A couple of strong offensive performances to start the season for Las Vegas overshadowed some of the same defensive mistakes that have doomed the Raiders in recent years.
After signing free agent defensive tackle Maliek Collins and speedy linebacker Cory Littleton, as well as drafting cornerback Damon Arnette in the first round, the Raiders (2-1) were hoping for some significant defensive improvement from a unit that allowed the most points per drive and second most yards per play in the NFL the past two seasons.
The Raiders rank near the bottom of the league again in those categories, while also being tied for the second fewest sacks and third fewest takeaways through three games.
“I’m not going to write the summary on these players,” coach Jon Gruden said Monday. “We can all play better than we did yesterday. We had no preseason. We had very little time to organize our team on defense. We got a lot of new faces. ... We are a work in progress and we have some corrections that need to be made across the board, offense and defense.”
The defense started strong against the Patriots, allowing just two field goals in the first five drives. But then New England scored 23 points on its next four drives to take the game over.
The Raiders' offense struggled and couldn't overcome that. Las Vegas scored only 13 points until a late garbage-time touchdown and committed three turnovers, including a fumble by quarterback Derek Carr that was recovered for a New England touchdown.
Two-minute offense. For the third straight week, Carr led the Raiders on a late drive in the first half for a touchdown. The latest was the most impressive as the Raiders went 75 yards in four plays after taking over with 34 seconds left. The drive was capped by a 1-yard TD pass to Foster Moreau. The Raiders have 24 points in all in the final two minutes of the first half.
WHAT NEEDS HELP
Run defense. While the Raiders held Cam Newton in check, they got gashed on the ground by Sony Michel and the Patriots running backs. Michel ran for 117 yards on nine carries and Rex Burkhead added 49 yards on six carries with two TDs. The 250 yards rushing allowed were the most for the Raiders in five years. The Raiders have allowed 163.7 yards rushing per game, 28th in the league. They were eighth best last season at 98.1 yards per game.
Hunter Renfrow. With Henry Ruggs III injured and Darren Waller mostly erased by New England’s defense, Renfrow was the focal point of the passing offense. He had six catches for 84 yards and a touchdown.
Johnathan Abram. While Abram got a gift interception early against Newton, he struggled to make tackles. He often overpursued or was out of position, leading to some of the long runs for the Patriots.
“There’s a time and a place for going for the big hit. There’s another time and place for just come to balance and trying to make an open field grass tackle,” Gruden said. “That’s something that we need to work on.”
Gruden said he’s hopeful of getting back RT Trent Brown (calf) and LB Nick Kwiatkoski (pectoral) this week after they missed the past two games. Ruggs (knee, hamstring) and Bryan Edwards (ankle) are still being evaluated and their status this week remains unknown. ... Backup QB Marcus Mariota could return to practice this week after spending three weeks on IR.
15. The Raiders lost by at least 15 points for the 13th time since Gruden returned as coach in 2018. That’s the most lopsided losses in the league during span and equal to the total of games won by the Raiders in Gruden’s second stint.
The Raiders return home to face the undefeated Buffalo Bills.
More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL