Things didn’t turn out the way the Raiders would have liked on Sunday afternoon in Buffalo, but what do you expect from a team that had a short week after an emotional win going back on the road across the country? That’s why the smart money would have been on Buffalo in the weekly office pool. But the Raiders did show something the other day that they can hang their hat on. They showed everybody the team they are going to become -- the team they were in the first half of football on Sunday.
Perhaps you turned your television off while cursing on Sunday. Perhaps you left the stadium thinking the Raiders got robbed or even worse, quit. No matter how you felt, when you reflect on it you should understand that you saw something special developing… at least early in the game.
During that first half of competition, the Raiders absolutely owned the Buffalo Bills, and Bills fans probably thought their game against the Kansas City Chiefs in week one was a fluke -- especially when they saw that the Detroit Lions were dismantling the Chiefs in week two action. Perhaps it was a fluke and just maybe the second half against the Raiders was a fluke as well.
But I don’t want to sugar coat it because it is what it is. Like Coach Hue Jackson has said several times since the final whistle blew, the bottom line is that the Raiders need to get better. They need to score more points on offense, give up less on defense, and they need to get it done on special teams. I think it is safe to say that when they do that, they look like a machine more than a professional football team.
The Bills saw that first hand on Sunday when the Raiders came in and obliterated anything that looked remotely similar to the team that put up 41 in week one. The Bills offense couldn’t do anything. They were getting in the quarterback's face, they were shutting down a potent combination of Fred Jackson and CJ Spiller, they had an interception, and they had a blocked field goal.
Meanwhile their counterpart, the Raider offense, was moving the ball efficiently despite not having Jacoby Ford, Louis Murphy, Darrius Heyward-Bey, and Kevin Boss at their disposal. The offense was looking like that new team motto that Coach Jackson has given his players, “Next man up.”
In spite of all that though, the Raiders must have gone into the locker room and taken a nap, because they came out of that locker room flat and on their heels. Someone must have told them they had already won this contest and it was time to board the plane and go back to Oakland. Yet it wasn’t. And anybody who had the opportunity to watch the game was let down. As has been heavily documented, the Raiders gave up five touchdowns in five second half drives, while only scoring two themselves.
Now, the offense they didn’t have the ball much in the second half with all of that scoring the Bills were doing, In the end, the offense did not lose the game for the team, they simply ran out of time.
Football is a game that requires the most effort from the entire team to get a win. For example, in basketball, you might see Dwyane Wade and LeBron James have high scores and the Heat win, but in this case, Jason Campbell, Denarius Moore, and Darren McFadden had high statistical games and the team still lost. That’s because there are only three other starters besides Wade and James in the game of basketball compared to 19 other starters in the game of football.
Still, if you are a Raider fan, which I know most of you reading this are, then you know that what you saw in the first half on Sunday was that bully that Hue Jackson has talked about building. That was a team playing with all cylinders clicking. That was the first glimpse of what Coach Jackson and his staff thinks this team can become.
The second half of this game was a fluke. It won’t happen that way again because the lesson has been learned, that games are won when you play that way for 60 minutes, not for 30. It was a difficult lesson to learn, but if it had to be learned that way, you like to see it learned early on in the season.
This year, the Raiders might not have a dream team, but they might have a team that will give other teams nightmares on Saturday nights.
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