HENDERSON, Nev. (AP) — This isn't exactly breaking news, but what happens in the preseason can be deceiving.
Before the season began, the Las Vegas Raiders had a ball-hawking defense that created difficult joint practices for San Francisco 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy and had a plus-2 turnover differential in preseason games.
Now three games into the actual season, the Raiders have zero takeaways and are tied for last with the Minnesota Vikings with a minus-7 turnover differential.
In Sunday night's 23-18 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers, Las Vegas has a minus-3 differential with Jimmy Garoppolo getting intercepted three times, including twice by Levi Wallace.
Coach Josh McDaniels said the lack of takeaways isn't for a lack of trying, noting the Raiders blitzed the Steelers throughout the game and tried several times to punch out the ball. The most notable missed opportunity was when cornerback Marcus Peters let a pick-6 slip through his hands in the first quarter with the game tied at 7-7.
“We've got to keep at it,” McDaniels said Monday. "Sometimes they come in waves, and we’re just waiting for our wave. But we've got to make it happen. ... I thought we had a number of opportunities yesterday, got our hands on some footballs. We’re just going to need to get some of them to turn our way.”
The problem for the Raiders is this isn't new.
They were 30th last season in turnover differential, 27th the year before and 30th in 2020.
Few statistics are more telling about a team's fortunes than that one, and McDaniels had better hope he is correct that a wave is coming.
If not, it will be the Raiders getting wiped out.
"I feel like that’s a lot of my fault because there are plays that I’m almost having," cornerback Nate Hobbs said. “I look back on film like, ‘Damn, I could have got that ball out,’ and I’m not getting it out how I want to. So it’s very frustrating, but the football gods, they’re going to repay you. You keep going hard, you keep playing, keep trying to get that ball, they’re going to give it to you. So, we've just got to keep going.”
The Steelers couldn't guard WR Davante Adams, which doesn't make Pittsburgh much different from most teams. Adams caught 13 passes for 172 yards and both Las Vegas touchdowns, an incredible performance even from him. He fell one short of his career high for catches in a game and the receiving yardage was his sixth highest.
Remember when the Raiders had one of the NFL's most intimidating venues for opponents? OK, that was when they played in Oakland. As the Las Vegas Raiders, they often have to go to silent counts when on offense because of the noise from opposing fans. On Sunday, it was Steelers fans waving Terrible Towels, and last season ended with San Francisco and Kansas City making it feel like the hometown Raiders were playing on the road.
DE Maxx Crosby. He had one sack in the season opener at Denver and was held in check a week ago at Buffalo. The Steelers for some reason often used one blocker on Crosby, and he made them pay. Crosby was credited with one sack, but he regularly pressured Pittsburgh's Kenny Pickett into making quick throws.
Playing with the lead. The Raiders have led 7-0 in each of their first three games. After scoring those initial 21 points, Las Vegas has scored 24 points in the rest of the way. That's a big reason the Raiders are 1-2.
Garoppolo is in the concussion protocol. If he can't play this weekend, 15-year veteran Brian Hoyer or rookie Aidan O'Connell will start.
0 — The number of teams to attempt what the Raiders did Sunday night since the 2-point conversion went into effect in 1994, according to OptaSTATS. Las Vegas became the first team to try a field goal in the final three minutes of regulation when trailing by exactly eight points with fewer than 5 yards to gain for a first down or touchdown.
The Raiders play their second AFC West game on Sunday at the Los Angeles Chargers. Both teams are 1-2, so this game has plenty of urgency to it.
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