You could almost feel this coming. But you don't completely give into that nagging voice in the back of your mind that says the Raiders will take this good feeling they had and fall flat on their face. The funny part of all this is the good feeling didn't even come from a win. It came from actually looking competitive for the only time this season.
That nearly tied game in New England offered a lot of hope and an infusion of confidence to these Raiders players, specifically on defense. They thought they had figured things out. That they had turned the proverbial corner. All that was shot down under the lights of Wembley Stadium today.
The Dolphins drove through the Raiders like they were standing still, scoring on each of their first four drives in the first half and creating turnovers for scores in the second half. It was a drubbing none of these Raiders expected coming in. They thought they had the Dolphins figured out. What gave the Raiders this idea they could crack the Dolphins comes from the fact that the Dolphins have similar offensive style to that of the Patriots of whom the Raiders played very tough last week. Sure, they played tough in a tough venue against the perennially tough Patriots. Then again, we are discovering these aren't the Patriots we are used to seeing.
Case in point being the fact that the Dolphins hung 33 points on those Patriots in the season opener. And considering the Raiders lost to the Patriots, them putting up 38 points today seems to work out rather how you might have expected.
Not only did the Raiders not have the Dolphins cracked, it turns out, it was the Dolphins who had the Raiders figured out.
"We definitely thought we were prepared for them," said Antonio Smith. "That offense they ran wasn't really a fast offense. It wasn't like fast, keep you off your toes because of the tempo, they kept us off because they had a damn good game plan of running, passing, screening, pass when you're expecting them to run, run when you're expecting them to pass like the whole game."
Obviously as competitors none of these guys thought it would go like this. The Dolphins punted the ball just twice in this game. They also forced three turnovers on the Raiders. And even with the Dolphins turning the ball over themselves, the Raiders couldn't capitalize on any of them.
The offense had a similar response.
"Speaking for the offense I felt like we had a good game plan," said James Jones. "I felt like we should've scored a lot of points in this game. Everything they did we knew was coming. They just executed better than we did and made more plays than we did. And when that happens, that's the results you get."
So, where do they go from here? All the talk coming into the game was about how the momentum from last week could lead to a win if not a series of them, so it would only stand to reason a loss like this could lead the team on a downward spiral.
Then again, for this team, that confidence they had was unfounded. So, perhaps embarrassing defeats like this are more likely to garner a positive response.
After the last blowout, Charles Woodson seemed to have hit rock bottom. The 16-year veteran has now leveled with the state of things on this team.
"It kind of is what it is, you know? I guess this is what I signed up for," said Woodson. "So, regardless of what happens, you gotta come to work and there's gonna be another day regardless of what happened today and you gotta figure out how you're gonna approach it. Everybody on this team's gotta figure out how you're gonna approach it. Do you throw in the towel and let that show the next time we take the field, or are you gonna come out there and have fun doing what you've been blessed to do. I know what I'm gonna do so I hope that the rest of the guys on the team follow and next time we come out there on the field, we have better results."
Woodson has had a lot of success in his career. His approach is always to do his job and let everything else work itself out. He has been lucky enough to have played on the Raiders during their successful seasons in the late 90s and early 2000s. Then he went to the Packers who have been a successful team for many years.
Antonio Smith has not had that same experience so his perspective is much different. He told me earlier this week that he believes in momentum and the confidence it brings. So, I asked him after the game if he could see a loss like this having the opposite affect, sending a team reeling.
"It definitely will if you let it," Smith responded. "I seen it happen. I seen it happen with my own two eyes. If you let that black cloud take over, it will take over and aint no way to get out of it. You'll try everything you can do to get out of it and it'll just keep going in the same direction. That's the thing that I want to fight for more than anything. That's the thing that I don't want to accept more than anything."
In other words, will this loss be just another defeat or will it leave this team defeated. This team and this organization has two weeks to attempt to figure that out. To take a good, hard look at their identity and what they're gonna do to change it. If anything.
"I think it will be good for us to take a week and really look at the first four games and figure out what we gotta change," said Stefen Wisniewski. "The personnel is not gonna change much, we're gonna be the same team, but we gotta clean some things up, we gotta figure out what it is that the problem is and however we can do that is a good thing."
Veterans like Woodson, Smith, and Jones don't have the luxury of looking ahead to next year. Even if this team ends up offering them no other choice.