Third-down woes continue to haunt Raiders in critical losses

·4 min read

LAS VEGAS (AP) — A stagnant offense that continues to struggle on third downs and failed to score its first touchdown until four minutes into the fourth quarter led to the Las Vegas Raiders losing for the fourth time in five games on Sunday.

Las Vegas was 2 for 8 on third-down conversions and scored just one touchdown in its 17-15 loss to Washington.

“Just a difficult story for us in the red zone, obviously coming out of there with field goals,” interim coach Rich Bisaccia said. “We missed some throws down there today. We had a chance for some. We’ve got to find a way to score more than 15 points, obviously.”

The Raiders, however, were 1 for 2 in the red zone. And the three field goals from Daniel Carlson, last week’s AFC Special Teams Player of the Week, kept Las Vegas within striking distance with boots from 52, 38, and 37 yards.

Washington’s Taylor Heinicke threw touchdown passes to Logan Thomas, on the opening drive, and Antonio Gibson early in the fourth quarter. Washington (6-6) allowed the Raiders (6-6) to score on successive drives to take a 15-14 lead on Carlson’s 37-yard field goal that was set up by Nate Hobbs’ interception of Heinicke.

But Heinicke responded and drove Washington downfield to set up the kick by Brian Johnson, the team’s fourth placekicker who was signed earlier this week after Joey Slye went down with an injury. Las Vegas safety Tre’von Moehrig dropped a potential sealing interception on Washington’s final drive.

Once again, it was Las Vegas struggling to convert on third downs. Making matters worse was it came against a Washington defense that entered the game ranked last in the league in allowing opponents to convert 51.4% of the time.

During the Raiders’ 1-4 slide, they rank dead last in converting 11 of 49 (22.4%) on third downs.

Suddenly, the Raiders’ familiar trend of late-season collapses is haunting the team that opened the schedule 3-0 and 5-2.

In 2019, the Raiders were 6-4 before closing the season on a 1-5 slide while scoring an average of 14.6 points after averaging 22.5 in their first 10.

Last season, the team's first after relocating to Las Vegas, the Raiders were 6-3 and looking like they could snap a three-year playoff drought, then lost five of their last seven.

Derek Carr came into Week 13 leading the league with 3,414 yards passing, and the team is 6-0 when he eclipses 300 yards through the air. Carr, who clearly missed injured tight end Darren Waller, finished 28 of 38 for 249 yards, was sacked twice and spent plenty of time under pressure from an improved defense that held a team to less than 20 points for the fourth time in five games.

“I thought we really mixed our coverages up, we tried to disguise them an awful lot,” Washington coach Ron Rivera said. “Credit to them, too, because they were taking advantage of some of the things that we were doing and they were moving the ball systematically down the field. Fortunate for us we were able to make a stop and force a punt around midfield or have them kick field goals, And that’s one of the things that help you.”

And while Bisaccia suggested it’s time “to come up with some plays somehow, find a way to make a play with people on us, and find a way to make a throw even when we’re under duress,” Carr abruptly shut down the notion. When asked if he was content with offensive coordinator Greg Olson’s play calling or if he thought changes in the scheme should be made, a visibly frustrated Carr responded: “To answer your real question, I love Oly and he’s doing a great job.”

Nevertheless, Las Vegas was averaging 25.7 points per game through Week 8, and in its four losses since is scoring an average of 14.5 points per contest.

“We have to convert third down and we have to get better at scoring touchdowns and not field goals,” said receiver Hunter Renfrow, who caught a career-high nine receptions for 102 yards. “Until we get that fixed, we’re gonna keep losing games.”

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W.g. Ramirez, The Associated Press

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