For the second week in a row, the Raiders came face-to-face with a humbling reality in a 30-23 loss to the Buffalo Bills at Allegiant Stadium.
For all the roster upheaval over the last three years and the multiple first-round picks and free-agent acquisitions, they still simply aren’t good enough to overcome a slew of unforced errors.
The New England Patriots were the wakeup call to that sobering truth last week, and the Bills were an empathic reminder of it again on Sunday.
Josh Allen and company took advantage of two Raiders turnovers, seven penalties and a porous defense that has offered only minimal resistance through the team’s 2-2 start.
After turning it over just once while winning their first two games, the Raiders have five turnovers and 13 penalties over the last two weeks.
In spite of Derek Carr throwing for 311 yards and two touchdowns and the Raiders outgaining the Bills 383-336, they could not overcome critical miscues.
A spotty defensive effort let Stephon Diggs get loose for six catches for 115 yards, allowed the Bills to covert on 7 of 13 third downs and failed to come up with a turnover for the third time in four games.
“When you play against good teams, your margin is really tight,” said Raiders tight end Jason Witten. “And the last couple of weeks, that’s been the case. It sounds like a cliche, but we can’t turn the ball over. We can’t have penalties. We can’t … start slow like that and beat teams like Buffalo.”
The Raiders fell behind 14-3 and 17-6, settling twice for Daniel Carlson field goals of 54 and 39 yards, before cutting the margin to 17-16 early in the third quarter on a 25-yard Carlson field goal.
A final margin that left the Raiders within one score of the undefeated Bills was one indication that they aren’t far off. But closing the gap between mediocre and good will prove elusive if the Raiders keep shooting themselves in the foot and can’t figure out a way to play better defense.
“What’s killing us is ourselves,” said Carr. “And that’s the frustrating part. The things that are hurting us in these close games, it’s not them, it’s us. That’s the hard part to swallow.”
Carr said the Raiders know they are close to being a good team if they can just get out of their own way.
“It’s like one thing here and there, and it’s like, ‘dang’” said Carr. “Enough is enough, man. We gotta correct this right now.”
That is true throughout a game, but even more so during key passages that typically tilt outcomes one way or the other.
Once again, the Raiders were within striking distance deep into the second half, only to see their own errors allow leverage to slip from their grasp.
Trailing 17-16 in the third quarter, Carr just missed Zay Jones on a deep throw that would have set up the Raiders in Bills territory.
Carr was sacked on the next play, and on AJ Cole’s ensuing punt, Andre Roberts rumbled 38 yards to the Raiders’ 45-yard-line. Six plays later, the Bills went up 23-16 on Josh Allen’s quarterback sneak to begin the fourth quarter.
Still very much in the game, the Raiders drove to the Buffalo 36 and appeared headed for points, only for tight end Darren Waller to lose a fumble while fighting for extra yards after pulling in a pass from Carr.
Allen threw 49 yards to Stephon Diggs to the Raiders 11-yard-line on the next play. That set up Devin Singletary’s 2-yard touchdown run to put the Bills up 30-16.
Still fighting after driving to the Buffalo 33-yard line, Carr was stripped of the ball while getting sacked to sabotage another potential scoring drive.
That proved to be a costly turnover. Carr would later hit Nelson Agholor for a 7-yard touchdown, but rather than tying the game, it merely pulled the Raiders to within a touchdown.
The Bills ran out the clock after coming up with the ensuing onside kick, and the Raiders were left to ponder how to get back on track.
“There’s a lot of things we need to get fixed and corrected,” Witten said.