Paul Sancya / AP
Tuesday, Oct. 31, 2023 | 2 a.m.
Jimmy Garoppolo locked in on Davante Adams and forced a pass attempt to him for an easy interception in the end zone.
Adams himself bobbled and dropped a wide-open third-down pass.
Kolton Miller and Dylan Parham didn’t recognize a defensive-line stunt and doomed Garoppolo to one of six sacks.
That’s a much-abbreviated list of the Raiders’ offensive follies in a 26-14 loss to the Lions at Ford Field where they were annihilated much worse than the final score indicated. Las Vegas ran only 45 offensive plays on Monday Night Football, and upwards of 30 of them must have featured at least one player failing spectacularly.
In a season full of offensive underperformance, the Raiders hit their pinnacle of incompetence to fall to 3-5 on the year with a second straight loss. The offense mustered only 3.5 yards per play — .6 yards fewer than the last-place NFL offense (next week’s opposing New York Giants) on the season — and made one trip to the red zone in part courtesy of a personal foul flag on the home team.
This was a systematic failure on a week when Las Vegas returned starting quarterback Garoppolo, who missed the previous game and a half with a back injury, and no one had any answers for it.
That includes Raiders coach Josh McDaniels, whose reputation as an offensive mastermind from his years coordinating the New England Patriots’ attack is now being called into question.
“I think you’ve got to look at a lot of things,” he said. “If there was one thing that we needed to do just a little better then that would be simple, but I think it’s a combination.”
Las Vegas’ offense ranked about league average in most categories a year ago but McDaniels and general manager Dave Ziegler decided it was too unsuccessful and dismantled the unit. They allocated enough resources to make this year’s offense the sixth-highest paid in the league, per sportrac, and handpicked Garoppolo after cutting ties with longtime quarterback Derek Carr. That decision appears incredibly misguided, especially this week.
Carr threw for 11.5 yards per attempt in a win Sunday for the New Orleans Saints over the Indianapolis Colts. Garoppolo completed 10 of 21 passes for 121 yards to boost his rate to six yards per attempt with a couple garbage-time completions against the Lions and that number fails to take account for the sacks he took.
Some, but not all, of the consistent pressure he endured was on an offensive line that had pass-protected well on the season before Monday’s regression.
“I’ve got to get the ball out quicker, help the o-line out,” Garoppolo said. “We’re all in this thing together.”
That’s also in question, however, as Adams’ season-long frustration level may have hit a new level after Garoppolo missed him wide open on a pair of deep balls in the fourth quarter after the receiver had beaten the Lions’ coverage. Television cameras caught Adams, who finished with once catch for 11 yards, slamming his helmet on the bench and cursing after the second one.
He hadn’t cooled down about 30 minutes later in the locker room, admitting he was “frustrated” but refusing to say much more out of fear of being “taken out of context by the media.”
The NFL’s trade deadline looms today, but the Raiders have reportedly informed teams that they are not open to moving Adams.
“I thought he got himself open a handful of times and had some opportunities,” McDaniels said of Adams. “We got one tipped and (overthrew) one that maybe would have been big plays. But, at the end of the day, you just have to keep working and try to do the best you can. We can’t control one another’s jobs, but we have to try to work continue to improve each one of us. I thought he had a great week of practice and will continue to do that. I know him. He’s a true pro.”
The Raiders may too be at risk of alienating their other offensive superstar, running back Josh Jacobs, who might have been the unit’s most — or only — productive player on Monday. Jacobs had 17 touches for 88 yards, and the Raiders’ only touchdown came late in the second quarter when they went to him on seven of 10 plays in a single drive.
He punched in a two-yard touchdown to cut the Raiders’ deficit to 9-7, and fired the football into the back wall in celebration. He’d hardly see it again the rest of the night, and might have taken exception to being minimized in the second half.
Jacobs was careful with his words in his postgame interview, taking deep breaths and leaning his head back before answering every question, but shot down a suggestion that the Lions applied extra personnel to slow him like other teams have done this season.
“They didn’t stack the box tonight,” Jacobs said. “That’s why we did good. Thy started sending the safety late. That just is what it is.”
Hopes of going into halftime down a single score were dashed quickly when the Lions went 79 yards on nine plays in 2:29 for their first touchdown drive. Rookie tight end Sam LaPorta caught an 18-yard touchdown pass over the middle from quarterback Jared Goff.
It was the rare breakdown for a Raiders’ defense that didn’t play great but checked off its two primary objectives — bear down in the red zone and force turnovers.
Las Vegas forced Detroit into five field goal attempts on the night — with kicker Riley Patterson converting on four of them — and notched three takeaways. Veteran cornerback Marcus Peters got the Raiders back within two points early in the third quarter when he took a Goff interception 74 yards down the sideline for a touchdown.
On the next drive, edge rusher Maxx Crosby pried the ball out of running back Craig Reynolds’ hands and recovered a fumble at the 3-yard line. The other turnover came early in the game when linebacker Luke Masterson jarred the ball out of receiver Josh Reynolds’ hands with linebacker Robert Spillane jumping on it.
“The defense gave us opportunities,” McDaniels said. “We won the turnover battle tonight, but we end up not being able to win a game, which is kind of a rarity, but that speaks to the issues we have in the passing game.”
The Lions wore down the Raiders’ defense because they had so many chances, running 81 total plays to nearly double the Raiders’ output. A 27-yard touchdown run by Detroit rookie running back Jahmyr Gibbs — who managed 156 rushing yards on the Raiders to lead the NFL in Week 8 — late in the third quarter put the Lions up two scores and forced the Raiders to try to attack downfield.
They were incapable.
Many had suggested that kind of aggressive approach as a cure to the overall offensive problems this season, but with it failing to help against the Lions, the Raiders are left looking for other solutions.
The players aren’t sure where they’re going to come from.
“That ain’t my job,” Jacobs said.
McDaniels said he would evaluate everything but wouldn’t comment on if he’d consider a quarterback change. Benching Garoppolo for rookie passer Aidan O’Connell might be worth considering with the chance to evaluate him for the future amid what otherwise looks like a lost season.
They might not know how they’re going to do it, but the Raiders still say they’re determined to turn the struggling offense around.
“It’s tough especially because we’ve got such a talented group in there,” Garoppolo said. “We’ve just got to use (the receivers) to our advantage. Get them the ball in space, let them run with it, things like that. Like I said before, it starts with me. We’ve got to be better and we will be.”