HENDERSON, Nev. (AP) — The Las Vegas Raiders’ offense has the potential to be very potent when everything is clicking.
The problem, as it’s been since quarterback Derek Carr’s rookie season, is that his offense has taken its time to shift out of neutral after the opening kickoff.
The Raiders have been outscored by 31 points in the first quarter this season, third-worst in the NFL, and slow starts are now plaguing Las Vegas during a current 1-3 skid.
“It’s something that you always talk about in training camp, whoever scores first has this percentage chance to win the game and all this kind of stuff,” Carr said Wednesday. “And if I’m honest, everyone wants to score first, but all those percentages and stats is not how I got to the NFL. I worked my tail off and there were a lot of people around me more talented, but I just kept going.”
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And while that may be true, nobody is questioning the eight-year veteran’s work ethic.
This is about slow starts at a critical time and a slump that has dropped the Raiders into second place in the AFC West after leading the division for most of the first half of the season.
It gets deeper.
This isn’t just a 2021 problem, but a dilemma Raiders teams Carr has quarterbacked has dealt with since he entered the league.
The Raiders are 32-29 when they score first since Carr’s rookie season. They’re also a problematic 20-40 when their opponents score first over that same timeframe. He’s missed only two of those games, both of which the opposition scored first and won.
“I’ve been in many of games whether it’s college, high school, NFL, where they score and it’s like what are we doing, we can still win the game kind of thing,” Carr said. “That’s just how my mind thinks.”
Okay, but the Raiders have scored first in just three of their nine games this season, and they won two of them. And the six games they’ve allowed the opposition to score first is third-most in the league, tied with three others.
The Raiders have also trailed by double digits in the first half three times this season. They’ve lost all three.
“In the games we’ve started fast, we’ve been in a position to have a chance to win them in the end,” Raiders interim coach Rich Bisaccia said. “In the games we haven’t, lately we’re struggling getting ourselves back in the game in the fourth quarter.”
Last week against Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs the Raiders fell behind 7-0 after one and trailed 17-7 at the half. Las Vegas’ first-half drives resulted in four punts and one touchdown. The Raiders were on the field an average of 4.2 plays and gained an average of only 17.6 yards per drive.
The Raiders, who have the seventh-worst red-zone conversion (52.9%) with just 18 touchdowns after 34 trips inside its opponents’ 20-yard line, came out firing on their first possession of the second half and cut the lead to three when Carr led an impressive drive that culminated with a dart to Bryan Edwards.
But the Chiefs answered to push their lead to 24-14, and a fatal mistake by newly acquired receiver DeSean Jackson opened the door for Kansas City to pull away for a 41-14 victory.
“I thought we didn’t play very well obviously with those drives in the first half and then we gave up some long drives,” Bisaccia said. “But we also came back and had a big explosive play to go down there and score to start the second half and then it got flipped around again. So, yes, we’d love to start fast, and we’d love to finish faster as I’m sure every team in the league would be.
“So, we try to do things in practice to hopefully give us a chance to do that as the game goes on, the way we schedule and do some of things in practice. But sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t, so you have to play with the hand your dealt as you get going into the game.”
Apropos, playing the hand their dealt, considering this is Las Vegas.
But the Raiders have been playing against a stacked deck. Since leading 33-14 with 7:17 left in their game against Philadelphia, they’ve been outscored 72-30.
And if they continue to draw the wrong cards Sunday against an equally hungry Cincinnati Bengals team, the Raiders will find themselves playing catch up once again.
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