CLEVELAND –- The Raiders started this season with a two-game home stand. Their first foray outside the East Bay comes Sunday at Cleveland. On the road. In the Eastern Time Zone. Starting at 10 a.m. Pacific.
Those three things typically spell trouble for the Raiders. They haven’t won a road game since Nov. 2013. They’ve lost 22 of 24 road games since general manager Reggie McKenzie took control in 2012.
They haven’t won in the Easter Time Zone and beyond since Dec. 6, 2009. That win came against Pittsburgh. The Raiders haven’t won a game in Cleveland since 1985, though Sunday marks just their fourth game on the bank of Lake Erie in the last 30 years.
New head coach Jack Del Rio has gone to great lengths to bury unflattering aspects team’s recent past, during a decade-plus of losing regardless of venue.
As far as he is concerned, the Raiders are 0-0 on the road. Track records are irrelevant to this group.
“This is our first opportunity on the road, and it’s chapter three in our season,” Del Rio said. “We had the first two at home. Chapter three goes on the road. We get an opportunity to go on the road and compete. We’re going to define who we are on the road.”
The Raiders had mixed results in a 1-1 home stand. The defense struggled. The offense showed signs of life. Improvement is needed across the board because, right now, the Raiders are not maximizing talent.
“Whether you’re on the road, at home, winning is tough. You go out there, you earn it,” Del Rio said. “Teams that are well prepared go out there, play hard, compete, stick together. You know that when you go on the road, the one thing you’re going to deal with is crowd noise and again, they’re as loud as you allow them to be.”
Browns fans are also dying for a winner, and are looking to start the season 2-1. The Raiders are, too. As crazy as it sounds, the Raiders haven’t spent a week above .500 since 2011.
Del Rio’s quest to buck recent tradition continues with a winnable game at Cleveland, followed by another road game at Chicago. Del Rio says winning on the road is a mindset, about negating advantages real and perceived and playing to potential.
“We’re working on the things that you need to be to be a good football team, and part of that is traveling with a purpose, traveling well and performing well on the road,” Del Rio said. “It’s a hostile environment. It’s going to be loud, a lot of different factors working against you. Clearly, there’s an advantage to playing at home, but we want to be road warriors. We want to be the kind of team that can travel well and play in any kind of conditions, any kind of weather, any kind of crowd, and just be very purposeful and go in there and be able to impose our will on the opposing team.”