ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — A week after Josh Jacobs complained he had some rust to shake off, the NFL's defending rushing champion found himself running in reverse.
The Las Vegas Raiders running back finished with a career-worst minus-2 yards rushing 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 yardage in a game since the 1970 merger, according to Elias Sports Bureau.
“I feel like I just got to do more, honestly,” 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 getting thrown for a loss by Bills lineman Ed Oliver on the first play from scrimmage. He had minus-6 yards on seven carries in the first half. Once the Bills built their lead to 28-10 on their opening 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 just need a next game and flush it. 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 Aug. 26.
He blamed rust for finishing with 48 yards rushing on 19 carries in a season-opening 17-16 win at Denver. His 2.5-yard rushing average was the third-lowest of his career before Sunday. Jacobs’ 46 yards for the season mark the worst two-game rushing yardage total of his five-year career.
Coach Josh McDaniels said the Raiders’ running game struggles start up front, and noted: “I need to do a better job figuring out how to get JJ going.”
Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo could not compensate 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 receptions, 84 yards) on the opening drive, but the Raiders managed only a field goal after that in an outing they finished with less than 20 minutes in time of possession.
“We just made too many self-inflicted errors,” Garoppolo said.
Adding to Las Vegas’ offensive woes, Adams was evaluated for a head injury at the end of the game. McDaniels did not have an immediate update on Adams, who took a high hit from Bills safety Taylor Rapp while leaping for a long pass in triple coverage with 3:09 left. Rapp was penalized for unnecessary roughness on the play.
The Raiders already were without starting wideout Jakobi Meyers, who suffered a concussion in the opener. Hunter Renfrow, who was not targeted in the win at Denver, caught one 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 targeted in the opener.
The Raiders were able to get Jacobs involved in the passing game. He was targeted six times, gaining 51 yards on five receptions.
The one pass Jacobs didn’t catch was wrestled away 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 hoped to establish their running game against a Bills defense that gave up 172 yards on the ground in a season-opening loss to the Jets. The only success they found came on the opening series when rookie receiver Tre Tucker gained 34 yards on a jet sweep to set up Adams’ touchdown.
“We shot ourselves in the foot most of the game after that drive,” 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 on track.
“We have to be able to block people and get the runner started,” McDaniels said. “A lot of times we couldn’t even really get to the line of scrimmage without being touched.”