The Raiders dropped to 1-2 after falling 23-18 to the Pittsburgh Steelers in Allegiant Stadium on Sunday night. The gut-wrenching loss will provide the team with plenty of lessons that could lead to better play down the road, but the silver lining will not help the team deal with the blown opportunities that cost them a winnable game.
Given some time to review the game tape and examine the box score, here are some thoughts and observations from a former NFL scout.
Protect the ball
Considering turnovers are the No. 1 deciding factor in football games, Jimmy Garoppolo's interception woes aren't helping the Raiders. The veteran has thrown six picks in 2023, including three against the Steelers that tilted the game in the opponent's favor. The errors from a quarterback have limited the team's chances in back-to-back games.
In studying Garoppolo's performance against the Steelers, he has been too careless with the football in critical moments. He made some questionable decisions under duress, and in a collapsing pocket, that has led to a surge in giveaways from the Raiders. Although the season is just three weeks old, and there are a lot of games left to play, ball security issues may lead to more losses if the Raiders don't change their turnover-prone ways.
Davante Adams and Jakobi Meyers are a dynamic "two-man" show
An offense can explode into an aerial circus whenever a team pairs an All-Pro pass catcher with a savvy route runner. Despite the Raiders' 1-2 mark, the new-look offense is rounding into form as an explosive outfit with big-play potential.
Against the Steelers, Adams and Meyers combined for 20 receptions, 257 receiving yards and two scores on 32 total targets. The dynamic duo repeatedly found work against man-to-man and zone coverage to create and produce easy completions for Garoppolo. As nifty route runners with various stems and releases, Adams and Meyers can twist defenders into knots with stutter steps and head fakes at the top of their routes.
With the Raiders' passing game featuring an assortment of intermediate routes that break in or out at 12-to-14 yards, the duo's dazzling footwork and ballerina-like maneuvers make them a problematic tandem to defend without utilizing brackets and double coverage to limit their touches. As the Steelers found out and others will soon discover, Adams and Meyers are a nightmare to defend in an offense that allows them the freedom to freelance within a route.
Decisions, decisions, decisions
There has been a lot of chatter since the end of the game regarding Josh McDaniels' decision to kick a field goal with 4th-and-4 at the eight-yard line with 2:25 on the clock instead of taking a chance on fourth down. Facing an eight-point deficit, the Raiders needed a touchdown and two-point conversion to tie the game; the decision to kick (and make) the field goal gave the team a chance to win the game in regulation with a defensive stop and successful offensive drive.
"You have two choices there," McDaniels said. "You try to make it a five-point game [with the field goal], where you have an opportunity to win it with the touchdown if you get the ball back. Or you try to go for it there. And then if you happen to convert then you've got to make the two-point conversion."
While the game did not play out the way the head coach envisioned, the best coaches attempt to extend the game as long as possible by stacking points and forcing opponents to make key plays under pressure. With a five-point lead, the Steelers could not sit on the ball with three straight runs due to the Raiders' three timeouts and the two-minute warning. If the defense could force a three-and-out, the offense would have received the ball with around 90 seconds on the clock to muster a game-winning drive.
Ultimately, the plan did not work out for McDaniels and the Raiders, but the process was thorough and detailed, with the pros and cons clearly debated and discussed before put into action. Considering how most coaches value process over results, it is hard to knock McDaniels for making a move that could have put the Raiders in the winner's circle with proper execution.
View director of photography Michael Clemens' top picks of black and white photos from the Raiders' Week 3 matchup against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Allegiant Stadium.