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Head coach Jack Del Rio gave his Raiders the standard 24 hours to enjoy Sunday’s come-from-behind victory over the Baltimore Ravens, and afforded himself a similar luxury.
A 37-33 win concluded with a mix of emotions so powerful the East Bay native had to distract himself to avoid getting caught in the moment.
The post-game locker room was an extension of that, when Del Rio was given a game ball for his first victory leading a Raiders team he grew up cheering for. He handed another back to quarterback Derek Carr for a near-flawless two-minute drill to beat the Ravens with 26 seconds remaining.
The locker room erupted following the exchange, a cathartic moment following a stressful week. The Raiders got embarrassed by the Cincinnati Bengals, which called a preseason’s worth of positivity into question. Then Sunday brought good vibes back again. It’s amazing what a win can do in this reactionary league.
“That was special,” Del Rio said. “Really proud of the men in that room. We’ve worked hard. This is the first of many moments like that. It’s going to be a lot of fun.
“I’m sure there are plenty of things that we’ll pick apart and talk about that weren’t how they need to be going forward. But for today, they were enough. For today, we’ll take that huge win that we needed so badly and go enjoy it tonight.”
Del Rio enjoyed the evening, but the initial high wore off quickly. He was back in head-coaching form by the end of his press conference, strip-mining emotion from euphoria still fresh.
“To me it’s one in the plus column or one in the minus column and we move on,” Del Rio said. “You don’t get style points. At the end of the year they’re going to add up how many you won and that’s one in the win column. We’ll take it and move on.”
His point was echoed by every veteran near a microphone. Receiver Michael Crabtree, safety Charles Woodson and defensive end Justin Tuck all reminded us that Sunday was “just one win.” Nothing more, nothing less.
Don’t they understand how rare wins are in these parts? The Raiders have just 11 in the past three seasons. Sunday was a downpour in a drought. Raider Nation is allowed to jump from puddle to puddle this week.
These players won’t. The Raiders won three times in 2014, and lost the next week by an average of 34 points.
Del Rio wants to avoid that response at all costs. He guarded well against the lows following a Week 1 loss to Cincinnati. Now he’s trying to keep the highs from lasting too long. That shouldn’t be too hard, because the Raiders were far from perfect against the Ravens.
“We made some mistakes that kept this game close, and we have to fix those issues,” Tuck said. “But it’s certainly easier to do that when you’re not on suicide watch because you just lost another one. I expect us to have a pep in our step as we hunker down and prepare for Cleveland.”
Players were often asked if this win counts for more than one, if Sunday’s clutch performance and perseverance could inspire confidence in the next do-or-die moment. Right now, it doesn’t. If the Raiders become cardiac kids and steal victories throughout the season, then we can refer to Week 2 as a revelation. Until then, this counts as a positive, trapped in a vacuum.
The NFL is a week-to-week league, unless you’re stuck in the past. Can’t beat the Ravens if you’re still embarrassed by the Bengals. Can’t beat the Browns if your toasting the Ravens win. That’s a tiger trap that catches the unsuccessful.
The Raiders haven’t been good in a long time, but are trying to act like it. That’s an important step in a culture change. Fake it ‘til you make it.
“This is not the Raiders team of old,” Tuck said. “Getting a win after what happened last week (against Cincinnati) is a plus. Hopefully this is an experience we can build on, but it’s just one win and we shouldn’t act surprised that we got it.”