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's new defensive schemes looked promising.
The offensive performance, and in particular that of quarterback Carson Palmer, was disconcerting as the Raiders' first team trailed 24-11 at halftime despite giving up just 58 yards of offense.
Poor special-teams play was also an issue, giving up one Arizona touchdown on a blocked punt and setting up another.
To make matters worse, wide receiver and return specialist Jacoby Ford emerged for the second half on crutches with a foot injury of undetermined severity.
Palmer's numbers (13 of 24, 107 yards) weren't an accurate barometer of how he played as he adjusts to the new offensive system installed by Greg Knapp.
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 right 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.
Also disturbing were two lost fumbles by running back Mike Goodson, playing in his first game after missing the preseason opener with a neck injury.
The first 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 Arizona margin.
The Oakland defense played well for the second straight week, holding the Cardinals to 26 yards rushing in the first half and 58 yards of total offense.
Defensive tackle Tommy Kelly recorded a safety and Lamarr Houston a sack of Kevin Kolb with the Cardinals deep in Oakland territory.
Notes Backup quarterback Matt Leinart left the game with an injury to his right (non-throwing) index finger after absorbing a head-to-head blow from third-string nose tackle Ricky Lumpkin.
Expectant fathers Michael Huff and Pat Lee missed the game to be present at the birth of their children.