Even when the newest member made a headline-grabbing catch, he followed it with a head-scratching decision, one that shifted the momentum of what had been a relatively competitive game into a laugher.
Yes, DeSean Jackson‘s first catch as a Raider was impressive, the 14th-year vet taking the top off the defense with his preternatural speed only to come back and haul in Derek Carr‘s slightly underthrown pass for a 40-yard gain. But for some reason Jackson, who beat Chiefs safety Tyrann Mathieu and caught the ball in stride near the right hashmark while running toward that sideline, stopped. And with cornerback Rashad Fenton bearing down on him, Jackson spun back toward the middle of the field, 2 yards shy of where he had caught the ball.
Fenton then corralled Jackson and punched the ball out, and a pursuing Mathieu scooped it up.
So instead of the Raiders potentially pulling to within 24-21 midway through the third quarter, the Chiefs turned the takeaway into a field goal and a 27-14 lead.
“He’s played a lot of football,” Raiders interim coach Rich Bisaccia said of Jackson. “He did a great job getting open. I though Derek did a great job getting him the ball and, you know, it came out. It’s not the turning point, maybe in the whole game, but certainly it was a little bit of a momentum swing back to them.
“So I said something to him just about, Just keep battling. He’s been through those things before. So we’re looking forward to him hopefully having a bigger role as we get going here.”
It was Jackson’s first lost fumble on a reception since 2010.
And while Jackson, who had the one catch for 38 yards, was not made available to the media after the game, his teammates took up for him.
“With what the coaches asked him to do and what to learn and things like that, I thought he did a great job,” Carr said of Jackson. “It’s hard to just come in and pick up this whole offense in a short amount of time, just a couple of days, but I thought he picked it up mentally and did a great job. He did a great job on that deep ball.
“He’s just trying to make a play; I don’t fault him.”
Carr said Jackson’s speed kept the Chiefs honest, that they were “set back” in the defense, opening up intermediate routes for the likes of fellow receivers Zay Jones, Bryan Edwards and Hunter Renfrow.
And it was Edwards, draft classmates with Ruggs, who showed up after being shut out last week at the New York Giants.
Edwards had 88 yards receiving, including a 37-yard TD catch, on three receptions. Renfrow had a team-high seven catches for 46 yards, with a 6-yard TD catch.
On the season, Renfrow is the Raiders’ leading receiver with 52 catches for 494 yards and four touchdown receptions, while Edwards has 21 catches for 434 yards and two scores. Jones has eight receptions for 157 yards and a TD.
Not the most explosive WR corps in the league, but it can get yards in chunks when utilized properly. And the addition of Jackson should help clear things out underneath in the same manner Ruggs did.
So long as his miscue doesn’t mess up his game.
“We just told him, ‘We’re going to get it back,'” Edwards said of his advice to Jackson after his fumble. “That’s what everybody’s attitude is when something bad happens. We don’t turn against each other. We kind of embrace each other.
“I mean, he made a really nice catch. Just got to finish it.”
And there it is. The Raiders receivers are their biggest supporters as well as their greatest critics. And for them to continue to mature, gain and, yes, regain the trust of Carr, they need to make plays.
It was Renfrow who spoke in almost a reverential tone of Jackson as the new veteran leader of the unit last week, saying he grew up watching Jackson.
After one game as his teammate?
“To come out, to get us going … to come off the street, basically, and learn a new offense, it was awesome to see him make that catch,” Renfrow said. “Yeah, there’s some negatives to it but, I think, focusing on the positives, that was a heck of a play to get his eyes around. Derek threw it on line.
“But yup, I think he would definitely want to have that one back, and we would too, for sure.”