The Raiders bye week couldn’t have come at a better time.
That’s over now, though, and a few are sharing their thoughts on what they’ve taken from their time reflecting.
Perhaps head coach Jack Del Rio, when asked about creating takeaways, made the most impactful point of the day:
“We’re sitting right here after five games at even and we want to have an advantage in the turnover ratio. Teams that are plus-one are 30-12, and so obviously it’s one of the key statistics when it comes to winning and losing. So you want to win, you’ve got to take care of the football.”
The Raiders entered the bye week down a captain, defensive end Justin Tuck, a safety who should return in a few weeks, Nate Allen, and two winnable games that they lost.
Both of which included interceptions when Oakland was marching through enemy territory like something only seen in a movie.
One, against Chicago, was a short pass to the left intended for running back Latavius Murray, who failed to corral the ball well. It bounced from his chest plate and into the hands of linebacker Pernell McPhee.
Another at home against Denver, a pass to the right intended for receiver Amari Cooper was picked by breakout cornerback Chris Harris Jr., who took it the distance.
No doubt the Raiders would like those two back — the two plays could have been the difference between two losses and two wins.
Which is probably why Raiders quarterback Derek Carr says his guys just have to keep fighting until the final whistle is blown:
“It really comes down to staying the course. It really comes down to at every position being efficient at what we’re doing the whole way through the game. These games are long. They’re a long game, but like we learned, I don’t know the percentage, but it seems like almost every game is close or someone had a shot at the end.”
Del Rio has been around long enough to know that one play, good, bad or ugly, can turn the tide of a game. He knows that the final outcome of a game, even a blowout, happens in a series of events, not just the one’s people tend to point out.
30 or 40 plays in a quarter can result in five total touchdowns, or none. He’s been trying to coach some of that into the minds of his men, and so far, the current season has just solidified his personal philosophies:
“Pretty much reinforced what I thought, yeah. You know, games are close in the league. We won the first two, we dropped the last two and all four were real close. It just shows you the preparation, the way we’re fighting, the way we’re growing.”
The good news for the Raiders is that two of the toughest games on their schedule this year are behind them. They have one more at Denver, and aside from the Broncos and Packers, will not be facing a team with recent playoff success.
There’s a few opponents, once coming up this week in San Diego, who are good but haven’t gone the distance. Oakland seems like they should be favored in those.
But for now, the Raiders are just trying to get over defeating another enemy, bye week lethargy. Carr said:
“You have to stay locked in. When you get time off, you can’t go 100% without football. You have to at least watch the games, at least keep your mind in it, at least keep your mind, for me at least, calling plays or else when you get back out here it’s like your tongue is tied. So you just want to really stay in it.”
Jason Leskiw is SFBay’s Oakland Raiders beat writer and member of the Professional Football Writers of America. Follow @SFBay and @LeskiwSFBay on Twitter and at SFBay.ca for full coverage of the Oakland Raiders.