Updated October 30, 2023 - 10:21 pm
DETROIT — The return of Jimmy Garoppolo was supposed to provide a shot in the arm for the Raiders on Monday night against the Lions.
Instead, it was more of the same — and in some ways worse — for Garoppolo and the struggling offense in a 26-14 loss to the Lions that pushed them to 3-5 and put their season on the brink.
Garoppolo, who missed the Week 7 loss to the Bears with a back injury, hasn’t been good all season. But on Monday, he was downright awful while completing 10 of 21 passes for 126 yards and an interception. He was also sacked six times, three on one series in the fourth quarter,
Garoppolo connected on just four throws to wide receivers and missed on three passes to Davante Adams that would have led to big chunk plays or touchdowns. Despite missing 10 quarters this season, including two complete games, he leads the NFL with nine interceptions.
“You can’t win if you give the ball away,” coach Josh McDaniels said.
Garoppolo, who signed a three-year, $72.75 million contract in the offseason, wasn’t about to object.
“You have good days and bad days. Today was a bad day,” he said. “No sugar coating it. It is what it is. Just got to play better. Myself, I have to play better.”
That he hasn’t done so all season has resulted in an offense that perpetually remains in first gear, and it’s getting to the point where McDaniels might have no choice but to consider looking at major changes.
“We should,” McDaniels said dejectedly. “It’s not productive enough.”
When asked if that could mean benching Garoppolo, McDaniels offered a tepid answer.
“I’m not going to talk about that right now,” he said.
Three throws told the story of Garoppolo’s night, and each was a reflection of what continues to plague the offense. All three were intended for an open Adams, but each fell short, far or wide from the star wide receiver.
The first was a half throw, half lob in the first half that wound up an easy end zone interception for the Lions’ Kerby Joseph.
On the second one, with the Raiders trailing by two scores late in the fourth quarter, Garoppolo badly overthrew Adams as he streaked unguarded up the sideline for what could have been a 98-yard touchdown.
On the third one, a few plays later, Garoppolo missed a wide-open Adams on what would have been a 60-yard touchdown.
When simply competent throws were required, Garoppolo fell completely short.
Maybe it’s the culmination of the barrage of injuries he’s suffered during his career. Perhaps it’s the discomfort of transitioning back to the offense he grew up in under McDaniels with the Patriots. Whatever the case, Garoppolo has not delivered what the Raiders expected and is holding the entire operation back.
When asked how he felt physically, Garoppolo said: “Good. A little pissed off from the game, but physically, I feel fine.”
He isn’t blaming an entire offseason lost while he recovered from foot surgery rather than working with his new teammates. The first time Garoppolo threw a pass to his new teammates was in training camp.
“I’ll never make an excuse like that,” he said. “It is what it is. We’re in the season now. People don’t care if you have excuses or not. You gotta go out there and play.”
Garoppolo’s ineffective play was felt on the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. It was particularly troublesome on a night when the defense hung in all game by turning away the Lions on four of five trips to the red zone and forcing three turnovers, one of which was turned into a 75-yard interception return for a touchdown by Marcus Peters to pull the Raiders within 16-14 midway through the third quarter.
But a breaking point was inevitable, as Garoppolo’s struggles contributed to a lopsided offensive snap disparity. After three quarters, the Lions had run 60 plays to the Raiders’ 34. The score was 23-14, and the Raiders’ defense was gassed. By the end of the game, the Raiders had run 45 plays to the Lions’ 81.
What became a worn-out defense surrendered 272 yards and one touchdown to Lions quarterback Jared Goff, 152 yards rushing and a touchdown to rookie Jahmyr Gibbs and 108 yards receiving to Amon-Ra St. Brown.
Aside from a 10-play, 75-yard drive the Raiders mustered late in the second quarter to pull within 9-7, it was an anemic offensive night.
The problem rested squarely on the shoulders of Garoppolo.
“It’s tough, especially since we’ve got such a talented group in there,” he said.