Programming note: Watch Raiders Press Conference Live today at 2:00 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet California, or streaming live right here.
OAKLAND – Tony Sparano’s 2014 Raiders have been more competitive than Dennis Allen’s before him, with two close games in as many weeks.
The results, however, haven’t changed.
The Silver and Black are still losing, mired in a 12-game streak that dates back to Nov. 17, 2013. The interim head coach doesn’t want to talk about the past. He buried that discussion with a football some weeks back.
Sparano makes a clear division between then and now, so if we roll with that logic, then the Raiders are 0-2 and still winless after Sunday’s 24-13 home loss to the Arizona Cardinals.
That isn’t lost on the no-nonsense coach, a straight shooter who doesn’t paper over cracks.
“Our kids are starting to believe they’re close, but that’s a consolation,” Sparano said. “In other words, it’s not good enough. It’s not good enough for our fans. It’s not good enough for our owner. It’s not good enough for the kids in that locker room. We’ve got to win one of these types of football games.”
Sparano’s stated goal was to keep the Raiders competitive and give them a chance to win tight games.
He’s done that, but it hasn't helped because these Raiders can’t close.
“These are losses that hurt,” Sparano said. “You can’t keep saying, ‘we’ll get it next week; we’ll get it next week.’ That’s not one of the things that works in this league. You have to get it when the opportunity is out there and we’ve gotten opportunities in the last two weeks. We put ourselves in position to win and we didn’t.”
The Raiders will emphasize performance in the clutch – Allen called it “the moment of truth” – in practice and strive for it in games. But, to this point, there is no evidence this group can finish.
Why should we assume they would next week at Cleveland? How about subsequent weeks after that?
There is no proof on tape. The Raiders failed at one crucial moment after another, especially on third down, where this game was lost.
“There are 120-140-some odd plays that I’ll go through (on film), but within those, you might have eight or nine of them that are critical, really critical situations, and those are the moments that we have got to be able to win,” Sparano said. “We have to win more than we lose in those situations for us to get through this.”
Sparano is steadfast in his belief that the Raiders will start winning. How many they can win is a tough call. I’m not suggesting the Raiders will go 0-16. Even with such a daunting schedule, the Raiders will sneak out a win somewhere.
Absorb that a moment, and ponder how low the bar has fallen. The Raiders were never considered serious playoff contenders, but most believed them better than last year’s 4-12 squad. Now it would take a startling reversal of fortune against good teams to reach that mark. Don’t forget: can’t think about four before you notch one.
The blandness of Sunday’s game proves that winning will be tough. The Raiders didn’t implode against the Arizona Cardinals. Derek Carr didn’t make a bonehead decision, Darren McFadden didn’t put the ball on the ground and Carlos Rogers didn’t blow coverage on a long bomb.
Arizona simply executed better.
The Raiders insist they’ll keep fighting the good fight and push hard to play better. The tough part is accepting their lot.
Raiders players spent an offseason expressing optimism and a training camp being told there were no limits to what they could do. Now they’re the NFL’s only winless team, hoping now that 0-6 is their rock bottom. If they can’t perform better in key moments, it certainly won’t be.
“It’s certainly frustrating when you’re close and still lose, especially when we don’t have a win yet,“ center Stefen Wisniewski said, “I never even considered that we’d be at this point.”