The Oakland Raiders travelled to Cincinnati and predictably got beat by the Bengals. After giving up 34 points, the Raiders have now allowed 169 points in the past four games. There’s nothing new about the Silver and Black getting blown out on the road and giving up more than 30 points, but they are finding new ways to lose big every week.
The recipe for Oakland’s losses has been slightly different each week and has rotated from issue to issue. Once the Raiders think they have corrected one, a different problem emerges. After the game against the Bengals, there are literally no silver linings left for the men with silver hats about their heads.
Oakland’s issues go far beyond talent. That’s what having issues in basically every imaginable area indicates. Sure, it would be nice to be able to pin all of Oakland’s problems on talent, but if that’s the case the Raiders are lacking it at literally every position. That clearly isn't the situation and why the coaching and culture have to be evaluated as possible reasons for Oakland’s poor play.
The Raiders lost their composure for the first time under head coach Dennis Allen. Lamarr Houston slammed quarterback Andy Dalton to the ground after a false start and Andrew Whitworth took exception which sparked a prolonged scuffle. Whitworth, Houston and Tommy Kelly were ejected and punches were thrown by several players on both teams.
The ejections came a play after the Raiders were robbed of a fumble recovery that was returned for a touchdown by an inadvertent whistle. The score would have cut the Bengals’ lead to 10 points. Cincinnati would instead go on to put the game away with a touchdown pass to tight end Jermaine Gresham.
Despite a badly blown call and the boiling over of emotions that followed, it was a defense that allowed 24 points in the first half and cost the Raiders the game. The Raiders allowed plays of 48, 44, 27, 20 and 31 yards which set up three Bengals touchdowns.
The offense didn’t help. An interception off the hands of Marcel Reece allowed the Bengals to add a field goal before the end of the half.
The Raiders couldn’t protect Carson Palmer and the result was a passing game that never got going. The pass protection has been one of the few areas of relative strength for the Raiders, and now they have yet another problem to correct in the coming weeks. Palmer was sacked four times and pressured and hit countless more.
The rushing offense has been an issue since the beginning of the season and hasn’t improved enough to carry the team when opponents dial up the rush or otherwise thwart Palmer. A big part of the problem has been the inability to use the running game properly when the team gets down so quickly. Reece had moderate success, but only carried the ball 15 times.
The pass defense has also been patchy as of late, giving up three touchdowns through the air on Sunday despite allowing fewer completions and yards than their season average. Instead of yards, the Raiders simply gave up big plays and scores. You could make a case that big plays instead of dink and dunk is actually a regression from the secondary.
With all their problems defending the pass, you would think the Raiders may have finally figured out how to stop teams from grinding it out on the ground. The Bengals didn't seem to think so. BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Cedric Peerman combined for 190 yard rushing on the day. Representative of the performance was a 48-yard run by Green-Ellis on a 3rd-and-1 play straight up the middle that set-up the Bengals first touchdown, and a 31-yard run by Peerman on 2nd-and-8 play where he bounced off five Oakland defenders.
There’s not a single player or coach that can be absolved of responsibility for Oakland’s problems. The Raiders have won and lost games in every possible way. Few envisioned it would be this bad for a team that is trying to get back on track after Al Davis and Hue Jackson mismanaged the salary cap and wasted or traded away valuable draft picks.
The previous regime caused some of Oakland’s problems, but the new regime clearly has plenty of their own. Head coach Dennis Allen has been unable to solve Oakland’s issues on offense, defense or special teams, and opponents keep exposing new issues each week. There’s certainly a lack of talent on general manager Reggie McKenzie’s patch-work roster, but that’s not the only problem in Oakland.
McKenzie will have plenty of hard decisions to make in the offseason about the personnel and Allen might have even tougher decisions to make about the coaching staff. Shaking things up was expected when Davis was running the team. Davis rarely admitted the talent he brought in was the issue and instead blamed any losing on the head coach. Allen isn’t going anywhere, but he’ll have to decide the fate of his assistants that have done little to keep their jobs.
The offense has been a disaster if not for stats put on the board when trailing by two or more scores. Talent is certainly an issue, but at some point the lack of progress and even regression in many areas has to fall on the coaching staff. Offensive coordinator Greg Knapp’s offense was supposed to carry the team, but has instead been a liability of its own.
Allen’s specialty is defense and that side of the ball has remained the biggest issue. Defensive coordinator Jason Tarver was not expected to work miracles, but the defense certainly shouldn’t be worse than 2011. The special teams have also been a problem as touchdowns and long returns have become commonplace.
There’s not an area that will go unevaluated in the offseason, and with each embarrassing loss the decisions get harder for McKenzie and Allen. The players and coaches are down to just five games to prove they have some pride. Just five games to convince the fanbase they should believe in the direction of the new regime and just five games to make sure the new regime doesn’t use them as a scapegoat for a lost season.