NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Jack Del Rio and his Raiders are busy tuning up a defense that has been as bad as their offense has been good, a unit weighing down some very high expectations for Oakland.
The Tennessee Titans just want to win consecutive games for the first time in more than two seasons.
“It just shows that if we can win this game the new direction that our team is going in, and I think the guys are looking forward to that new challenge,” Titans defensive lineman Jurrell Casey said.
These teams know each other very well, with Sunday the third time they’ve met in the past 10 months, counting a preseason game. Oakland won 24-21 in Nashville last November on a late touchdown scored only after a fourth down Titans coach Mike Mularkey said the NFL called “poorly officiated.” The Titans won the preseason game in Oakland 27-14 .
The Raiders (1-1) are coming off a 35-28 loss to Atlanta in their home opener, while the Titans (1-1) rebounded from dropping their season opener at home to Minnesota by pulling out a 16-15 win at Detroit with Marcus Mariota notching his third comeback win in his 14th start. Tennessee has not won consecutive games since the end of the 2013 season.
“Hopefully we can get on a roll,” Mariota said.
After going 7-9 last season, Oakland was a popular playoff pick as a young and improving team. The Raiders have shown why on offense with the NFL’s best attack thanks to quarterback Derek Carr leading a very balanced unit. Yet the Raiders have given up more yards than any team, turning their first two games into shootouts and cranking up the pressure on Del Rio.
“It’s a collective effort,” Del Rio said. “We all share in it and so I’m not going to throw any one person under the bus. It’s not any one person that’s at fault here. Collectively as a group, we have to pick it up. We have to do our share.”
Here are some things to know about Sunday’s game:
POROUS DEFENSE: The Raiders are off to a historically bad start defensively , allowing 507 yards in a season-opening 35-34 win at New Orleans, and 528 in a 35-28 loss last week to Atlanta. The 1,035 yards are the most allowed through two weeks for any team since at least 1940, according to Pro Football Reference. No team since the 1970 merger allowed at least 500 yards in each of the first two games. Del Rio plans some changes this week, with rookies Karl Joseph and Cory James expected to get more time at safety and linebacker, respectively.
WATCH THE TIGHT END: Delanie Walker went to the Pro Bowl for Tennessee as a first alternate last season with a career year, and he’s off to another strong start. Going against Oakland offers plenty of opportunity after the Raiders allowed tight ends to put up 180 yards receiving last week. Walker did not practice Wednesday with a sore hamstring, but said he won’t miss this game.
HIGH POWERED O: Oakland’s offense has been clicking, leading the league with 470 yards per game and putting up 63 points in two weeks. Latavius Murray and the running game are averaging 161 yards per week, while Carr has thrown for 618 yards and four TDs. The Raiders have also committed no turnovers and allowed just one sack.
“We turn the film on and we want to be so perfect on every play,” Carr said. “I think that’s what drives us and drove us all offseason.”
THROW MARIOTA: The Raiders are giving up a league-worst 404 yards passing, so Mariota, already the NFL’s most accurate passer in the fourth quarter, could have a big day if the Titans can protect him. This will be their first game without right guard Chance Warmack, out with a torn tendon in his right hand.
HOME SWEET HOME?: The Titans, who opened their current stadium winning an NFL-record 12 straight, are 2-15 since the end of the 2013 season. Their last four home wins are against the Jaguars (three) and Houston (one). Mularkey, promoted from interim to head coach in January, already has as many wins (three) since taking over last November as predecessor Ken Whisenhunt managed in 23. The Titans visit Houston and Miami next, making the chance Sunday for consecutive wins with one at home crucial for a franchise needing proof their rebuilding is taking root.