Playing in cold, wet Buffalo conditions, the Raiders were unable to maintain control of the pigskin Sunday.
When they weren’t fumbling away an early advantage, Oakland offensive skill players were struggling to reel in Derek Carr passes, whether they were among the many wobblers or those tighter spirals.
The end result of four fumbles, two interceptions and numerous bobbled catches — and a handful of drops — proved to be an early 7-0 lead relinquished by Oakland (3-5) and a pull-away 34-14 win for the Bills (5-2), aided by 13 points off of turnovers.
All appeared to be positive out of the gates for the Raiders, coming off a come-from-behind win a week ago, as they marched 81 yards on the opening possession for the game’s first score — a one-yard touchdown run by Jamize Olawale. But the possession began with a prelude to the messy play to come, as Jalen Richard muffed the opening kickoff.
Seven exchanged punts later, the Oakland offense looked to piece together a driving and add to its lead in the closing 90 seconds of the first half.
On a third consecutive check down to DeAndre Washington over the middle by Carr, the back-up ball carrier was decked by Buffalo corner back Leonard Johnson, popping the ball in the air. Linebacker Matt Milano was right there to pick the flutter ball out of the air and prance 40 yards for a knotting touchdown.
The next Raider to touch the ball was Richard, who remained tasked with punt return duties despite the early muff. Fielding a fifth punt of the game by Colton Schmidt, Richard once again put the ball on the ground. This time it was recovered by the Bills inside of the Oakland 15.
As it did much of the afternoon, the Raider defense bowed its collective back holding Buffalo to a 35-yard Steven Hauschka field goal. That defensive unit was back on the field less than one minute later following a Carr interception, snatched by linebacker Preston Brown, giving the ball away at the Raider 21 yard line.
Once again, Buffalo was held to a field goal on the short field.
It appeared, momentarily, that the Raider defense had turned the game’s momentum on its ear the first play of the fourth quarter, when NaVorro Bowman looked to have punched the ball free from a leaping Tyrod Taylor on a fourth-down attempt from inside the 1 yard line. But a late ruling from the side judge changed the call on the field from a turnover on downs to a touchdown. Replays showed that the Bills quarterback did indeed break the plane of the goal line before losing the ball.
The Raiders answered on Carr’s lone scoring pass, hauled in by Washington. But it proved to be too little, too late, and became moot given a 48-yard touchdown scamper by LeSean McCoy, who finished with 173 yards from scrimmage — 151 on the ground and 22 through the air.
Carr far outgained Taylor in the passing game, throwing for 313 yards to the Buffalo quarterback’s 165. But the difference was Taylor and the Bills’ ability to avoid mistakes, winning the battle of field position through punts versus giveaways.
Richard and Washington combined for 47 yards on 11 carries, with Olawale getting three yards on two carries before being sidelined by a hamstring injury.
The Raiders will stay in the Eastern Timezone, staying in Florida for the week leading up to next Sunday’s showdown with the Miami Dolphins (4-3), who are coming off a 40-0 throttling by the Baltimore Ravens but will have three extra days to prepare following a Thursday game.
Oakland punter Marquette King played through groin pain, and finished with one of the worst games of his career averaging 34 yards per punt, his career average entering the game was 47.1 yards on 387 career kicks. … Rookie safety Shalom Luani got the starter replacing the injured Karl Joseph (groin). The seventh-round selection out of Washington State University spent much of the afternoon around the ball, racking up seven total tackles. … In his return to Buffalo, New York, where he attended the University of Buffalo, Khalil Mack was held without a sack, tasked heavily with containment detail against the very mobile Tyrod Taylor. He finished the game with two tackles. Marshawn Lynch is expected to play next week in Miami, following a one-game suspension.