ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) — A week after Josh Jacobs complained he had some rust to shake off, the defending NFL rushing champion found himself running in reverse.
The Las Vegas Raiders running back finished with a career-worst minus-2 rushing yards in a 38-10 loss to the Buffalo Bills on Sunday. In doing so, he became the first NFL rushing leader from the previous season to finish with negative yards in a game since the 1970 merger, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
“Honestly, I feel like I have to do more,” said Jacobs, who led the league last year with 1,653 yards rushing and 2,053 yards from scrimmage.
Jacobs never found his footing after Bills lineman Ed Oliver penalized him for a loss on the first play from scrimmage. He had -6 yards on seven carries in the first half. Once the Bills built their lead to 28-10 on their first drive of the second half, the Raiders’ offense was forced to become one-dimensional.
“We need to address where we went wrong and improve from there,” Jacobs said. “I don’t think we need to just take one next game and get it done. “I don’t think that would create a winning culture.”
After missing the entire offseason due to a contract dispute, Jacobs finally joined the Raiders by signing a one-year contract worth up to $12 million with bonuses on August 26.
He blamed Rust for finishing with 48 rushing yards on 19 carries in a 17-16 season-opening victory at Denver. His 2.5-yard rushing average was the third-lowest of his career entering Sunday. Jacobs’ 46 yards on the season mark the worst two-game rushing total of his five-year career.
Coach Josh McDaniels said the Raiders’ running game problems start up front, noting, “I need to do a better job of figuring out how to make JJ work.”
Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo couldn’t make up for the lack of balance. He finished 16 of 24 passing for 185 yards and two interceptions. He threw a 16-yard touchdown pass to Davante Adams (six catches, 84 yards) on the opening drive, but the Raiders only managed a field goal after that in a drive they ended with less than 20 minutes of possession.
“We just made too many self-inflicted mistakes,” Garoppolo said.
Adding to Las Vegas’ offensive woes, Adams was evaluated for a head injury late in the game. McDaniels had no immediate update on Adams, who took a high hit from Bills safety Taylor Rapp while jumping for a long pass in triple coverage with 3:09 left. Rapp was penalized for unnecessary roughness on the play.
The Raiders were already without starting receiver Jakobi Meyers, who suffered a concussion in the opener. Hunter Renfrow, who wasn’t targeted in the win at Denver, caught a pass for 23 yards against the Bills. Tight end Austin Hooper had two receptions for 20 yards. Rookie tight end Michael Mayer had one catch for two yards. Mayer was not attacked in the first game.
The Raiders were able to get Jacobs involved in the passing game. He was targeted six times, gaining 51 yards on five receptions.
The only pass Jacobs didn’t catch was snatched by Buffalo linebacker Matt Milano, leading to a field goal that gave the Bills a 31-10 lead early in the fourth quarter.
The Raiders were hoping to establish their running game against a Bills defense that gave up 172 yards on the ground in the season-opening loss to the Jets. The only success they found came on the opening drive when rookie receiver Tre Tucker gained 34 yards on a sweep to set up Adams’ touchdown.
“We shot ourselves in the foot most of the game after that attack,” McDaniels said.
Jacobs was hit in the backfield on several of his runs, and McDaniels said the Raiders’ inability to control the line of scrimmage made it difficult to get their All-Pro running back back on track.
“We have to be able to block people and get the running back going,” McDaniels said. “A lot of times we couldn’t even get to the line of scrimmage without getting tagged.”
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