Raiders reeling after 2nd straight double-digit loss

The glow from the 3-0 start for the Las Vegas Raiders has been extinguished in rapid fashion following a rough seven-day stretch.

Back-to-back double-digit losses surrounding the release of an email with racist comments from coach Jon Gruden have turned a promising season into a troubling one after the Raiders lost 20-9 on Sunday to the Chicago Bears.

“Right now we’re finding our identity and we haven’t found it yet” Gruden said Monday.

The Raiders appeared headed in the right direction after opening the season with wins over Baltimore, Pittsburgh and Miami with two coming in overtime after they overcame 14-point deficits.

But the problems they could overcome in those games proved to be too much to deal with the past two weeks as they lost 28-14 to the Chargers and then again to the Bears.

The 23 points the past two weeks are the second fewest and the Raiders rank last in the NFL with 4.07 yards per play in those two games as quarterback Derek Carr has struggled and the running game has been almost non-existent behind a porous offensive line.

“We’ve had some spurts where we’ve been pretty good running the ball,” Gruden said. “We’ve had some instances where we haven’t. It’s been inconsistent. … It’s got to get better. We got a long way to go.”

Beyond the back-to-back losses, the Raiders are also dealing with the swirling controversy around Gruden after the Wall Street Journal reported last week that Gruden sent an email a decade ago that referred in a racist way to players’ union leader DeMaurice Smith facial features.

Gruden has apologized for the “insensitive remarks.”

“I’ve learned a lot. I’m not going to rehash the event again. I think I feel very good about the things that I have learned. I also feel really good about what I stand for. I’ll be happy to talk about football, but I’ll just leave it at that.”

WHAT’S WORKING

There aren’t a lot of positives to take out of back-to-back losses, but the Raiders have been good in short-yardage situations this season. They stopped the Bears twice on third-and-1 and have been the second-best team in the NFL this season defending third and fourth-and-1s. Las Vegas has allowed just three conversions on eight attempts.

WHAT NEEDS HELP

Run-blocking. The Raiders went into the offseason looking to get younger and more athletic on the offensive line to spark the running game. The results so far haven’t been good with Andre James struggling at center and rookie first-round pick Alex Leatherwood getting moved from right tackle to right guard. Las Vegas had just 71 yards on 22 carries Sunday and ranks 31st averaging 3.25 yards per carry on the season.

STOCK UP

Denzel Perryman. Perryman was a late addition to the Raiders when he was acquired in late August in a trade with Carolina. He stepped right in as a starter and leads the NFL with 60 tackles this season. He had 12 tackles and one QB hit against the Bears, for his fifth straight game with double-digit tackles. That’s the longest streak for a Raiders player since at least 2000.

STOCK DOWN

Bryan Edwards. The second-year receiver provided a late-game spark in overtime wins over Baltimore and Miami, but has struggled the past two weeks. He had just one catch for 5 yards two weeks ago and two for 22 against the Bears. He also had a bad drop on a deep pass from Carr early in the game and appeared to have a miscommunication with Carr on a third-down pass in the end zone that led to a field goal.

INJURIES

DT Johnathan Hankins (back) got hurt Sunday and his status is unknown for this week. … Backup QB Marcus Mariota (quadriceps) is expected to return this week to practice and could be activated off IR to play Sunday. … LG Richie Incognito (calf) remains sidelined, but Gruden is hoping he can return Nov. 7.

KEY NUMBER

59. The Raiders have run just five plays on offense this season when leading as slow starts have forced them to play from behind. They have fallen behind in the first half by double digits in four of the first five games. They haven’t scored a point on the opening drive and have just eight in the first quarter this season, third fewest heading into Monday night.

NEXT STEPS

Visit Denver on Sunday in a matchup of teams that have lost two straight following 3-0 starts to the season.

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