OAKLAND -- The Raiders weren’t given a chance to beat the Kansas City Chiefs. They were two-touchdown underdogs heading into Sunday’s game; that’s code for the whole world expecting a blowout.
Smart money apparently was on the Raiders. The Silver and Black kept it close until the end, before conceding 40-33 on Sunday at the Coliseum.
Players don’t care about covering the spread. They want to win, especially when nobody expects it.
Football’s a results-based business, and the “L” matters most.
Here in Oakland, however, it’s not the only thing. Can’t be during a total rebuild.
These games have to mean something, even with this season swimming with the fishes.
Mining positives during this season has been tough, like squeezing water from a rock. On Sunday, however, the Raiders put a firm grip on a saturated sponge.
That's a good sign for coach Jon Gruden, proof that his players are still working and fighting for him and this staff. They are taking pride in progress, even when it isn't producing wins.
Losing three fumbles was a death sentence against Kansas City, but silver linings were easily found in an ultimately disappointing result.
Derek Carr showed some scheme mastery in an efficient performance where he showed restraint and a willingness to chuck it deep. The run game was gaining chunk yards when holding onto the ball. The offense was 9 for 12 on third down and 4 for 4 in the red zone, areas where they’ve been terrible all season.
The defense got some solid stops and made some good plays in coverage. They just didn’t make enough against the Chiefs.
Make no mistake. The Raiders weren’t good. They were better.
After a season’s worth of terrible, that’s something.
“You’ve got to find those little glimmers, though couple of plays or drives where we look like the elite offense we’re going to be,” running back Jalen Richard said. “The same thing happens on defense. We look at those moments and think, ‘We can do this.’ Once you put it on film, you can do it again. We have to find things we can build on here.”
The Raiders don’t want to be doing this. They’d prefer to be relevant and alive in the playoff hunt, something officially eliminated with Sunday’s loss.
Sunday’s effort was a far cry from results around midseason, when the Raiders lost five straight by at least 14 points.
“It's disappointing but definitely something we can build on,” safety Karl Joseph said. “We played hard, we didn't give up, we kept fighting the whole time. We just have to be better off this and get ready to play them again (in the season finale)."
The Raiders hope to show progress before then. That doesn’t mean momentum will travel between seasons, especially with so much roster turnover expected this spring.
While it is incremental and at times only seen through a magnifying glass, progress has been made these past few weeks, from the Arizona win to the Baltimore loss through Sunday’s result.
The Raiders aren’t talented enough to beat playoff contenders outside a perfect storm. They are playing freer, without the burden of all that’s gone wrong this year, and the results are better as a result.
“When we have fun, we play better,” Carr said. “When we’re all uptight, worried about what Coach is going to say, getting cussed out or yelled at — nobody is going to play well doing that. It’s been an emphasis in practice.
“I’m glad you said that because it’s translating to the games. Obviously it’s no moral victory, but we should play like that no matter what the score is, what our record is. You want it to always look the same. Hopefully, we can continue to grow that and instill that in our young guys.”