It is pretty amazing the difference between winning and losing on how it effects the mentality of the fanbase. Win and the world is bright, lose and the world is falling apart. The truth lies somewhere in between but it is so hard to keep it in perspective that things get lost in the translation.
This past game against the Titans is one of those times where it was really hard to keep the loss in perspective. There was so much on the line for this game and it played out all the way to the very last seconds. Sadly, when the smoke cleared the Raiders were down and out. It hurt, it hurt unbelievably bad. It made all the good feelings heading into the game feel like a really mean practical joke.
However, after sleeping the loss off it is easier to stomach what happened without wanting to break something. For awhile there last week it felt like the waiting was over and this team was going to do more than just be competitive and that was a really uplifting feeling. The problem with such an uplifting feeling is that if you get dropped from that height it is a long way down.
The real fact of the matter is that this team was not expected to even be competitive. The Raiders were on the short list for the 1st pick and they have exceeded that by a long way already. Exceeding those expectations might not seem like that big of a deal after they just let a major opportunity slip through their grasp but in reality it is a huge step in the right direction.
Not only has this team been competitive, they have been good enough to allow our expectations to raise to the level that they were at before this game. I know part of that was from a very strange season in the AFC with a very weak middle class of teams but at the same time that speaks to the level of competition in the NFL now where any team can win any day.
Most teams have struggled a bit this year and the Raiders are no different than that but Oakland still has been a team that has been very exciting to watch. It is frustrating being so excited and not getting the pay off, but is that really worse than being numb from excessively uncompetitive teams? We actually are lucky to be in a position where a loss hurts as much as this one did, the most likely alternative would have been the numbness we have felt for far too long.
As for the game itself, every aspect of the team went wrong at times and every aspect did well at times. To me that is the definition of a team loss. There is blame to go around everywhere for the loss, but there also would have been credit to go around everywhere had they won it. It is hard sometimes when you are hurting, you just feel a need to single something out. This was a game where every aspect of the team that could be singled out negatively also could be singled out positively.
The special teams failed on two very important field goal attempts, but they made 4 of them and blocked a punt. The offense failed to reach the endzone on 6 promising drives, but they did get there when it mattered most to take the lead at the end of the game. The defense failed miserably on the final drive, but they were in Ryan Fitzpatrick's face the entire game and it was just a stone cold performance by him not to have been effected by it.
In the end we just have to move forward and take our lumps for what they are. It was a beating, now we just dust ourselves off and move forward the best we can. The Raiders still are in a better position than what was imagined they would be in, and now we get to see how resilient they are. There wont be a much harder test than going through a loss like yesterday and turning around in 4 days to play a Nationally Televised Thanksgiving game.
That test will be especially daunting for Rookie QB Matt McGloin. He had an up and down performance yesterday, though he finished on the upside, and now he faces a very tough Dallas defense. If he can come out and play great on Thursday it will go a long way on helping the Raiders decide if he is the future or not.
There are a lot of QB prospects in next year's draft and most are going to warrant an early round draft pick. Oakland will need to be completely sold on McGloin before that time to not use one of their high picks on a QB. They will be watching intently on whether Matt warrants that kind of trust or not. Jack's Axe had a very interesting FanPost regarding whether it's necessary to draft a QB or not, check it out and weigh in with your opinion!
As for the defense, the philosophy for the way they play is bend but don't break. That is what is making the yardage numbers so extravagant against the Raiders corners. They are built to allow yardage, but not allow points. That is why there are so many times where the other team seems to get to the redzone at will, but once they are there the key is to keep them from getting touchdowns.
The problem with the bend but don't break philosophy is that if you break, it hurts a lot more. It puts the pressure squarely on the redzone defense to keep the points at a minimum and that can backfire, such as it did yesterday. They broke at the worst possible moment. That makes the defense look far worse than they actually are, but who cares about that when it epically fails? It's about perspective again though, you can choose to .
Is this team where we want them to be? No, we want them to be competing for the crown and not be barely scraping by trying to snatch the final playoff spot. Is this team capable of getting to where we want them to be? Not yet, but that doesn't mean they are not heading in the right direction. It is tough going through seasons like this, but it is making the Raiders better in the long run and that is the most important thing. We want Oakland to be built for marathons, not wind sprints.