Editor's note: Scott Bair is in London with the Raiders. Stay logged on to CSNBayArea.com all week for comprehensive coverage of the Silver and Black.
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Justin Tuck prefers leadership by example. He’ll say something when necessary, but the veteran defensive end knows part of his paycheck is earned not just by telling and, more importantly, showing the Raiders how to win.
Tuck didn’t think he was doing enough of the latter when his team needed him most. He wasn’t impactful during two disastrous losses to start the season. The Raiders were in a tailspin, and he needed to help his team gain control.
“I always look at it from my perspective first, and I don’t think I’ve played well early this season,” Tuck said. “It was hard for me. The last two weeks it’s been hard for me to look guys in the face because what I’ve done on the football field wasn’t up to par with what’s expected of me.”
He certainly was on Sunday afternoon. Tuck had a sack, two other quarterback hits and two tackles against the New England Patriots. He was active in the run game and part of a defense that largely held the Patriots at bay.
If only the score would’ve been better. A 16-9 loss dropped Tuck’s Raiders to an unwelcome 0-3.
“We lost, but I think this was our best effort this year,” Tuck said. “If we play the style of football that we can play, we can compete with anybody. We have to put that product on the field every week. It’s disheartening that we didn’t come out of this with a win, but it’s something we can build on.”
Few find solace in moral victories. In football, they’re generally forbidden. After brutal defeats to the New York Jets and Houston Texans, the Raiders deserve an exception. The Raiders still aren’t good, but they’re better.
They looked competitive and competent. They looked like a team that can win games if they perform better in the clutch. The Raiders understood their effort still wasn’t good enough, but this performance gave them hope and a twinge of confidence.
That was evident in the locker room, where players were disappointed by the result but proud of the effort.
“Win, lose or draw, you want to be able to look your teammates in the eye and know that we gave our all,” Tuck said. “You shouldn’t hang your head low when you go out fighting. You win some and you lose some, but I think this team grew up a lot today. I hope we can build on that moving forward. There’s a long ways to go this season.”
There’s also an urgency to the Raiders actions. They still need to win a game, and at 0-3 are underperforming during a relatively easy stretch of schedule. It gets far tougher, with 2013 playoff teams in six of the eight games after the Week 5 bye. In other words, gotta beat Miami next week in London.
The Raiders believe they can show progress this season, which comes in the win column. They have to capitalize on opportunities. On Sunday, they didn’t do enough of that.
They had a touchdown nullified by a penalty and an interception first clank off Denarius Moore’s chest. They allowed some easy third down conversions and couldn’t find the end zone all day long. That’s why, even with progress shown, this one will eat at the Raiders a bit.
It’s not that these Raiders could’ve beat the Patriots. They should’ve.
“There were some positives, but it doesn’t take away a terrible feeling that we let one slip away,” fullback Marcel Reece said. “There are missed chances that will stick with us, but a loss is a loss. Hopefully this one will spurn us on to better things.”
Such an effort seemed unlikely after the Texans loss. A blown home opener sent Raider Nation into a full-on panic, and led to questions about Dennis Allen’s job security just two weeks in.
Raiders players talked about staying cool and professional. They did exactly that. Last year’s group couldn’t have weathered that storm. While a loss doesn’t keep a season from spiraling out of control, the effort and execution showed resiliency that impressed the coaching staff.
“It gets down to guys understanding where we are at, and that we’ve got to do something to get things turned around,” head coach Dennis Allen said. “I think it just was a conscious decision to give everything you have to everything you do. When we walk off the field, we want to look each other in the eye and know we gave it everything we got. And I think our guys can do that today.”