The Raiders are 0-3. Rarely in a situation like this does a team gain any comfort from a ‘moral victory' in defeat. But this may be one of those instances for the Raiders defense.
To understand why that might be, you need only watch their performance against the Jets and Texans the first two weeks of this season. The Raiders defense was a speed bag in those two games and was showing no signs of life.
Following the loss to the Texans in the Raiders home opener last week, Charles Woodson had harsh words for the way his team was playing. His words "We suck" has become the shot heard round the league.
I asked Woodson if he thought maybe his words may have served as a wake-up call for the defense heading into today's game.
"I think so and I hope so," Woodson responded. "I hope guys took it personal. We feel like we're much better than how we played against Houston. Tonight we came out and fought hard against a good team. Defensively playing against a great quarterback, a defense that's known to get after you and come up with turnovers. I think we did well for the most part but just couldn't quite get over the hump."
Even in the loss, hanging tough against Tom Brady and a perennially tough Patriots team in one of the league's toughest venues in the league is pretty shocking. They pressured Brady quite a bit in the game with six official hurries and two sacks and six tackles for loss. They also held both Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen to less than 3 yards per carry.
The Raiders defenders think this could be the start of something good.
"We moving in the right direction," said Lamarr Woodley. "I think we went out there and we did some great things today. The front showed that, we played good against the run, showed that we can get after the quarterback. Now we just gotta go on defense and try to help our offense put some points on the board."
"I don't think you should hang your head low if you know that everybody out on that football field was fighting," said Justin Tuck. "You win some, you lose some, but I think this team grew up a lot today and I hope we can build on that going forward because it's still a long season."
Though they ultimately lost the game, they held the Patriots to one touchdown and had the Raiders within a score of tying the game or even taking the lead at the end of the game - and the Raiders nearly did it.
As Derek Carr said following the game "No one expected that."
Getting blown out as the Raiders did last week is embarrassing. But losing a close one with the Raiders at the goal line nearly tying it up carries its own kind of pain. The pain of a missed opportunity. Still the confidence the Raiders defense gained today could go a long way. None of us knew if they could do it. Now we know and they know they can. If there is such a thing as ‘momentum', the Raiders may just be able to ride some even in a loss.