By Joe Hawkes-Beamon
Sports Radio Service Writer
AP photo: Oakland Raiders Derek Carr had his successes with three touchdown passes and 299 yards but the Raiders fell short to the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday at the Oakland Coliseum
OAKLAND, Calif — Well, I guess a 2-0 start for the first time since Oakland’s Super Bowl season of 2002 was not in the works for the Raiders after all Sunday.
On a day where the Oakland Coliseum was electric as ever with strong optimism from the sold out Raider Nation crowd, the Raiders couldn’t neutralize Matt Ryan and the Falcons, losing 35-28 to Atlanta in Oakland’s home opener in Week 2.
Checkout each unit’s grade following Oakland’s (1-1) home loss to the Falcons (1-1) below:
Quarterback (A) – For the second straight week, Oakland quarterback Derek Carr played a terrific game, completing 34 of 45 passes for 299 yards and three touchdowns (all in the second half), with no interceptions.
With Oakland trailing Atlanta 13-7 in the third quarter, Carr engineered an 8-play, 81-yard drive in 3:43 and delivered a soft pass to a streaking Clive Walford for a 31-yard touchdown up the Raiders’ sideline that gave the Raiders a 14-13 lead.
It was one of Carr’s best throws of the day against a Falcons secondary that played aggressively all day.
After two games into the season, Carr has thrown for 618 yards and four touchdowns and no interceptions.
Running Backs (B) – For the time being, Oakland appears to be taking the “running back by committee” approach this season, given how no running back had more than eight carries on the day.
Starter Latavius Murray led the team with eight carries for 57 yards and a touchdown. Murray’s 1-yard score gave Oakland its first lead of the game, 7-3 early in the second quarter. Murray was also heavily involved in the passing game, finishing tied for the team lead with six catches and 44 yards Sunday.
Rookie running backs DeAndre Washington (six carries for 46 yards), and Jalen Richard (seven carries for 17 yards) continue to give Oakland the change of pace runners the team lacked last season.
Offensive line (B) – With Austin Howard starting in place of right tackle Menelik Watson (groin), the offensive line surrender their first sack of the season, but kept Carr clean for the majority of the game.
After the offensive line racked up 167 yards on the ground against New Orleans in Week 1, Oakland finished with 155 yards against Atlanta Sunday.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends (B) – Carr looked for his tight ends early in the game to get the offense in rhythm, connecting on his first three passes to reserve tight end Lee Smith (who caught the first of the two), along with Walford.
Walford finished with six catches for 50 yards and a touchdown.
Amari Cooper led Oakland with 71 yards receiving on five catches, but could’ve had more if not for a questionable illegal touch pass call midway into the fourth quarter.
With Oakland trailing Atlanta 28-21 and facing a 3rd and two at their own 49-yard line, it appeared that Cooper was forced out of bounds by Falcons’ cornerback Desmond Trufant, came back on to the field and took a Carr pass 51 yards for the tying touchdown.
Not the case.
By rule, Oakland loss the down, forcing 4th down which the Raiders didn’t convert after just gaining one yard on a hand off to Richard.
Cooper is still seeking his first touchdown of the season after two games, while fellow starting wide receiver Michael Crabtree (2-yard score) and Andre Holmes (6-yard score) hauled in their first touchdown catches of the season in the fourth quarter with Oakland rallying late.
With four catches on Sunday, Crabtree is tied for the team lead with Cooper with 11 catches. Crabtree totaled just 31 yards against the Falcons.
Rookie wide receiver Johnny Holton caught his first pass in the NFL, a four-yard catch in the second quarter.
Offensively through the first two games for the season, Oakland is leading the league in total yards per game (486.0) and rushing yards (167.0), second in points per game (35.0),and sixth in passing yards per game (319.0).
The offense can score points at will and rack up a chunk of yards, but the defense is having trouble stopping the opposition early, which could hinder Oakland’s chances of being a playoff team this season.
Defensively, Oakland is dead-last in total yards surrendered per game (507.0) and passing yards (419.0), and second-to-last in points (34.0). Surprisingly, Oakland is 10th in rushing yards against per game (88.0).
But the defense got trashed again Sunday, allowing 528 total yards to the Falcons. Oakland has given up 500+ yards of total offense in back-to-back weeks, which is outright unacceptable for any defense to allow that type of production.
Defensive Line (C) – Atlanta’s strong running game took advantage of some holes in Oakland’s defensive front, rushing for 139 yards. Starting running back Devonta Freeman rush for 93 yards on 17 carries for Atlanta.
Backup defensive tackle Stacy McGee recorded Oakland’s lone sack of the game, while defensive end Khalil Mack had another tough Sunday handling double teams and chip blocks from Falcons tight ends and running backs.
Linebackers (B-) – Starting outside linebacker Malcolm Smith, who took over calling the defensive plays for the defense from middle linebacker Ben Heeney after the defense was shredded by New Orleans for 507 total yards last week, finished with five tackles.
Heeney, led all linebackers in tackles with six. You could see that Heeney played looser Sunday without having to call the plays on defense.
Secondary (C+) – The secondary didn’t get blown up for 423 passing yards, four touchdowns (one going for 98 yards) as Saints quarterback Drew Brees piled up in Week 1, but it did allow 396 yards and three touchdowns to another NFC South quarterback in Matt Ryan.
Ryan completed 26 of 34 passes, but did throw an interception to cornerback David Amerson in the end zone after trying to hit his tight end Jacob Tamme on a post route in the third quarter with Oakland up, 14-13.
The nine-year veteran from Boston College shrugged off the interception and found Tamme on the Falcons’ next drive for a 14-yard touchdown that gave Atlanta a 19-14 lead before converting a two-point conversion that made the score 21-14.
Julio Jones, the Falcons’ all-world wide receiver who was battling an ankle injury during the week, caught five balls for 106 yards and a touchdown.
Jones capped off a 10-play, 76-yard drive with a 21-yard score in the second quarter that gave Atlanta a 10-7 lead.
Jones’s 48-yard reception where he beat safety Reggie Nelson (finished with a team-high 10 tackles) over the middle, and his 20-yard catch and run past cornerback Sean Smith in the fourth quarter proved to be the difference-makers for Atlanta closing out the game.
Raider Nation will have to wait until Oct. 9 (Week 5) to see their football team, as the Silver & Black will be on the road for the next two weeks, traveling to Nashville to face the Titans (1-1) and to Baltimore to play the Ravens (1-1).