ALAMEDA, Calif. — Brandon Parker was in a difficult spot Sunday.
A raucous crowd forced the Raiders’ offense into the silent count at M&T Bank Stadium. An obvious passing situation arose, down 27-17 on fourth-and-8 late in the fourth quarter. Baltimore Ravens outside linebacker Matt Judon jumped the snap, bursting off the line of scrimmage.
Parker was tasked with slowing him down. He didn’t.
What happened next produced an important lesson.
“Don’t let one bad play mudslide to the next,” Parker said. “I got a little down in the dumps on that strip sack. I just didn’t get out of that funk to get ready for the next play. It showed.”
A fourth-down sack led to a first-down sack, which led to a second-down sack Sunday during a 34-17 loss. Parker was unable to recover against Judon, who first sacked quarterback Derek Carr and forced a fumble that the Ravens returned for a 43-yard touchdown. Judon then sacked Carr on the ensuing two snaps.
The initial rush bent the edge. On the others, Parker was beat on an inside move.
Parker knows he abandoned his technique along the way.
“Ticked off, upset,” he said Sunday of his mental state following the score. “Once I was in that … stage, I just couldn’t get out of it. That’s the first strip sack I’ve ever had. Knowing that I was the cause of it, it was just a lot. I let it go into the next play.”
The Raiders understand the position in which they’ve placed the 23-year-old.
He was selected this April during the third round out of North Carolina A&T, a school that plays in Division I’s Football Championship Subdivision. His last game in Baltimore occurred about 14 months earlier at Hughes Stadium, located about 5 miles from M&T Bank Stadium.
That game, against a Morgan State team that finished 1-10, drew an attendance of 7,437 fans.
Sunday’s matchup had a paid attendance of 70,035.
Between the jump in competition, stage and having missed much of training camp to an ankle injury, the Raiders understand growing pains inevitably will arise. But they are encouraged overall with his strides. With time and experience, he will learn to control in-game emotion and stay true to his developing technique.
Parker was briefly benched on Nov. 1 against the San Francisco 49ers. He was too amped for the game’s start, allowing one sack and being flagged for two penalties on the first two possessions.
“It’s easy for us to say in an air-conditioned theater like we’re in right now,” coach Jon Gruden said Monday in the media center at Raiders headquarters. “But when you’re out there and bullets are flying and you have all kind of blitzes and stunts and the crowd noise and the audibles and things are happening fast and you’re blocking great players and you’re a rookie out of North Carolina A&T, it’s a different ballgame.
“I don’t want to lose sight of all the very good things this young man has done, some of the difficult situations that we put him in early in his career. … He has to be like a defensive back. You’re going to get beat once in a while. You have to have thick skin. You’re going to be a wide receiver? You’re going to get gloved. You’re going to drop a pass here or there. You have to come back. He’s been able to do that on a weekly basis. He’s going to have to do it this week because (Kansas City Chiefs edge rushers) Justin Houston and Dee Ford are coming into town.”
Three plays aside, Parker had plenty of encouraging moments Sunday.
With each exception, he received encouragement from teammates.
They appreciate Parker has learned on the fly since right tackle Donald Penn suffered a Week 4 groin injury, which landed him on injured reserve.
“Even after the first strip-sack, (left guard Kelechi Osemele), they all were just like, ‘Keep your head up. Keep playing,’ ” Parker said. “Even after the second one: ‘Keep your head up. Keep playing.’ Even after the third one: ‘Keep your head up. Keep playing.’ I feel like a lot of people in this room have faith in me. I’ve just got to get better and improve.”