What you need to know: Matt Flynn played the New Orleans Saints under constant duress.
The Raiders quarterback was sacked five times in Friday night’s 28-20 loss to New Orleans at the Superdome, and he only played the first half.
Pass protection was atrocious, with an ever-collapsing pocket bearing down on Flynn before he had a chance to throw. New left tackle Alex Barron, filling in for the injured Jared Veldheer, didn’t get off to a great start. Guards Andre Gurode and Lucas Nix allowed pressure from the inside. Even veteran Khalif Barnes got burned one-on-one and let his quarterback get hit.
This failure can’t be blamed solely on the offensive line. This was a breakdown at every level.
“Some of it was the Saints giving us different looks,” Raiders coach Dennis Allen said. “Some of it was guys getting beat and some of it was not being able to recognize the pressure and find the hot receivers and get the ball out. It’s a combination of a lot of things. I can’t point to one individual aspect and say ‘that was the issue.’ Their defense won the battle up front, that’s for sure.”
There are reasons why the pass protection fell apart. There’s a real lack of continuity on the offensive line, with two injured starters and a rookie in Menelik Watson who can’t get healthy.
Despite those issues, the Raiders didn’t want to use injuries as an excuse.
“Offensive line play is all about continuity, but we haven't been together long enough,” Barnes said. “It is clear that we need to be on the same page as an entire offense. I can’t blame it all on one thing, one player or one person. We all have to play better.”
Flynn, who would have a right to be frustrated, took his beating in stride. He admitted, however, that protection completely broke down.
"This was on everybody,” Flynn said. “It was a lack of communication and a lack of execution all around. It starts with me, and I need to do a better job of identifying pressure and getting the ball out. We have to clean it up and, in order to do so, we all have to do our part. We have to take ownership of this thing and not let what happened today happen again. We’re a lot better than that. Now we have to go out and prove it.”
Lasting impact: The Raiders are having serious trouble pressuring the quarterback. The starting unit couldn’t rattle Saints quarterback Drew Brees, or get near him for that matter.
Didn’t matter if the Raiders blitzed or rushed four men. They couldn’t break through the Saints offensive line.
“There wasn’t much of a pass rush,” Allen said. “When you give a quarterback like Brees that much time, he’s going to find the open man. That’s area where we have to improve.”
That’s the root of the defense’s problem. The pass rush should improve with starters Lamarr Houston, Pat Sims and Vance Walker return from injury, but the healthy pass rushers haven’t shown an ability to pressure the quarterback. That includes ends Jason Hunter and Andre Carter and outside linebacker Sio Moore.
Brees picked the defense apart because the Raiders gave him time to do so. In doing so, he made the Raiders defense look weaker than they believe they are.
Despite getting dominated by New Orleans, the Raiders weren’t despondent.
“I wouldn’t say this experience was a shock. It’s not going to be the easiest thing in the world to get this defense going, but there are plenty of things to build on as we move through the preseason,” middle linebacker Nick Roach said. “By no means are we shaken up by the fact that they had some success against us.”
Play of the Game: Brees had time to throw throughout the first half, but his touchdown pass to Kenny Stills was a bit excessive. He had a full 12 seconds to find an open man. Put that one on the defensive line. A secondary, even one of quality, can only cover so long.
Player of the Game: Jack Crawford played well on defense and special teams. The defensive lineman played out of position at tackle, yet had five tackles – one for a loss, two more on special teams – a sack and a fumble recovery.
Looking good: Rookie David Bass showcased his speed rushing off the edge, and had three tackles and a sack-fumble that was returned for a touchdown by Ryan Robinson.
Receiver Brice Butler continues to play well, and is seeing time with the first unit. Denarius Moore made two fine catches and was open even when Flynn didn’t have time to throw him the ball.
Linebacker Kevin Burnett has been a steadying presence on the weakside. He led the team with seven tackles, played well in coverage and made a nice stop against the run.
Needs Improvement: Where do we begin? Few Raiders played well in the first half, especially along the line of scrimmage. Barron was expected to be a swing reserve tackle and is now being asked to replace left tackle Jared Veldheer. The veteran is certainly in over his head, but the Raiders need better protection on the blind side. On Friday night, Barron wasn’t even serviceable.
[RELATED: Jared Veldheer's surgery a success]
Defensively, Andre Carter needs to make a greater impact. As the best healthy pass rusher, the team is counting on him to disrupt quarterbacks and get sacks. On Friday night, he wasn’t able to do that.
Taiwan Jones isn’t playing well at cornerback. The converted running back made some mistakes and had a costly pass interference penalty to boot. He also made an error on special teams, where his real value lies. He must play better to ensure he stays on the roster.
McFadden’s mixed bag: Raiders running back Darren McFadden played less than the starting unit, and positive and negative results in limited action. He had a reception for no gain and 17 rushing yards on five carries, including a 9-yard jaunt that was his best carry of the preseason. He also failed to convert on 4th-and-1 in the first quarter. McFadden suffered a shoulder injury that is considered minor.
Injury Concerns: Injury was added to insult. The Raiders lost cornerback Tracy Porter (groin) and tight end David Ausberry (shoulder) for a chunk of time. Running back Darren McFadden (shoulder), tackle John Wetzel (knee), linebacker Kevin Burnett (knee), cornerback Joselio Hanson (shoulder), defensive lineman Brandon Bair (hamstring) and kicker Eddie Carmona (neck, leg) were injured in the game.
Quote of the day: "In the first half, it felt like we were in complete control.” -- Saints quarterback Drew Brees, after dominating the Raiders starting defense over two quarters of play.
Looking ahead: The Raiders played a horrible first half with starters in the game and exposed glaring deficiencies in pass protection and pass rush. They must correct major mistakes before playing the Chicago Bears on Aug. 23, when starters are expected to play three full quarters.
“We’ve got a lot to get better at,” Allen said. “There are a ton of things on that game tape that we can look at for improvement.”