Programming note: Watch Raiders Press Conference Live today at 2:00 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet California, and streaming live right here.
OAKLAND – The Raiders closed out the home slate with three straight victories at O.co Coliseum, an impressive run that concluded with Sunday’s 26-24 victory over the Buffalo Bills.
The Raiders beat the Kansas City Chiefs, 49ers and Bills, all teams with playoff aspirations and a winning record at the time. Moxie and confidence grew with each passing home win, and the Raiders played better in each successive game.
It became crystal clear that you had something to do with that. The Raiders thrive off of fan energy, which is remarkably strong considering how bad the Raiders were early on.
That’s why the first of three positives belongs to Raider Nation.
1. Home cooking: O.co Coliseum isn’t the nicest place to watch a football game. The Raiders haven’t put the best product on the field. And, if there was ever a game that wouldn’t sell out, it would’ve been Sunday’s contest between the 2-12 Raiders and a Bills team without star skill players.
Didn’t matter. Raiders fans showed up in droves, and made their presence felt at several points in a close contest.
“It was great, man,” free safety Charles Woodson said. “One thing our coach said to us last night is, ‘Leave this game with the crowd wanting more.’ I think that’s what we tried to do, is come out here today and – last home game of the season – come out here and get a win now for this team, for the organization and for Raider Nation as well. It felt good to get that win.”
The Raiders refuse to give up on a lost season, and the same can be said for fans that support this team unconditionally, weathering some rotten football for a few moments in the sun. Players said these recent home wins were due in some part to the energy in the stadium.
“We have the best fans in the NFL,” defensive tackle Antonio Smith said. “It’s an electric environment. I think the energy flows through us all. I hate to say it because we have to get better at road games, but we’re a totally different team in this stadium.”
2. Staying in the fight: The Raiders have experienced some rough losses this season, and many questioned whether one of the last few would provide a knockout punch that killed the Raiders will. Even after 52-0 in St. Louis, and 31-13 in Kansas City, the Raiders kept their heads up. Nothing short of maximum effort would’ve beat the Chiefs, 49ers or even the Bills on Sunday.
The Raiders hung tough and have shown tremendous growth near season’s end. Credit obviously goes to interim head coach Tony Sparano, quarterback Derek Carr and veteran leadership that kept playing hard without much to play for.
3. Commitment to the run: The Raiders always hoped to be a ground-and-pound offense that churned out yards on the ground. That hasn’t happened much this season. A combination of ineffectiveness and lopsided scores made the Raiders pass happy. That wasn’t the case on Sunday, when the Raiders stuck with the run and accented with big pass plays.
They ran a season-high 36 times, with Latavius Murray leading the charge.
“It was real nice to run the ball consistently,” Murray said. “We had a few big runs there. We were just kind of pounding. You get those little runs, those little runs, and then the big ones will come. Obviously [RB Darren McFadden] D-Mac got in there and same thing, so we were definitely successful and we want to do that. The offense is successful when we run the ball that way.”