Yes, it was an incredibly frustrating and disappointing 36-20 loss for the Las Vegas Raiders in New England on Sunday. Especially with how the Raiders, who fell to 2-1, dominated early on and the manner in which they crept back to within striking distance early in the fourth quarter.
And yet ...
This new, neon-branded version of Las Vegas players insist they did enough good things against the Patriots to shrug off this early-season defeat and learn from it rather than wallow in disappointment. They have to, what with the undefeated Buffalo Bills rolling into town this week.
"They smell blood in the water," Raiders quarterback Derek Carr said. "We've got to be ready to fight."
In New England, the Raiders dominated the stat sheet early and coulda, woulda, shoulda scored on their first three possessions. But self-inflicted wounds limited them to a 3-0 lead.
Blown opportunities galore.
There was a false start penalty on rookie left guard John Simpson, making his first career start with four-time Pro Bowler Richie Incognito on injured reserve with an Achilles injury.
There was Josh Jacobs fumbling inside the Patriots' 15-yard line (though replays showed he should have been whistled down after regaining possession before losing the football again. Hmmm, a blown fumble call by officials going against the Raiders in New England? Weird).
Later, Carr was strip-sacked not once but twice, the second coming in the end zone and recovered by the Patriots for a touchdown. Plus, Daniel Carlson hooked a 41-yard field-goal attempt that would have pulled the Raiders into a 13-13 tie on their first drive of the second half. Later, many observers thought coach Jon Gruden should have gone for it on fourth-and-5 from the Patriots' 7-yard line early in the fourth quarter, rather than Carlson booting a 25-yarder to close the gap to 23-13.
"The plan and all that kind of stuff was good," insisted Carr, who had a pair of TD passes but the two ghastly lost fumbles. "It's the turnovers, man.
"If we went out there and we weren't able to do one single thing right, then there's a problem. Then we've got to look at what's going on. Everyone took turns today. We lost the turnover battle and we lost the situational battle. That's all it is. It's one game. If we're going to blow up everything after the good things that we’ve done after one game, then this ain't for some of those people. We are going to be fine and we better have a good week of practice because we got another playoff team coming to our stadium."
Ah yes, the Bills, who reside in the same division as the Patriots and are angling to change the AFC East's power structure.
Still, there is more balm for the Raiders. Or is it simply whistling by the graveyard?
Consider: Las Vegas, which entered the game with six penalties, was flagged six times against the Patriots.
And while the Raiders were just 3-for-9 in third-down conversions, they were actually better than the Patriots, who were 3-of-11.
The Raiders, as Carr mentioned, lost the turnover-differential battle 3-1, with two of the turnovers (Carr's end-zone strip sack and Jacobs' fumble deep in Patriots territory) having a big impact.
Even with the fumble, Jacobs was having his way running the ball early, finishing with 71 yards on 16 carries. Might he have wanted more touches?
"In critical moments, me being the type of player I am, of course I want the ball," Jacobs said. "But I'm not a selfish player. That wasn't the scheme for us. We got behind and had to pass more.
“We know we can be better. We know there's a lot of things we could have done better. But credit to them, they capitalized on our mistakes.”
Said second-year tight end Foster Moreau, who had a 1-yard touchdown catch: "We've got to learn to win around here. We've got to focus on the week at hand, the game at hand and try to be 1-0 each week.”
Gruden, meanwhile, said he was "proud" of his team. Yes, even with the litany of miscues.
"I like our team," he said. "We're a young team. It showed at times today. I wasn't perfect either. I made plenty of mistakes ... we just got to play better in some key situations."
Defensively, the Raiders bottled up Cam Newton and the Patriots early. But the Patriots got going, gashing Las Vegas for 250 yards on the ground.
Defensive end Maxx Crosby had two sacks, which he called "bittersweet" with the loss.
"There's no excuse. We were in that game and we let it slip away," Crosby said. "They're a very disciplined team."
Yes, the Raiders are relatively young, even as Carr became the franchise's leader in QB starts with his 97th, ahead of Hall of Famer Ken Stabler, and moved into second on the team's all-time TD pass list with No. 149, one behind Stabler.
Sage advice, though, came from the second-year slot receiver from Clemson.
"Frustrating but also encouraging because we know if we don't make those mistakes we put ourselves in a good chance to be competitive," wide receiver Hunter Renfrow said. "You lose one game in college and you can’t go win a national championship, right? In the NFL, you can lose five or six games and still go to the Super Bowl. You get another shot next week against a really good team in the Bills, at our place. And hopefully we can continue to play well there."