Winners and Losers of Oakland Raiders' Week 4 Performance

Maurice Moton@@MoeMotonFeatured ColumnistOctober 2, 2017

Winners and Losers of Oakland Raiders' Week 4 Performance

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    Oakland Raiders quarterback EJ Manuel tried his best Derek Carr late-comeback attempt but fell short on the final drive, which ended in an interception.

    The Raiders suffered a 16-10 defeat to the Denver Broncos on Sunday to make it back-to-back road losses in which the offense didn't live up to its billing. Wide receiver Michael Crabtree didn't suit up for the contest because of a chest injury, but most would expect the unit to score more than 10 points with Carr in the game for approximately three quarters.

    In the third quarter, with the lead still within reach, Manuel replaced Carr, who had a back injury, and completed eight consecutive passes. However, late in the fourth quarter, costly drops hurt the Raiders' chance at a comeback.

    Oakland should win any game in which the defense holds the opponent to 16 points. The Broncos' quick start gave them enough of a cushion to hold on to a late lead.

    The Raiders will travel back home for a Week 5 matchup with the Baltimore Ravens. Before looking ahead, we'll break down the best and worst performances on Sunday.

Winner: EDGE Khalil Mack

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    By far, the best performance goes to edge-rusher Khalil Mack, who attempted to put the team on his back without Crabtree or Carr late in the game. The reigning defensive player of the year added two sacks to his 2017 resume.

    Mack almost registered a strip-sack, but Broncos quarterback Trevor Siemian's knee went down before the ball popped out.

    Nonetheless, Mack's two sacks, three tackles that resulted in a loss and constant pressure spearheaded a tough defense. The Broncos only scored one touchdown, which occurred on their second drive. The 26-year-old edge-rusher split double teams, and he forced the opponent into penalties throughout the contest.

    Typically, he's more than a handful to block, and Sunday didn't deviate from the norm. It's encouraging to see Mack's teammates take advantage of their one-on-one opportunities to create pressure across the defensive line.

Loser: TE Jared Cook

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    Tight end Jared Cook logged a decent performance on paper, but he dropped two passes in the end zone that would have cut the lead to two points in the final quarter.

    In the right corner of the end zone, Cook dropped a difficult pass that hit his hands, but the second gaffe should have been a walk-in touchdown between two Broncos defenders.

    Until the late missed opportunities, Cook caught three passes for 46 yards. Similar to the previous outing against the Washington Redskins, he flashed reliable hands. General manager Reggie McKenzie signed him to complete touchdown drives, but he came up short against the Broncos.

    Without Crabtree, the Raiders didn't have a go-to guy near paydirt, and the loss hurt the team on the final drive. Cook's size (6'5", 254 lbs) allows him to serve as the secondary option when throwing for a touchdown, but he needs to come up bigger in the clutch.

Winner: QB EJ Manuel

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    In Manuel's short time on the field, he completed 11 passes—one more than Carr. The fifth-year veteran needed to push the ball downfield with his team behind two possessions. Nonetheless, he immediately established a throwing rhythm after calling an ill-advised timeout.

    The Denver defense didn't rattle the former first-round pick. It's exactly what you would like to see from a veteran backup quarterback when the franchise guy goes down with an injury. Manuel found wideout Seth Roberts with multiple pinpoint passes.

    Even though the comeback came up short, the Raiders have some comfort in Manuel in case the starter misses a game. After the game, head coach Jack Del Rio told the media Carr experienced back spasms. As part of protocol, the team will conduct further tests to accurately diagnose the injury.

    Carr will push to play against the Ravens, but Manuel isn't a poor backup option with a full week of practice.

Loser: WR Amari Cooper

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    The spotlight at Sports Authority Field at Mile High flashed directly on Amari Cooper, and he shrank with the load on his shoulders. Crabtree sat out, which gave the Raiders a look at the offense with their third-year wideout as the go-to receiver on the field.

    Cooper finished with two catches for nine yards and a drop. After a poor performance against the Redskins, fans hoped to see the dynamic receiver bounce back, but he fell flat.

    The Broncos have limited Cooper over the past two seasons. He's never reached the 60-yard mark against Denver's secondary. However, Sunday stings because he dropped his seventh pass after working on the issue during practice, as Bryan Salmond and Michael Gehlken of the Las Vegas Review-Journal discussed.

    Cooper can't carry a passing offense alone, which underscores Crabtree's value. You have to hope the 23-year-old doesn't lose his confidence going forward.

Winner: DL Mario Edwards Jr.

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    Defensive lineman Mario Edwards Jr. started the game in hot pursuit of Siemian. He dropped the Broncos signal-caller behind the line scrimmage once and logged three solo tackles.

    On Sunday, Edwards and Mack became a two-man wrecking machine on the defensive line. The former jumped off to a strong start, and the latter cranked up the pressure in the second half. 

    Edwards looks spry when chasing quarterbacks and ball-carriers like he did during his rookie season. He's already registered three sacks, which surpasses his total from the 2015 campaign. Furthermore, it's not a coincidence the run defense doesn't give up as many yards with him in the lineup.

    The defensive line kept Siemian on the move, which prevented him from locking on a matchup or target in the secondary. Edwards' ability to shed blocks made him a viable force up front.

Loser: CB David Amerson

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    Just to clarify, cornerback David Amerson falls into this category because of the unfortunate circumstances with his health, not necessarily for a terrible performance. Though he gave up a few completions on Sunday.

    Amerson didn't finish the first quarter because of a concussion, per Del Rio in his postgame interview. It's the fifth-year cornerback's second such case this season. He went down with the same injury in the exhibition game against the Dallas Cowboys in August. 

    Beyond football, it's a scary situation for a player with a history of concussions. The Raiders should handle Amerson's situation with caution. Furthermore, he hasn't played well over the past few games.

    With Amerson back in the concussion protocol and rookie cornerback Gareon Conley still battling a shin injury, the secondary could falter if Sean Smith doesn't pick up his play on the perimeter.

Winner: WR Johnny Holton

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    Carr launched a 64-yard pass downfield to Johnny Holton for a touchdown before halftime. The second-year wideout beat the coverage on a corner route and ran under a well-placed deep ball.

    Dating back to his days in Cincinnati, Holton flashed as a deep threat who can take the lid off a defense with speed and good hands. In his sophomore year in the league, he's known more his special teams work, which allowed him to solidify a spot on the roster.

    Nonetheless, it's good to see the coaching staff put Holton on the field and utilize his strengths as a wide receiver. The play call caught the Broncos defense off guard. The 26-year-old wideout didn't catch another pass, but his touchdown gave the offense a spark when the unit struggled to move the ball.

    The Raiders should make a concerted effort to keep Holton involved in the offense as opposed to short cameo appearances.

Loser: OC Todd Downing

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    During his postgame press conference, Del Rio expressed his extreme dissatisfaction with the ground attack.

    "The inability to run the ball with our physical group is the most disappointing, and we have to get that rectified, and we will," the Oakland head coach said.

    The Raiders rushing offense produced 24 net yards against the Broncos' No. 1-ranked run defense, which deserves respect as a quality unit. However, Oakland spends more on its offensive line—slightly more than $42 million—than any other team, per Spotrac.

    Over the past year, the Raiders offensive line earned a reputation as being one of the best in the league, but the unit couldn't open lanes for the running backs against the Broncos. Offensive coordinator Todd Downing must take partial fault for the letdown in that area.

    Furthermore, the fake punt call inside their own 20-yard line came with poor timing. Fortunately, Broncos kicker Brandon McManus missed the field goal.

    Finally, the Raiders missed a golden opportunity to employ consistent two-tight end sets with Cook and Clive Walford because of Crabtree's absence and Cooper's struggles. The third-year tight end didn't see a single target on Sunday.

    Downing must go back to the drawing board and recreate magic with the ground game, which would help take pressure off a sluggish passing offense.


    Raiders postgame interview comments provided via