NASHVILLE, Tenn. — After a week of stewing over the team’s second-half collapse against the Cardinals, the Raiders defense expected to come out firing on all cylinders Sunday against the Titans.
Instead they got steamrolled for the first 30 minutes.
While a player-led discussion in the locker room helped turn things around and the Raiders shut out Tennessee in the second half, the damage already had been done and the team fell to 0-3 with a 24-22 loss at Nissan Stadium.
The early struggles were staggering.
Tennessee scored touchdowns on its first three drives, each going 75 yards or more. Only two times last season in the NFL did a team begin a game with three consecutive touchdown drives of at least 75 yards.
Veteran Raiders safety Duron Harmon, a team captain who intercepted a pass in the second half, said he thought the defense was prepared to come out strong after the week of practice was driven by the emotional defeat last week.
He was quickly proven wrong.
“It was disappointing we didn’t come out and play the way we needed to from the beginning,” Harmon said. “We’ve seen when we do things the right way how hard it is for teams to move the ball on us.”
Several players spoke at halftime, and the results were immediate. Along with pitching a second-half shutout, the Raiders limited the Titans to three first downs after they racked up 16 in the first half and 86 yards after they totaled 275 in the first 30 minutes.
“We just played better together,” defensive end Maxx Crosby said. “We took a deep breath and said, ‘Let’s just take it one play at a time.’ That’s what we try to emphasize, not overthinking it or overdoing it, just executing each play. … If they make a good play, it’s not the end of the world. It can’t lead to other big plays.”
Coach Josh McDaniels repeatedly said his team needs to figure out a way to play well for 60 minutes, not just his defense. He also credited the Titans for putting together a good scheme to attack a defensive game plan designed to slow star running back Derrick Henry.
One of the ways the Titans did that was to throw to Henry.
“(Ryan) Tannehill made a few good reads just to throw him the ball in some space and let him get some positive plays, and he extended some of those plays with his running,” McDaniels said.
Henry, who entered the game with one target and zero catches this season, had 42 of his 58 receiving yards and 64 of his 85 rushing yards in the first half.
Still, Harmon said the defense won’t take much positive momentum out of the turnaround.
“It’s not encouraging at all because we lost,” he said. “I’m tired of being encouraged. We’ve been encouraged from our effort three weeks in a row with a loss. It’s time to win.
“It’s a lesson we have to learn, but we better learn fast. We can’t keep learning lessons from losses every week. We need to start learning lessons from wins.”