In the last four games of this season the Raiders have had four very different faces. In three of those four games, that phase of the game that showed up was more than the opposition could handle. However, in every one of those three dominating performances, the one important part of the equation that was missing was the fans.
If you go back five games, to the game versus the Texans at home, attendance was at a pathetic low of around 35,000. That is the kind of numbers you would expect for a meaningless midseason baseball game in most cities. The Raiders lost that game, although it was a hard fought close game. But with the unexpected loss to the Cardinals the week before, it dropped the Raiders to a 1-3 record, in sole possession of last place in the AFC West. And the next week the Chargers were coming to town.
Little did we all know at the time but, the Chargers game would be the first signs of this team's resurgence. The general feeling at the time was that the many fans were bracing for yet another long, hard, losing season. And the attendance was yet again, a pathetically low 45,000. Sure, it jumped 10k from the previous week, but this is the hated rival Chargers we're talking about. The fans should be turning out to see it. Although, I can hardly fault them for not wanted to bear the heartbreak. However, heartbreak was the least of their problems when their timdity caused them to miss out on a great game in which the Raiders finally exorcised their demons to beat the Chargers for the first time in 13 tries.
The Raiders won that game primarily on special teams. They blocked the first two punts of the game. The first block went for a safety and the second for a touchdown. Then the third punt went out of bounds because the punter was afraid of getting it blocked again, giving the Raiders field position at the 50 yard line. All the while Shane Lechler had a 63 yard punt and a 53 yards per punt average and Nick Miller entered an NFL game for the first time and returned a punt 46 yards. That is a whole lotta great field position. Add to that, Janikowski being 2 for 2 on field goals with a 50 yarder and you have some serious special teams domination. And it was the main reason the Raiders were able to pull out the win.
The very next week, the Raiders would travel across the bay to face the hated 49ers and their goose egg in the win column. That is when the Raiders went out and laid an egg of their own. A big steaming brown egg. They didn't show up at all for this game-- in any phase. And they did it in front of a sold out crowd that was a pretty good mixture of 49er and Raider fans. Back to the drawing board.
The next week they would travel to Denver to face the rival Broncos. The question leading up to the game was "which team would show up? The one that got the monkey off their back against the Chargers? Or the one who threw feces on the field in San Francisco?" The answer was: neither. This was an entirely different team altogether. This was an offensive juggernaut that took whatever they wanted. A team that shot out of the gates in this game to go up 24-0 before the end of the first quarter. They were up 38-0 before the Broncos even scored and that was before halftime. By the time the game was over, the Raiders had scored a franchise record 59 points with a 45 point margin of victory. The Broncos never had a chance. And the Raiders were coming home the next week.
That game should have answered the questions the Raider Nation had as to the real identity of this team. So why was it that the next game had a sad attendance of 38,000? And don't tell me it was because they were playing the Seahawks. It shouldn't matter that the Seahawks are not a division rival or a dynamic team. The Raiders had won two games out of their last three-- both of which were historic wins. If that isn't enough to get the fans out the the coliseum, what is?
Yet again, the fans may not have shown up, but the Raiders sure as hell did. This time they did it on defense. They held the Seahawks to a single field goal in the game and even that was a gift. They punted nine times in this game (voice of Ferris Buelers principle) NINE TIMES. They didn't get their first third down conversion until the 3rd quarter and it was their ONLY one of the game. Their starting running back, Marshawn Lynch, had 7 yards on 9 carries. The Raiders had 8 sacks in the game as well. It was a complete domination on defense. And yet, they did it in front of a half empty stadium (yes, I am a "stadium is half empty" type of guy). And it was on Halloween! That is supposed to be the Raider fan's favorite holiday.
So here we are. The Raiders riding a streak of 11 straight blacked out games, having won 3 of their last 4 games to climb back to .500, set to face the rival Chiefs of whom are the only team standing ahead of them in the AFC West standings. All the previous factors weren't enough to get the fans out to the game, so is that enough intrigue? For all the talk about the greatness of the Raider Nation, it hasn't shown itself since the 2008 season.
The Raiders have dominated in each of the three on-field fac tor-- offense, defense, and special teams. Now it is time for the fans to show that they can be the X-factor. Let's end this local market blackout streak right now by blacking out the Coliseum.
Get over to Dark Side Tickets and get your tickets if you haven't yet. Prices are still ridiculously cheap at as low as around $45. And if the game does manage to sell out, buy up the tickets still available on Dark Side Tickets to fill in the sold-but-otherwise-empty seats. This team is on the rise and they deserve to have a raucus crowd getting them pumped up while making Matt Cassel and the Chiefs' lives difficult.
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