Article written by #LasVegasSun