LAS VEGAS — The Las Vegas Raiders have been dodging punches of late, especially when it comes to the coronavirus. The quarterback they faced last week, the New England Patriots‘ Cam Newton, has since tested positive. A day after returning from New England, 10 Raiders broke COVID-19 protocol by appearing at a public fundraiser and mingling maskless with maskless fans.
But the Raiders could not avoid being picked apart by Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen on Sunday, with Las Vegas falling to 2-2 with a 30-23 loss that did not feel that close at Allegiant Stadium. And keep this in mind, next week, the Raiders, who have already been fined a total of $400,000 for previously breaking virus protocols with coach Jon Gruden’s mask issues and a non-credentialed employee in the locker room, travel to the high-powered Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs, whose practice squad QB just tested positive and who will play Newton’s Patriots on Monday night.
Describe the game in two words: Ugly, uglier. The defense could not get out of its own way — an early neutral-zone infraction on defensive end Maxx Crosby set the tone — or off the field. The Raiders did not force a punt from the 7:50 mark of the first quarter in New England until 5:13 remained in the third quarter against the Bills.
Promising trend: For the fourth straight game — that’s the entire season thus far for those of you keeping track — the Raiders scored a touchdown inside the final two minutes of the first half. That sense of urgency is good, and the efficiency it takes to make it happen is even better. But where are those attributes the rest of the game? Hey, it is something to build on as the Raiders complete the first quarter of the season on a two-game losing streak.
QB breakdown: Derek Carr can only do so much, so any mistake he makes is amplified. Like a seeming lack of pocket awareness/ball security when Quinton Jefferson strip-sacked him a play after Jefferson threw him down to the grass by the back of his neck on a fourth-quarter penalty that was offset by a penalty on running back Josh Jacobs. Carr did throw his 150th and 151st career TD passes, a 3-yard strike to tight end Jason Witten and a 7-yarder to Nelson Agholor. The scores allowed Carr to pass the late Hall of Famer Ken Stabler for the most in franchise history. Carr passed for 311 yards while completing 32 of 44 passes and has yet to be picked off this season on 144 throws.
Pivotal play: With the Raiders holding momentum early in the fourth quarter, trailing by a touchdown and at the Bills’ 36-yard line, tight end Darren Waller took a short pass from Carr for a 4-yard gain but had the ball punched out by Bills cornerback Josh Norman, who picked up the fumble. One play later, Allen hit Stefon Diggs for a 49-yard bomb, and three plays after that the Bills scored a touchdown. Ballgame.
Eye-popping NextGen Stat: The Raiders have four turnovers and zero takeaways in the fourth quarter this season. The minus-four turnover differential in the final quarter is the worst in the NFL. Three of those turnovers are Carr fumbles.