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Another poor finish sends Raiders to 0-3 start under Gruden

September 24, 2018
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Oakland Raiders head coach Jon Gruden walks the sideline during the first half of an NFL football game against the Miami Dolphins, Sunday, Sept. 23, 2018, in Miami Gardens, Fla. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

ALAMEDA, Calif. (AP) — The last time an Oakland Raiders coach watched his team lose back-to-back games when leading after three quarters, late owner Al Davis brought out the overhead projector and fired Lane Kiffin.

There will be no repeat with Jon Gruden this week, even if that doesn’t ease the pain of these late-game collapses in Oakland.

The Raiders became the second team in the past 20 seasons to start the year with three straight losses after leading the first three games at halftime with the latest blown lead coming Sunday in Miami when Oakland lost 28-20 to the Dolphins.

“Nobody cares right now. They want results,” Gruden said Monday. “We want to win. I think the players see a lot of things to be confident about, but we know we got to finish football games much better.”

The Raiders (0-3) have spent most of this season playing from ahead, holding the lead for nearly two-thirds of the time and trailing for only 22:28 over the first three games. In fact, there hasn’t been a single second played in the first three quarters of any game this season with Oakland behind on the scoreboard.

But the fourth quarter has been an utter disaster. The Raiders fell behind the Rams in the opener on the final play of the third quarter and then were outscored 13-0 in the fourth thanks in part to two interceptions by Derek Carr.

Oakland then was outscored 10-0 in the fourth quarter in a Week 2 loss at Denver before falling apart late again in Miami on Sunday. Carr threw another costly interception and the Raiders let Miami turn two gimmick plays into long touchdowns that have kept Gruden winless in his second stint as Raiders head coach.

“We’ve got to take a deep breath and look forward to the moment,” Gruden said. “We have to apply pressure, not to say we feel pressure. We’ve got to continue to remain confident and poised and do our jobs individually, so we can do our job collectively. I think at times we have some guys trying to do too much. That’s something we really have to solve quickly. We do have good enough players to finish.”

This marked the first time since Kiffin’s final two games in 2008 that the Raiders lost consecutive games when leading after three quarters. They joined the 2011 Minnesota Vikings as the only teams in the past 20 seasons to start the year 0-3 when leading all three games at halftime.

Oakland has started with the ball each week and all three games have begun with the Raiders scoring and the opposition going three-and-out. That has led to the Raiders outscoring the opponent by 18 points in the first half, tying for seventh best in the league heading into Monday night. But Oakland has been outscored by 47 points in the second half, 22 points behind the next worst team in Arizona.

The problems have been in all three phases. The offense has scored TDs on just four of nine red zone trips, committed five turnovers and fallen flat late in games with just one field goal in the fourth quarter all year.

Oakland has failed to generate any big returns on kicks or punts and had an extra point blocked in Denver that proved to be the difference in a one-point loss.

The defense has allowed three TDs on shovel passes and struggled to generate big plays after trading star edge rusher Khalil Mack. Oakland ranks last in the league with three sacks and tied for last with just one takeaway, contributing to Oakland being the only team that hasn’t started a drive this season in the opponent’s territory.

“It’s a big reason why field position is what it is,” Gruden said. “Really a turnover is getting a three-and-out, too. Getting a three-and-out, getting the ball back immediately can almost be as good as a turnover. We need some of those and we need to get the ball back, whether we intercept it or strip it away.”

NOTES: K Mike Nugent has an injured hip and the Raiders are bringing in kickers for tryouts this week in case he can’t play. ... S Karl Joseph has an injured hamstring and will likely miss at least one game. ... RT Donald Penn has concussion symptoms but Gruden said he thinks he’ll be OK.

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