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Raiders have penalty problem on offensive line

In a scoreless game early in the first quarter on Sunday night, the Raiders faced a fourth-and-one from the Kansas City Chiefs’ 47-yard line.

Knowing the importance of cashing in with points after crossing into Chiefs territory and wary of punting the ball back to Patrick Mahomes and his high-powered offense, Raiders interim head coach Rich Bisaccia opted to go for it on fourth down.

What ultimately unfolded was a painful reminder of one of the Raiders’ most frustrating flaws. It’s one that continues to hurt them in spite of making it a daily point of emphasis.

Trying to take advantage of backup quarterback Marcus Mariota’s dual-threat abilities, the Raiders inserted him into the game. Mariota’s ability to throw and run left the Raiders with multiple options from their run-pass-option menu. It meant the Chiefs would have to guess among a handful of post-snap choices.

It never got to that.

As Mariota lined up under center and began barking out signals, movement from the right side of the Raiders’ offensive line caught the attention of officials. Alex Leatherwood, their rookie right guard, was flagged for a false start.

Now facing a fourth-and-six rather than a fourth-and-one, the Raiders had to punt it to the Chiefs, who promptly marched 89 yards in 11 plays to take a 7-0 lead. The Raiders would be playing catch up the rest of the night in what became a 41-14 defeat.

It was one of two costly false start penalties by the Raiders’ offensive line, including the one called on right tackle Brandon Parker in the second quarter that changed a third- and-three into a third-and-eight. The Raiders trailed 10-7 at the time.

On the next play, Jalen Richard gained three yards on a pass from Derek Carr. Without the penalty, it would have been enough to move the chains. Because of Parker’s pre-snap penalty, the Raiders had to punt on fourth down.

None of which should come as a surprise. Three Raiders offensive linemen rank among the top eight in the NFL in committing penalties, with Leatherwood’s nine infractions the second-most in the league.

Meanwhile, Parker and left guard John Simpson are tied for eighth with six penalties apiece. The Raiders are the seventh-most penalized team in the NFL with 68.

Of Leatherwood’s nine penalties, six are for false starts. Parker has been flagged for that infraction four times and Simpson once.

It’s one thing to be flagged for holding, which is often a subjective call by officials. But false starts are all mental.

Hence, the frustration from Bisaccia on the Raiders’ sideline on Sunday when two key drives were sabotaged by false starts, especially after all the focus on that very element during game preparations.

“Yeah, I thought we had them cleaned up in practice,” Bisaccia said.

That wasn’t the case on Sunday. While the two miscues only cost the Raiders 10 yards in total distance, they turned out to be the difference in moving the chains. More than anything, it was the situations they altered that hurt the Raiders the most.

“It was untimely as people may say,” Bisaccia said. “But they are just really critical spots for us.”

As the 5-4 Raiders try to get back on track after two straight losses, they know their margin for error is razor-thin. Smoothing out the edges, including eliminating those costly pre-snap penalties, is critical.

Bisaccia has instituted a penalty policy for pre-snap penalties in practice, and for at least one week of workouts it cut down the number of miscues.

But that did not carry over Sunday night against the Chiefs. That needs to change.

“I think it’s on all of us. We’ll figure that out,” Bisaccia said. “But the penalties, we just have to do a better job.”

Contact Vincent Bonsignore at vbonsignore@reviewjournal.com. Follow @VinnyBonsignore on Twitter.

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