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Fast starts turn to slow finishes for Raiders

November 27, 2018

FILE - In this Sunday, Nov. 25, 2018, file photo, Oakland Raiders head coach Jon Gruden speaks at a news conference after an NFL football game against the Baltimore Ravens in Baltimore. The Raiders were unable to build off their second win of the season and are now assured of a losing record in Gruden's first season back as coach. (AP Photo/Nick Wass, File)

ALAMEDA, Calif. (AP) — The Oakland Raiders took the opening kickoff, marched down the field and scored a touchdown. Then the offense stumbled most of the rest of the way in the latest loss in a down season in Oakland.

That’s been a pattern that has repeated itself far too often this year. Starting games fast hasn’t been a major issue for the Raiders, who are fifth-best in the league this season with 34 points on the opening drive of the game.

Things just seem to go downhill after that, with Oakland’s offense sputtering and ranking as the third-worst at scoring with just 1.32 points per drive after that.

That’s what happened in Sunday’s 34-17 loss at Baltimore as the Raiders (2-9) drove 81 yards on the opening possession capped by Doug Martin’s 1-yard run and scored just 10 points the rest of the way. The only other TD came on Oakland’s first drive of the second half.

“It’s a credit to our guys for starting fast each half,” coach Jon Gruden said. “We take a lot of pride in that. We had a couple offensive pass interference penalties that really slowed us down and put us behind in the stakes yesterday. We didn’t have the ball very often in the second half, quite honestly. After the touchdown drive to make 20-17, I think we had a three-and-out. Then when we got the ball back, we were down by 10. We didn’t have many possessions in the second half. I think that would help, quite honestly. I have to do a better job, I’ll just leave it at that.”

The Raiders average nearly 2 yards more per play on the first drive than they do the rest of the game as the script Gruden gives quarterback Derek Carr each week has worked well for the most part.

Carr has the third-highest rating on the first drive of the game at 128.6, trailing only Patrick Mahomes and Drew Brees. But while those two maintain a high level of efficiency throughout, Carr’s numbers take a big drop as he ranks in the bottom third of quarterbacks the rest of the way with an 88.8 rating.

It’s been a trying year for Carr, who has lost No. 1 running back Marshawn Lynch to an injury, No. 1 receiver Amari Cooper to a trade and has played behind an offensive line with two rookies at tackle who have struggled.

Left tackle Kolton Miller had a rough stretch in the middle of the year when he was playing on an injured knee but has fared better the past two weeks. Right tackle Brandon Parker has had his issues of late, allowing sacks to Matt Judon on three straight plays from scrimmage for Oakland at one juncture in the second half.

Carr has been sacked 35 times already this season, the most for a Raiders quarterback through 11 games since 2006 and the third most overall in the league. Carr has been sacked just one fewer time this season than he was in all of 2016 and ’17 combined when he was one of the NFL’s best-protected passers.

“I look forward to someday, where we have a lot of pieces in place and we have some continuity, and everybody is used to playing with one another,” Gruden said. “I just think this guy has a real high ceiling and he has a lot of pride in his performance.”

NOTES: DE Jacquies Smith (Achilles) will undergo surgery and miss the rest of the season. ... DT Justin Ellis is expected to be activated from IR and play this week after hurting his foot in the season opener. ... The Raiders waived WR-CB Johnny Holton from the active roster and CB Arrion Springs from the practice squad. Gruden said the team is planning to sign TE Darren Waller off the Ravens practice squad.

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