A thorough beating by the Kansas City Chiefs did little to change coach Jack Del Rio’s opinion of his Oakland Raiders team.
“We have a real good team,” he said Monday. “Had a bad day yesterday.”
Boy, did they ever.
For the first time since Del Rio’s first game as coach, the Raiders (4-2) never really had a chance late as they played their first fourth quarter without being within one score at any point since a 33-13 loss to Cincinnati to open the 2015 season.
The defense got gashed by Spencer Ware and Alex Smith in the latest in a run of bad performances, Derek Carr and the offense managed just one field goal after scoring a touchdown on the opening drive, usually reliable kicker Sebastian Janikowski missed a 52-yard field goal and the punt coverage unit allowed Tyreek Hill to have a 50-yard return that set up a Kansas City score.
Add it all up and the Raiders fell 26-10 to the Chiefs and failed in their opportunity to take sole possession of first place in the AFC West.
“When things don’t go the way you want, each man looks and sees what he can do better,” Del Rio said. “We’re going to ask each guy, every play, every coach to do something, do one thing better this week than you did last week.”
Del Rio said he believes it is easier to make corrections following a loss instead of a win, when players might get complacent.
It all starts with a defense that is on pace to allow the most yards per play (6.9) in the NFL since the 1970 merger. It has been an equal opportunity defense that ranks 30th in yards per carry allowed (4.81) and 31st in yards per pass attempt (8.9).
Del Rio said the issues start with communication: getting the play from the sideline to the huddle quickly enough and then passing that information on to the 11 defenders on the field. The Raiders are using three rookie starters on defense — defensive lineman Jihad Ward, linebacker Cory James and safety Karl Joseph — and three other starters in their first year with the team, possibly adding to the issues.
“When that cleans up, it will alleviate a lot of the issues we’re having,” Del Rio said. “That’s why I remain very confident in this football team and our ability to grow as the year goes on. There are young players. That’s not an alibi, that’s just reality. I think as they gain confidence, they’ll continue to grow and our communication will be better and better.”
Despite the myriad problems, the Raiders head into a two-week road trip to Florida tied for first with Denver, a half-game ahead of the Chiefs. The offense has frequently bailed out the struggling defense with Carr leading second-half comebacks to beat New Orleans, Baltimore and San Diego.
Carr just couldn’t deliver on Sunday , committing two turnovers in the loss.
“We can’t dismiss the fact that yesterday didn’t go the way we wanted,” Del Rio said. “But we are after six games sitting here 4-2 tied atop our division.”
NOTES: DL Mario Edwards Jr. (hip) will start running on the side this week and will return to practice for the first time since training camp once he is cleared by doctors. … Del Rio said RB Latavius Murray (toe) is getting healthier and is “anxious to return.”
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