Just days ago the Raiders celebrated the one-year anniversary of their last win. They had gone 0-16 dating back to last season and the outlook was bleak with the team staring at a very possible 0-16 on the current season alone.
Then the Chiefs came to town and on a dark and damp day in Oakland, the Raiders forecast became a bit more sunny.
No one on this team is feeling more of a sense of relief than Antonio Smith. Because while many of these players have suffered through all 16-straight losses, Smith came over from the Texans who had lost 14-straight, bringing his losing streak to 24-straight.
"It was like a dark cloud just went ‘whoof' and then at the same time I'm joyful, I'm happy," said Antonio Smith after the game. "I felt the relief a little bit more, you know. Just that cloud like ‘aahh, finally'."
"I remember how it feels, but I guess it feels better. I remember how it felt then, but it feels a lot better. It's relieving. I guess when you're winning you're kinda spoiled with winning and you're just like ‘Aw, yeah, it's another win'. If you aint had it in a long time it's like bliss, I would say."
The scene in the Raiders locker room after the game was like none I had ever witnessed. This team has experienced plenty of wins over the years I've covered the team. Many of those wins actually had playoff implications - though none have punched their ticket to the playoffs the past 12 years.
But even a win that was to send the Raiders to the playoffs wouldn't have had this feeling. This was truly unique. It was like that downpour throughout most of the game suddenly revived a baron wasteland and the Raiders players played in it like children.
That was the message Charles Woodson gave his teammates before the game. He wanted them to just go out and play in the mud.
It was noticeable during this game that the Raiders were indeed having fun - especially the defense. They were flying around, making plays, and celebrating each play they made or ever offensive play they prevented. It seemed well before the actual outcome, this defense was on its way to throwing off that weight. But they all knew, they would need a complete game to do it.
"Man, it was a huge load off our shoulders," said Charles Woodson. "To come into this game 0-10, not having won a game, that's pressure. The pressure starts to mount to get that first win. We came out fired up, came out ready to play. We got up on them early and they fought back, and for us to end the game and finally find a way to come up with a win, our offense driving down there and getting a score, that was unbelievable. That's exactly the kind of thing you need for your team when you're struggling the way we've been struggling."
The message Woodson gave the team prior to the game was not entirely original. It was a take-off of what Tony Sparano told them all week - just have fun. It's something that during his time as head coach, he had yet to see from this squad every week they came out on the losing end.
"It's a toll on those kids in that room seeing them every single week show up into that team meeting or into that locker room and not smile," said Sparano. "You walk in there right, it's a total different feeling. You can never forget that feeling. It's been a long time since we had that feeling."
While many of the vets and coaches on this team were here through all 16 losses in a row, Derek Carr has a different perspective; he was looking for his first win as an NFL player. He made sure he got that win by throwing the game-winning touchdown to James Jones with less than 90 seconds remaining after a long 17-play drive that bled 7:21 off the clock. It was a long and difficult time for Carr waiting for this moment.
"Man, patient endurance," said Derek Carr. "That's hard. It's hard to continue to go to work and work your tail off when you're 0-and-whatever, but we kept fighting. We believed in what Coach Sparano was preaching to us. Our teammates believed in each other and praise God, man, we finally got a win."
Once Carr put that score on the board to go up 24-20, it was up to the defense to hold it. The Chiefs drove to the Raiders' 45-yard line where Sio Moore sacked Alex Smith on third and six. Then Sio celebrated like guy who hadn't felt the joy of winning in the length of an entire season. If not for Justin Tuck frantically calling for timeout, the Raiders would have been flagged for off-sides and the Chiefs would have had a much better shot at maintaining their drive. Instead, the next play was an incompletion and the game was over.
"I know how big that monkey was on a lot of guys' backs," said Justin Tuck. "This team hadn't won a game in 16 games, and it gets old. It's hard to come in here every Wednesday and put that behind you and get back to work, but we did that and we beat a good football team tonight. We've been close all year in a lot of situations, but today we finished it. It was a special moment."
Enjoy it, fellas. You will not go 0-16. That's a distinction no one on this team wanted. You weathered the storm and can now look to brighter days ahead.