This was a big win. A significant win. And also a win the Raiders should carry into the regular season
The Raiders beat the Arizona Cardinals under the scorching twilight of the Sonoran Desert, winning in all three phases, helping build on a real confidence that has been brewing all through training camp.
And the Raiders, with two forced turnovers and four touchdowns, need to carry this one. Feel the joy, and nourish their growing faith that this is the Oakland team, the only Raiders team in over 10 years, that is primed for the postseason.
Sure, this game means nothing in the scope of a 16 game NFL season. It doesn’t mean the Raiders are undefeated. And, absolutely, they were playing reserve on reserve for the vast majority of the evening.
This is true.
But the win, the way it happened, is indicative of the ceiling this group of young men and coaches have. The sky is the limit.
When receiver Johnny Holton recovered the fumble caused by linebacker Korey Toomer, seconds after punter Marquette King sent a booming punt 47 yards downfield, the frenetic pace of the off-season mumbo jumbo stopped.
It became more real. A portrait came to life. And this one is the Mona Lisa Raiders fans have been waiting a painfully long time for.
The 17 first quarter points Oakland scored while facing the sort of hard-to-beat team they’ll face more than a few times this season represents a major accomplishment.
The three first quarter points allowed amounts to the new reality that this team is ready to compete, and compete they will.
More important than anything, though, is that the first unit never lost their composure despite two pre-snap offensive penalties early in the evening. When the Raiders looked just like those “same ol’ Raiders.”
This group most certainly is not them.
Oakland does have a lot to prove, still, and this is a small step towards becoming a winning football team. And to play devils advocate — something that feels like a misnomer in this context given the treachery the Raiders have allowed their fans to endure over the years — this is a good football team that still needs to become truly good.
An uphill climb remains following the post-off-season, and these fellas will need to prove their worth. There’s a lot that can wrong still, and one reminder of last preseason was present when Mario Edwards Jr. went down with an apparent hip injury that the team has yet to expand on.
Like when tackle Menelik Watson went down against the Cardinals at home last August, and after displaying tremendous promise in his second training camp.
Head coach Jack Del Rio refused to discuss Edwards’ status, keeping it in house until league rules force teams to release injury updates to the media and general public.
Del Rio also made a point to call out poor tackling after the game, something he did many times during the 2015 season. Something that helped turn the tide against the Raiders in close games that ended up in the wrong column.
But the Raiders have obviously improved. Maybe to the point where poor tackling won’t be the deal-breaker, though they must show signs of ferocity in that department.
In all, though, this is one game that doesn’t mean anything in the record books but is immeasurable to the confidence of such a young team with legitimate reason to be confident.
Where hyperbole becomes reality. And that’s something to smile about.
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 Raiders football.