OAKLAND – Bruce Irvin was at a loss for words, a rarity of the highest order. The Raiders’ outspoken edge rusher struggled to find reasons why the team's defense is so bad after giving up 69 points and 1,035 yards in this season’s first two weeks.
They got away with one at New Orleans, but poor defense cost the Raiders in a 35-28 loss to Atlanta on Sunday at Oakland Coliseum.
“We’re not on the same page, and it’s showing,” Irvin said. “We went from a bad performance to an even worse performance the following week.”
Jack Del Rio said defensive issues are more mental that physical. He didn’t want to give his unit an alibi or excuse poor play. He simply said these efforts are unacceptable at this stage, and players simply can’t make costly errors that result in chunk plays.
“The bottom line is that it’s nowhere near the standard that I expect us to play at,” Del Rio said. “We’ll need to get it rectified. There’s no dancing around the subject. It’s not where it needs to be.”
Irvin says the scheme isn’t to blame. It’s on the players to execute better, communicate better and function better as a unit.
[INSTANT REPLAY: Raiders on losing end of shootout with Falcons]
“We’ve done all the talking we can do,” Irvin said. “It’s up to the guys in this locker room to turn this (thing) around. If we don’t, it’s going to be this way every week.”
The Raiders can’t survive like that. While the offense has been good the first two weeks, expecting to consistently win shootouts is unrealistic.
Defense made life hard against the Falcons. They allowed 139 rushing yards, 389 through the air and an astonishing 8.3 yards per play. Covering tight ends was a problem as it was a year ago.
“They beat us playing basic football,” edge rusher Khalil Mack said. “That’s not good enough.”
The Raiders are flummoxed by their recent performance.
Irvin in particular isn’t used to this. He comes from Seattle, where stout defense is characteristic. These struggles are foreign to him, especially with the Raiders not playing assignment sound defense.
“It is (unexpected). I’m speechless,” Irvin said. “I’ve never experienced it like this. Until everybody makes a full commitment to want to turn this thing around, we’re going to keep being a subpar, below-average defense.”
The players looked inward explaining issues, but Del Rio wanted to deflect scrutiny headed their way. He said he called some plays over coordinator Ken Norton Jr. on the final defensive drive, but wouldn’t say if he would do so in the future.
He did say defensive issues start with the head coach.
“If you need somebody to blame, blame the head coach,” Del Rio said. “I’ll take it. We’re correct what needs to be corrected and we’ll go forward. This is one game today that didn’t go our way. I have the utmost belief in this group of guys. We simply have to clean things up and be much sharper.”