OAKLAND, Calif. -- It wasn’t that E.J. Manuel was terrible -- he wasn’t in replacing the injured Derek Carr, who has a transverse process fracture -- but he was put in a terrible spot in the Oakland Raiders’ 30-17 loss to the Baltimore Ravens.
The Raiders wanted Manuel to ease into his first start for them, but before he took his third snap, he already was trailing 14-0. Baltimore went 75 yards in five plays to open the game and Jimmy Smith returned a Jared Cook fumble 47 yards for a TD. Manuel finished 13-of-25 for 159 yards with a 41-yard TD pass to Michael Crabtree and was sacked three times. Expect Carr to push to return next week.
What it means: The Raiders, at 2-3, have a losing record for the first time since they ended the 2015 season at 7-9. Oakland has lost three straight games for the first time since Nov. 8, 15 and 22 of that season, against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Minnesota Vikings and Detroit Lions. These are dangerous times for a team in Oakland that has (had?) designs on a Super Bowl run. Raiders owner Mark Davis, who held a lengthy meeting with coach Jack Del Rio after last week’s loss in Denver, was not pleased before the game. Imagine the angst now.
What I liked: Crabtree returned after a week off with a chest injury and still played his usual physical game. Plus, his 41-yard TD catch was his fifth score against the Ravens in three games over the past three seasons. It also was his longest TD catch in his three years with the Raiders.
What I didn’t like: Punting on fourth-and-3 from Baltimore’s 44-yard line, while trailing by 10 points and with less than nine minutes to play. That’s a lot of trust in a defense that had been shredded all day, save for a pair of three-and-outs to start the second half, when Baltimore went ultraconservative. The crowd booed Del Rio’s strategy (Riverboat/Gamblin’ Jack?) and the Ravens ate up seven minutes before kicking a 44-yard field goal.
Fantasy fallout: Anyone know what’s become of Amari Cooper? Entering the fourth quarter, Cooper had no catches and just one target. His disappearance from the Raiders' offense has been nothing short of mystifying. Cooper entered the Ravens game with three catches for 15 yards and no TDs in his previous two games combined.
Beast Mode salute? The last time Marshawn Lynch played in front of his hometown crowd, he got hyphy with his sideline dancing in a Raiders blowout win over the Jets. This time, after he scored on a 3-yard run in the third quarter to get the Raiders within a touchdown, he merely handed the ball to left tackle Donald Penn and trotted off the field with both middle fingers extended.
Walking wounded: The Raiders lost four players to injury, none of whom returned to the game: CB Antonio Hamilton (knee), OLB Cory James (knee), FB Jamize Olawale (concussion) and MLB Marquel Lee. TE Lee Smith also suffered an injury and was wearing a big brace on his right knee, but he returned to the game. The Raiders already were thin with Carr, right guard Gabe Jackson (foot), cornerback David Amerson (concussion), running back DeAndre Washington (hamstring) and first-round draft pick Gareon Conley (shin) all inactive.
What’s next: The Raiders (2-3) play host to the Los Angeles Chargers (1-4) at the Oakland Coliseum. Oakland has won four straight games against the Chargers. But with a loss to L.A., the Raiders would find themselves in last place in the AFC West, courtesy of what would be that head-to-head loss to the Chargers.