FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — The kickoff is scheduled for 1:25 p.m at Allegiant Stadium and the opponent shouldn’t matter. Not after the stinker of a game the Raiders offered here Sunday in losing to the Patriots 36-20.
But just for kicks, the visiting team Oct. 4 will be the unbeaten Buffalo Bills.
You only get 16 of these things each season. All are precious. Las Vegas head coach Jon Gruden views the season as four quarters, with each containing four games. Turning points exist within all of them.
Six days from now, the Raiders own an obvious one: How will the 2020 team respond to a large chunk of adversity created in the house that Belichick and Brady built?
Whatever happens against the Bills could go a long way in determining how Gruden’s third season since returning to the sidelines plays out. Yes, the Raiders are still just in that first quarter with a 2-1 record.
It’s early. Way early. It’s also critical not to allow one bad effort to be followed by another. Not in this league. Sixteen goes by fast.
Run over, through
If it’s true things have to sometimes go wrong for them to go right, well, look no further than the mess that played out at an empty Gillette Stadium. Lots of wrong for the Raiders. There’s no chance the Patriots are 16 points better than Las Vegas. Not this Patriots team, especially not when you do all the things you can’t.
You can’t turn the ball over and the Raiders did so three times. You can’t lose the battle up front and the Raiders allowed 250 rushing yards. They were trampled over, around and through by Sony Michel and Rex Burkhead. Think of them as a few late-round Fantasy League draft picks. If that.
All of which makes this even more disappointing from a Raiders side of things: Michel ran nine times for 117 yards. That’s an average of 13 per carry. His best effort in any single game over three years before Sunday was fewer than seven yards per carry. He went for one-three.
“What did you expect, for New England to roll over after what happened to them last week?” Raiders quarterback Derek Carr said of the Patriots’ last-play loss at Seattle. “They’re going to come in guns blazing. (Gruden) said all week that they were going to play their best game, and we better bring ours. And we didn’t play our best game.”
It’s twofold, really. The Raiders didn’t execute well enough at all. But if responding from such poor play is one type of adversity they will face next against the Bills, overcoming an emergency room’s worth of injuries is another.
I get it. It’s the NFL. Guys get hurt. Look at the substantial injury report across the league already this season.
But it’s not yet Week 4 and Las Vegas has suffered major-to-minor issues and everything in between to three wide receivers, two right tackles, a left guard, a middle linebacker, a cornerback and a safety. Of which all but one were projected starters to begin the year or current ones.
“It’s hard, no doubt,” Gruden said. “You start to wonder what the hell is going on, but this is the National Football League. It’s for mentally tough men. We’re all professionals. We’re all getting paid. If we need some young guys to step up, so be it.”
Move past stinker
Not many bodies did Sunday, no matter their years of experience. The game just got away from the Raiders after halftime, as much for their own incompetence as anything else. You start needing to convert on several third downs against the Patriots and it’s going to be a long day.
So here comes Buffalo, all bright and shiny with a 3-0 record after taking out the Rams 35-32 after blowing all of a 28-3 lead. It’s the final game of, as Gruden says, that first of four quarters.
How will the Raiders respond, and how might it affect what is to come?
“That’s the thing you have to love about the NFL,” said Raiders wide receiver Hunter Renfrow, one of few Las Vegas positives Sunday when totaling nine catches for 84 yards and a score. “You lose one game in college and probably don’t win a national championship. In the NFL, you can lose five or six games and still go to the Super Bowl. We get another shot against a really good team in the Bills at our place. On to the next one.”
It’s the right attitude when moving past a stinker.
Ed Graney is a Sigma Delta Chi Award winner for sports column writing and can be reached at email@example.com or 702-383-4618. He can be heard on “The Press Box,” ESPN Radio 100.9 FM and 1100 AM, from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. Monday through Friday. Follow @edgraney on Twi