Raiders' Flawed Defense Overshadowing 4-2 Record

OAKLAND -- Jack Del Rio was in no frame of mind to do anything but go all-platitude-all-the-time after Sunday’s 26-10 Raiders loss to Kansas City. In other words, he’d decided to commemorate a desultory in-game effort with a desultory postgame effort.

Standing in a rain-soaked T-shirt to show the nation he actually worked outside (which I think everyone already knew), he used all the old coaching bromides when vagueness is Job One. He opened with the tedious, “We were outplayed and outcoached,” the even less meaningful, “This is one game,” and the utterly useless, “We have to teach it better, we have to learn it better, we have to do it better,” because apparently the even older bromide, “You saw the game, write it” isn’t as effective in the new anti-literate world.

In fairness, though, Sunday’s performance before a drenched and slowly but surely disheartened audience at their potentially soon-to-be-former home didn’t lend itself to a lot of inside-the-numbers analysis, nor is Del Rio required contractually to amuse us after such a plate-flat performance.

They tackled poorly enough to allow the Chiefs 4.6 yards per rush (or 183 on 40 carries), and 10.1 per pass attempt (and forcing only three incompletions from the noted stealth quarterback/game manager Alex D. Smith). They deserved every bit of the defeat and subsequent shame, all the way down to the Chiefs taking three knees at game’s end rather than trying to jam in one more touchdown to make the score look even less appealing.

But if you need a point of contention as they head into their two-week Florida swing, you could amuse yourself with the question of who is calling defensive signals.

Del Rio took the duty from defensive coordinator Ken Norton, Jr., at some point during the Atlanta debacle four weeks ago, and though Del Rio said crypticallySunday , “Kenny had the headset,” the argument about who was in charge of a defense that was thoroughly confused when it wasn’t thoroughly outmuscled can help fill the time before the next game.

If it makes any difference, that is, and it really doesn’t when the team has given up 441 yards per game (dead last in the NFL), 312 passing yards (dead last in the NFL) and 132 rushing yards per game (third from dead last in the NFL).

[INSTANT REPLAY: Raiders miss opportunity in sloppy loss to Chiefs]

In short, they have a 4-2 record with a defense that allows 6.9 yards PER OFFENSIVE PLAY (yep, dead last in the NFL), which means that conceptually the other team should never have a third down.

So the question about who must pay for this, while largely moot given the fact that coordinators do not fire head coaches, becomes the new distraction for us while the players and coaches figure out how to end the festival of blown assignments, frequent mismatches and shoddy tackling.

And what (and for that matter, who) is to be done if it persists.

Of course, this could be the standard week-to-week overreaction this sport tends to demand from its fans and media. I know, I know. Those damned fans ruin it for everyone.

The Raiders are still 4-2, after all, and for a team with such a low bar for fan satisfaction (make the playoffs and/or win a minimum of nine games and/or don’t leave town right away), fans will cling to that when the signs beneath the record are so unsettling (allowing 70 more yards per game and being below league average in most of the other useful metrics).

In sum, the Raiders are now pretty clear about who they are, what they do, and what they don’t do is repel the opponent. Their flaws are now clearly heavily tilted toward the defensive side of the ball, and for every player’s claim that the issues revolve around other airy platitudes like mastering the details (cornerback David Amerson) or continuing to work hard (safety Reggie Nelson) or learning the art of consistency (linebacker Bruce Irvin), the provable facts indicate that this team is going to have to score four touchdowns per game to survive and five to feel safe – a very difficult ask.

But because we know Raider fans prefer things in their daily reading that don’t irritate them, here are the three takeaways you have going for you that aren’t coach or player buzzwords.

1. They play in Jacksonville and then Tampa, which possess teams whose offenses are mostly dreadful.

2. The 49ers are just as bad offensively as the Raiders are on defense, far harder on the eye start to finish, have zero quarterbacks to Oakland’s one, and are about to begin a new season of Scapegoat Frenzy, in which blame is distributed by the bulldozer until the whole Santa Clara plant is obscured from view.

3. And third, nobody brought up Las Vegas for a day, which can only be considered a kindness given the direction that story has taken in the past week.

See? It isn’t all misery and pestilence now, is it? They just have to teach, learn and do better, work harder, be more consistent, and figure out who is in charge of a defense nobody wants to claim right now.

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