- Bill Williamson, ESPN Staff Writer
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OAKLAND – The Oakland Raiders’ loss to the New England Patriots isn’t devastating in the grand scope of the season.
Oakland is now 2-2 and trails San Diego by one game in the AFC West. Not being ready to hang with Tom Brady and friends is not the end of the world for a program that is growing early in the season. The Raiders still can be good in 2011.
But what the 31-19 loss to the Patriots did show the Raiders is they are not yet ready to be considered a top AFC team. They can get there and now know exactly what they have to do to take the next step.
They must play better defense, they most stop the self-destructive penalties and quarterback Jason Campbell has to play mistake-free.
All three areas were major issues for Oakland in a game where it simply couldn’t keep up with a better team.
“We just didn’t play well,” Oakland coach Hue Jackson said. “That’s the way it is.”
New England’s offense moved the ball at will. Brady, who was more efficient than electric Sunday, threw for 226 yards and the Patriots ran for 183 yards. New England spark-plug receiver Wes Welker picked on a young, hurt secondary as he caught nine passes for 158 yards. The Raiders have now allowed 113 points in the first quarter of the season.
Oakland helped the Patriots by committing nine penalties for 85 yards. The Raiders, who have been the most penalized team in the league in recent years, have committed at least seven penalties in each game this season.
Campbell endured his first poor game of the season even though he passed for 344 yards. Campbell, who has been efficient, threw two terrible interceptions. An interception in the second quarter in the end zone by New England safety Patrick Chung was the turning point of the game. Campbell threw the ball right at Chung.
“I don’t make those kind of mistakes,” Campbell said. “As soon as a I threw it, I said, ‘Oh shoot, I hope he drops it.'”
It wasn’t dropped. However, Oakland did drop an opportunity to show the Patriots and the rest of the conference it is ready to make a serious run at the playoffs for the first time in nine years. Oakland came roaring into this game off the glow of a tremendous win over the New York Jets last week at home.
The Raiders were opportunistic and authoritative in that game. They dictated the game. That never happened Sunday.
Oakland knows it has shoring up to do.
The mood in the Oakland locker room after Sunday’s game was as it should have been. It was quiet, but there was not an air of despair. The Raiders know they were outplayed Sunday and they know their mistakes were too plentiful. But they aren’t packing in it because of a loss on October 2.
“One game doesn’t change a season, but we do need to play better,” said Oakland defensive end Richard Seymour, who was clearly fired up to play the team that traded him two years ago. Seymour committed two 15-yard penalties on the Raiders’ first defensive drive. He added another 5-yard penalty later.
“They outplayed us. We couldn’t make enough plays. But we can fix those things,” Seymour said.
Oakland’s most urgent issue to address is the defense. There are talented players on this unit, however, it continues to get gutted in both the run and passing game. If Oakland’s stellar defensive line doesn’t harass the quarterback, the Raiders’ defense fails. Brady was sacked just once and he was hit just four times Sunday.
New England kept Oakland off balance because it passed and ran the ball so well. According to ESPN Stats & Information, the Patriots ran for 174 yards on 21 carries (an average of 8.3 yards per carry) when the Raiders played seven or fewer defenders in the box. The Raiders entered the game allowing 6.6 yards per carry in those situations, which led the league.
Oakland was no better against the pass. They had no answer for Welker. This secondary has been picked on all season. Opponents -- beginning at potent Houston next week -- will continue to peck away Oakland’s secondary until the Raiders prove they can make stops defensively.
Jackson and defensive coordinator Chuck Bresnahan have a lot of work to do, or the Raiders will simply have to outscore opponents all season.
Campbell wasn’t up to that task Sunday. Once the Patriots started taking control in the third quarter, it was evident the Raiders couldn’t keep up. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Oakland sputtered deep in New England territory. Campbell completed just 54.5 percent of his passes inside the Patriots’ 35-yard line. He completed 67.9 percent of those passes outside New England’s 35.
“We’ll learn from this game,” Campbell said. “That’s the good thing.”
This game will provide plenty of coaching points for Jackson and his staff this week. These Raiders now know what they can’t get away with against the NFL’s elite teams.