The 2016 Raiders were well armed, with a stout offensive line, the NFL’s best defender and an MVP candidate under center.
That’ll win games. The Silver and Black went 12-4 and made the postseason for another reason.
They could take a punch.
That group absorbed haymakers but never saw stars. They’d charge right back, with some Derek Carr magic or a timely takeaway.
Jack Del Rio gave them swagger, but results bred confidence and solidified resolve.
There’s so much continuity on the roster and coaching staff between that year and this that repeat performances were assumed.
That hasn’t happened. The Raiders are 2-3, mired in a three-game losing streak following a 30-17 home loss to Baltimore.
The record isn’t all that troubling. They lost to an upstart Washington squad on the road, Denver’s top-tier defense and a hungry Ravens squad without starting quarterback Derek Carr.
Those things happen. It’s the how, not the what, that raises red flags.
Adversity is winning. They get down and stay there, which is un-Raider-like in the Del Rio era. This group looks lost and a bit shaken after three straight defeats.
“I think you’d have to have a little bit of a question about the confidence level,” Del Rio said. “You just went out and didn’t get it done three weeks in a row. To me it’s real simple. It’s a group of men, prideful men. We’ll get back in the saddle, get back to work.”
The Raiders have to work fast. They’re already three games behind AFC West pace car Kansas City. A loss to L.A. Sunday puts them in last place, miles away from their primary goal of winning the division.
Others were talking AFC title, maybe even a Super Bowl before the season. Outside expectations don’t matter, but they are heard. Maybe they created a false confidence, a belief this early season might be easy.
“Coming into the year you all were telling us how good we are,” edge rusher Bruce Irvin said. “I don’t know if we believed it or not but it’s like this. It’s not the first time I’ve been in a situation like this. It’s the 5th game. We have 11 more games. We have time to turn it around but it’s all if we want to or not. We have to come into work and take this [expletive] serious or we’ll continue to lose.”
Several things have to change. The Raiders must get their offense in order. Amari Cooper is invisible. The line isn’t its consistently dominant self. Even Carr has looked human during this tough stretch.
The defense must be opportunistic, and overcome an injury plague at inside linebacker and cornerback.
Most important, however, is proving they don’t have a glass jaw.
There’s a combination of talent and pride here required to turn things around. This season will hinge on an ability to do that.
“I see a good team with a good defense and an explosive offense,” Joseph said. “We just have put it all together. We have to practice harder, to do whatever it takes to get a win. Three losses in a row, that hurts.”
It wasn’t, however, a fatal blow. There’s 11 games left, with time to rectify a seemingly dire situation. That will only happen, however, if the Raiders get beyond this confidence crisis and start performing under pressure.
“Everyone’s to blame. This is gut-check time,” right tackle Marshall Newhouse said. “We have to look in the mirror and see what we as individuals can do better. We have to actually apply that to the day-to-day, and be honest with yourself. It really is that simple and that complicated.”