By JOSH DUBOW, AP Pro Football Writer
OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Coach Jack Del Rio gathered his Oakland Raiders following their third straight loss and looked into his players’ eyes, trying to figure out if he still had a team that was a Super Bowl contender like many pundits thought a few weeks ago.
They’ve looked nothing like it of late.
The Raiders fell into a 14-point hole less than four minutes into the game and never were able to recover without injured starting quarterback Derek Carr, losing to the Baltimore Ravens 30-17 on Sunday.
“I think you have to have a little question about the confidence level,” Del Rio said. “You just went out and didn’t get it done three weeks in a row. To me it’s real simple. It’s a group of men, prideful men. We’ll get back in the saddle and do serious work.”
The Raiders have plenty of issues to fix but there was at least one bit of good news after the game, with Del Rio saying he had a good feeling that Carr would be back next week against San Diego after missing a game with a broken bone in his back .
But a healthy Carr couldn’t fix all the problems that have arisen the past three games for the Raiders (2-3), whose 2-0 start to the season is a distant memory after the losses to Washington, Denver and Baltimore.
“I just think we’re facing a little adversity right now,” linebacker Bruce Irvin said. “Coming into the year you all were telling us how good we were. I don’t know if we believed it or not. It’s not the first time I’ve been in this situation. It’s the fifth game. We’ve got 11 more games. We’ve got time to turn it around but it’s all about if we want it.”
Sean Smith was beaten on a 52-yard pass from Joe Flacco to Mike Wallace on the opening play to set the tone for the game. Smith was beaten again by Wallace for a 54-yard play later in the game as the issues in the secondary keep recurring.
Star receiver Amari Cooper once again has been a non-factor, catching just one pass for 8 yards and only getting targeted twice all game. Cooper, who had more than 1,000 yards receiving in each of his first two seasons, has just four catches for 23 yards on 15 targets the past three weeks, hampering Oakland’s offense.
The defense that was so opportunistic last year with 30 takeaways, second best in the league, has just four after five games.
The offensive line has allowed 12 sacks through five games after leading the league with just 18 allowed a year ago.
“It’s a big shock to start the season off this way,” running back Jalen Richard said. “I don’t even know what to say. It’s like a bad shock. We just keep getting whooped. It’s just going to come down to when (are) we going to get tired of getting whooped.”
The Raiders fell into the early hole against the Ravens when Vince Mayle scored on a 2-yard run to cap the opening drive and Jimmy Smith returned Jared Cook’s fumble 47 yards for a score on the next possession.
Oakland fought back behind backup quarterback E.J. Manuel to cut the deficit to 24-17 on Marshawn Lynch’s 3-yard run late in the third quarter but the defense then allowed a 72-yard drive that led to a field goal by Justin Tucker to make it a two-score game again.
When Del Rio opted to punt on fourth-and-3 from the Ravens 44 with about 9 minutes left and Oakland down 10, the team’s best hope for a comeback had been extinguished. Baltimore killed more than six minutes and kicked another field goal that proved to be the final score in this game.
“It hurts,” safety Karl Joseph said. “I think Coach Jack said it best. You get what you earn and right now we’re 2-3. We have to dig ourselves out and get ready for next week.”
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