The Oakland Raiders will have plenty of work to do before the season begins in two weeks. A day after promising fans at the Raider Nation Celebration that the losing seasons would end this year, the silver and black stepped on the field and mixed brilliant play with horrible execution.
The result was a 28-24 loss to their Bay Area rivals — leaving Raiders fans to deal with trash talk from 49ers fans until the two teams meet again in October.
While nobody wants to lose, this loss may be just what the Raiders need right now. After going toe to toe with Super Bowl favorite Dallas in game one and dominating Chicago in game two, a little humbling might be the lesson that this team needed before setting their sights on the AFC West.
So what should the main result be from this lesson? No matter how good you are, you better bring your ‘A’ game each and every week — otherwise you are going to lose like Saturday night…a lot.
“When I look at the game, a nice start to the football game for our team but I really thought toward the end of the first quarter and all the second, I thought there was a let-up,” said head coach Tom Cable after the game.
Usually a let-up happens when a team becomes overconfident with their ability to dictate the tempo of a game. Did the Raiders get too overconfident after walking down the field on their first possession and taking a 7-0 advantage early? After winning their first two preseason games, while competing well against Super Bowl favorite Dallas, it’s quite possible that this team may have been looking to the start of the season.
Better now than when the games count for the silver and black, to get an eye-opening beating.
Before mentioning some history, let’s not mistakenly put the 2010 Raiders on a pedestal of playoff contender. Anyone who has followed this team over the last decade should know better. With that said, much can be said about a team falling on their face sometime during the season.
In 1976, the Raiders entered the season after losing the AFC title game to the Pittsburgh Steelers the season before, 16-10. Their first victory of the season was against those same Steelers, 31-28 at home. The Raiders went on to win their first three games by a combined margin of just seven points before traveling to Foxborough, MA, to face the New England Patriots. The Patriots ran all over the Raiders, literally, posting nearly 300 yards rushing on the day on their way to a 48-17 victory.
Oakland wouldn’t lose the rest of the season, (including a 24-21 victory over the Patriots in the divisional playoff game), going 16-1 and winning the first Super Bowl in franchise history.
In 1980, the Raiders went into a game with the Philadelphia Eagles with an 8-3 record — the Eagles were 10-1. Jim Plunkett was harassed all day and only completed 10 passes in 36 attempts. Had it not been for a quick sideline pass to Cliff Branch, who turned a 20-yard play into an 86-yard touchdown, there would have been very little positive for the Raiders that day. While the score wouldn’t show it, (the Raiders lost 10-7), Oakland was beaten soundly by the NFC’s best team.
The Raiders would lose just once more that season, (19-13 to the Cowboys), before becoming the first Wild Card team to win a Super Bowl — a 27-10 dismantling of Philadelphia.
In 1983, the Los Angeles Raiders went into the game of the week with a 4-0 record. Their opponent, the Washington Redskins, were 3-1 and a heavy favorite to win the Super Bowl that season. Early in the fourth quarter, a Greg Pruitt 97-yard punt return touchdown seemed to put the game away with the Raiders on top 35-20. Unfortunately, the Raiders got a taste of their own medicine as Joe Theismann led the Redskins to 17 more points in the final six-plus minutes to give Washington a 37-35 victory. At the time, the Raiders losing a game in the fourth-quarter was ironic due to all of their own fourth-quarter comebacks.
The Raiders would go on to record a 12-4 record, win the AFC West, and meet the Redskins in the Super Bowl — in which they embarrassed Washington with a convincing 38-9 thrashing.
Are these your father’s Raiders? Highly doubtful. Let’s face it, no team in today’s NFL will ever be as good as any of the great pre-free agency era teams. However, they have a punter like Ray Guy, Jason Campbell could turn out to be this era’s Jim Plunkett, Nnamdi Asomugha is as good as Mike Haynes or Lester Hayes, and after Saturday night, they have a loss to be ashamed of.
Hopefully for Raider Nation, that will be enough to make this year’s Raiders a playoff team.