Three takeaways from the Raiders’ 23-18 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday at Allegiant Stadium:
1. One that got away
The Raiders tried to make things interesting late, but mistakes at key moments put them in too deep a hole and led to a disappointing result in what looked like a winnable game on the schedule.
Sunday marked the only time in the first month of the season in which the Raiders were favored to win. They couldn’t take advantage of the opportunity.
They did give it a valiant effort down the stretch. After falling behind 23-7, the Raiders scored the final 11 points and had the ball with a chance at a desperation drive for the win.
It just wasn’t meant to be in a home opener played in front of a largely partisan Steelers crowd.
Raiders coach Josh McDaniels elected to kick a field goal on a fourth-and-4 play with 2:25 left to cut the deficit to five points instead of trying for a potentially game-tying touchdown.
By the time his team got the ball back, there were 12 seconds remaining and Jimmy Garoppolo’s pass was intercepted.
The Raiders (1-2) are four-point underdogs next Sunday when they travel to Los Angeles to face the Chargers.
2. Too many mistakes
Garoppolo threw three interceptions and leads the NFL with six in three games.
That simply isn’t a winning formula for any team, but it’s especially crippling for an offense struggling to move the ball consistently even without the turnovers.
The first interception came in a tie game early in the second quarter when Garoppolo threw behind rookie tight end Michael Mayer and into the arms of trailing cornerback Levi Wallace.
It set up a Steelers field goal that gave them the lead for good.
Garoppolo’s second interception might have been worse. He had all kinds of time in the pocket until pressure finally started to get close. He faded away from the defender and put the ball up for grabs. It’s unclear if he was trying to throw it away and didn’t get enough on it or was hoping someone could make a play, but Patrick Peterson came up with it for Pittsburgh.
The Steelers scored six plays later to increase their lead to 23-7 late in the third quarter.
Those interceptions were more costly than just the 10 points scored off them by the Steelers. Both also happened on second-down plays near midfield, ending drives that could have resulted in points for the Raiders.
That has to get corrected fast.
Garoppolo’s third interception came on a desperation play on the final meaningful snap. It was more excusable than the others, but prevented any hope of a miracle finish.
3. Run game still grounded
This was supposed to be the week the Raiders finally rediscovered a ground game that had been downright awful the first two weeks.
It didn’t happen
Pittsburgh was allowing a league-worst 193 rushing yards per game. But the Steelers limited the Raiders to 69 yards, including 62 on 17 carries for Josh Jacobs.
That continues a trend for the Raiders.
Last week, Jacobs became the first defending rushing champion to finish a game with negative yards on the ground.
The Raiders were averaging just 58 yards on the ground and eclipsed that only because of a couple of nice runs by Jacobs against light boxes with the Raiders in catch-up mode in the fourth quarter.