GLENDALE, Ariz. -- How much better can the Raiders get in 23 days?
Judging from a 31-27 loss to the Arizona Cardinals on Friday night at University of Phoenix Stadium, coach Dennis Allen, his staff and the Raiders have a lot of work to do before they're ready to open the season against the San Diego Chargers on Sept. 10.
For the second straight game, Oakland looked like a vastly improved defensive team. Arizona had just 48 yards of total offense in the first half, 41 of which came on its opening drive.
The offensive performance, and in particular that of quarterback Carson Palmer, was disconcerting as the Raiders' first team trailed 24-11 at halftime after twice failing to get touchdowns on goal-to-go possessions.
Poor special teams play was also an issue -- Arizona scored a touchdown on a blocked punt and set up another with a long punt return.
To make matters worse, Raiders wide receiver and return specialist Jacoby Ford emerged for the second half on crutches with a foot sprain of undetermined severity.
Palmer's numbers (13 of 24, 107 yards) weren't an accurate barometer of how he played.
Two misfires in particular stood out. Palmer badly overthrew tight end Richard Gordon on a first-and-10 early in the second quarter, with Kerry Rhodes intercepting the gift and racing 60 yards to set up a 32-yard field goal by Jay Feely.
Earlier, with a third-and-2 at the Arizona 23, Darren McFadden was wide open on a swing pass to the left -- a sure touchdown. Palmer's pass, however, led him too far, and McFadden couldn't keep both feet in bounds.
The Raiders were forced to settle for a 40-yard Sebastian Janikowski field goal and a short-lived 8-7 lead.
"It's a team game. It looked like he missed the one throw (to Gordon). We'll go back and look at it," Allen said. "I think the linebacker might have gotten a hand on it. We've got to execute better.:
Also disturbing were two lost fumbles by running back Mike Goodson, playing in his first game after missing the exhibition opener with a neck injury. Goodson had fumbling issues in Carolina but has been sure-handed during training camp.
The first fumble led to a scoring drive in which quarterback John Skelton found a wide-open Anthony Sherman in the right flat for a 3-yard touchdown pass and a 17-8 Arizona lead.
When the Raiders followed with a three-and-out, Justin Bethel blocked and recovered a Marquette King punt, racing 19 yards for a touchdown and a 24-8 advantage.
On the Raiders' second possession, a 13-yard Palmer to Rod Streater touchdown pass was correctly nullified on replay because Streater lost possession while hitting the ground. He was interfered with on the play, setting up a first-and-goal.
However, McFadden was stuffed on consecutive runs, and Palmer couldn't find an open receiver on third down, with Janikowski coming in for an 18-yard field goal.
Included in Oakland's defensive first half was a safety by Tommy Kelly, who said the club's pressure made starting quarterback Kevin Kolb "skittish," and a sack by Lamarr Houston deep in Oakland territory where Philip Wheeler and Tyvon Branch were coming on a jailbreak blitz.
Arizona outscored the Raiders 17-3 in the second quarter (two Oakland turnovers and a blocked punt) despite being outgained 90-4 and managing just two first downs to seven for Oakland.
He was replaced by Terrelle Pryor (2 for 3, 9 yards and no points produced).
Van Dyke later gave up a 31-yard pass from Lindley to Stephen Williams.
"He needs to get better," Allen said. "We can't let him lose his confidence and get down. He needs to keep competing. He's still a young player."
Others who did not play were punter Shane Lechler (knee), wide receiver Denarius Moore (hamstring), running back Taiwan Jones (hamstring), running back Rashawn Jackson (hip), linebacker Aaron Curry (knees), center Stefen Wisniewski (calf), tackle Ed Wang (shoulder), tackle Zach Hurd (head), tight end Brandon Myers (shoulder), defensive end Jack Crawford (foot) and defensive tackle Jamie Cumbie (foot).
Aug. 25 game
Detroit (1-1) at Raiders (0-2), 4 p.m. KQCA live; KICU (taped, 7 p.m.)
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