Programming note: Watch Raiders Press Conference Live today at 2:00 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet California, or streaming live right here.
ST. LOUIS – Tony Sparano wasn’t quite ready to address assembled media following Sunday’s loss to the St. Louis Rams, so the press was directed to the Raiders locker room until the interim head coach reached the podium.
Win or lose, a visitor’s locker room is normally bustling with life, as players get treatment and quickly prepare to board a team bus and then a plane home.
At this early stage in the postgame interview window, not a creature was stirring. The room was dead quiet, completely void of ambient noise. There were no side conversations, iPod shuffles or athletic tape being torn. Nothing.
Even a lopsided NFL game is too busy with game planning, adjustments and execution -- too consuming to ponder great truths or overwhelming disappointments.
This unplanned moment of silence brought an unwelcome rush of reality.
The Raiders have had bad losses en route to 1-11. Sunday was altogether different.
The Raiders were beaten and bloodied, with no scheme or strength to even the score. For the first time all season, they weren’t able to muster resistance. When the Raiders don’t fight, things get ugly.
“I don’t think I’ve ever been through something like this,” 10th-year defensive end Justin Tuck said. “I’ve had my fair share of bad losses, but I guess my memory deleted all those other ones, like I hope it does this time as well. I can’t think of any loss of this magnitude.”
This was a rock bottom even in a one-win season -- it was also the worst loss since 1961 -- somehow worse than Miami’s 38-14 thrashing in London that ultimately got Dennis Allen fired. It took a coaching change and a buried football took keep this team together then.
With just four games left in a season rather forgotten, can this group recoup and rebound as it have before? Or will we look at this game as one that broke the Raiders’ back?
They’ll tell you no in the coming paragraphs. After all Sparano has done to band these brothers together, I wouldn't bet against him. We’ll have our real answer this week, heading into and during a Dec. 7 home game with the 49ers.
It won’t be the promise of sunshine that keeps them afloat. Pure disgust may spurn them on.
“This is a very bad taste to have in your mouth,” linebacker Khalil Mack said. “You don’t want to feel this again. It’s a reason to get pissed off. It’s a reason to get mad. But you have to make corrections and move on. You can’t live in the past.”
Sparano, a master of motivation during tough times, told his players to remember this humiliation and recall it as often as the elation of the previous week’s win over Kansas City.
Fiend for one, run like hell from the other.
That takes fight. Against the Rams, they looked to be wearing down. There was plenty of poor tackling, especially in space. There were lackluster efforts to chase ball carriers down or get them out of bounds, fundamental breakdowns Sparano works tirelessly to eliminate.
It was clear the Raiders were overmatched, and will be most times against the 49ers, Bills, Chiefs and Broncos. There may not be a win left, even with maximum effort. That daunting stretch, plus Sunday’s defeat, could certainly cause a team to unravel.
Sparano is supremely confident it won’t.
“I have every faith and trust in the people in our locker room,” Sparano said. “I wish they didn’t have to go through this. In order to get to where we want to be, I guess this is something we have to go through.
"I have every confidence and belief that they’ll bounce back. They’ll be resilient. It’s in their DNA. They’ll learn from this experience and move on as professionals.”