Before we get caught up in "the Raiders simply can't hang with the best teams in the AFC" let's take a peek at what went down in the game. In the first half, the teams traded blows in a back-and-forth that made a person feel like this could have been a playoff game. The Raiders were picking up big yardage in the first quarter and the Patriots had to feel lucky it wasn't 14-7 going into the 2nd quarter. Raiders defense then got a big stop on the first drive of the 2nd Q and punched it in from the 1 to cap an 88 yard drive. The Patriots quickly responded to make it 10-14 but Campbell began to engineer a beatuful drive including a great catch from our very own DHB for 28 yards. After a 30 yard run by Jacoby Ford, this game looked like the Raiders. They were driving at will on the Patriots and their offense was destined to overpower the guys from the East Coast. Then the unthinkable happened. In a moment of lost concentration, Campbell got happy feet and couldn't decide if he wanted to force a throw into coverage or throw it away. So he did the logical thing and threw it directly into the arms of Patrick Chung without a single Raider around. The half ended with a Patriot FG to put them up 17-10, but it sure seemed like the Raiders were in the driver's seat at that point.
Then the 2nd half happened and the Raiders allowed 2 more TD drives from the Patriots sandwiched around a lonely Raider field goal. Down 13-31 early in the 4th, the Raiders would need to manufacture a quick TD drive and a stop if they hoped to get back in the game. It looked like the Raiders were on their way to do that when Vince Wilfork's gelatinous belly absorbed a low pass from Jason Campbell over the middle which was intended for Darren McFadden. Down 13-31, the Patriots with the ball and 10 minutes left on the clock, the game ended at that point.
The bottom line is there was reason for hope in the first half. Although the score was 17-10 at the half, it seemed more like a tie game with offensive strength in the favor of the Raiders. The key difference in the half was the turnover in the endzone from Jason Campbell. As it turned out, that was the game changer for the Raiders in the game as it swung the momentum entirely in New England's favor. The Patriots offense came out of the locker room humming and ready to go while the Raiders came out flat on both sides of the ball. The game was not nearly in hand for the Patriots at half time, but at the end, the score made it seem closer than it was. The Patriots owned that 2nd half.
But that's okay. The Raiders made mistakes and paid for it. This one only counts as one in the loss column. The most impressive thing for me is that the Raiders took ownership for their mistakes and recognized the need to move on. The Raiders of the past would have either brushed off the mistakes and partied in the locker room or they would have been let this loss ride on them. We will see how they play next week against the Houston Texans, but I would guess it's a similar result to how they responded to the Bills game--a convincing victory over a quality team.
At 2-2, this season is hardly over. Keep in mind that this is the same franchise that saw a 4-game skid from weeks 6-9 in 2002, reaching the mid-point of the season at 4-4. They went on to play in the Super Bowl with an 11-5 record that year. In 2001, the Raiders lost capped off a 3-game losing streak to end the regular season with a tough loss to the New York Jets in week 17 only to come back and defeat the Jets 38-24 in the playoffs 6 days later. This season is not over and this game does not define the Raiders unless they allow it to do so. This is a different Raider team and I expect they will bounce back with a string of victories. I would not be shocked if the Raiders ride into the primetime matchup with San Diego on November 10th carrying a 4-game winning streak.
This season has just begun and there are plenty of things to be excited about. Let's see how the next 3/4 of the season goes.