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Raiders learning how to "make the winning plays"

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With a 3-1 start to the 2016 season, the Raiders are finishing games and emerging victorious in situations they failed to win in 2015.

1.09 seconds. That is how long the football was in the air when Derek Carr threw a fade pass to Michael Crabtree with 47 seconds remaining in the Raiders week one match-up against the Saints. But it felt like an eternity as an entire game came down to one single moment. Crabtree leaped in the air and came down with the catch, ball game. Raiders win 35-34.

Now 4-1 to begin the 2016 season, including three close wins, the difference between this Raiders team and the 2015 version that finished 7-9 is that the 2016 Raiders have learned how to finish games and win.

After the week five victory over the Chargers on Sunday, Jack Del Rio talked about how the team has learned from close wins.

"Well, we talked last year about learning how to compete and stay in the fight in every game," Del Rio stated. "I thought we did that with all [games with the] exception of the opener against Cincinnati. Every game from then on, we kind of understood what felt like and what it was to stay in the fight and battle the whole day."

The process to get here began in 2015. A season which featured Derek Carr and Khalil Mack coming off strong rookie seasons with offseason additions like Rodney Hudson, Michael Crabtree, and Amari Cooper. While a step forward from the previous season, ultimately the season ended in disappointment as the Raiders failed to finish games and ended the year with a 7-9 overall record.

A closer look shows that with exception to the week one throttling against the Bengals, the Raiders were in every game until the end and could have easily ended the season with a much better record.

2015 Week 4: Raiders 20, Bears 22

With two minutes remaining in the game, the Raiders were winning 20-19 and the Bears had the ball on their own 26-yard line. Needing just a field goal to win, the Bears drove the field into field goal range and Robbie Gould converted a 49-yard game winning field goal in the final seconds to give the Bears a 22-20 victory.

2015 Week 5: Raiders 10, Broncos 16

Despite two missed field goals, the Raiders were only trailing the Broncos 7-9 with seven minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. Then Chris Harris Jr intercepted Derek Carr and returned it for a 74-yard touchdown. The Raiders were able to drive again and muster up a field goal but it wouldn't be enough.

2015 week 9: Raiders 35, Steelers 38

Losing 21-35 midway through the fourth quarter, this game appeared all but over. But the Raiders would go on to score 14 unanswered points including a touchdown with one minute remaining. But that one minute was more than enough time for the Steelers to drive 79-yards to set up a Chris Boswell game winning field goal.

2015 week 11: Raiders 13, Lions 18

The Raiders entered the fourth quarter winning 13-9 but allowed the Lions to score 9 unanswered points in the fourth quarter.

Clearly the 2015 team learned how to stay in the fight. But it's winning the fight that really matters.That is where the Silver and Black have grown, they have learned to stay in the fight and emerge victorious.

"The NFL is about close games," Del Rio emphasized. "Most of our games are one score games and you have to play well in those critical moments in order to win."

And that is exactly what the Raiders have done playing well in moments that matter the most. Whether it be that Michael Crabtree two-point conversion, back-to-back defensive stands in the final moments against the Titans and Ravens, or most recently the 4th and 2 touchdown pass against the Chargers; the Raiders are finally rising to the challenge and it is leading to wins.

After 14 years of failing to reach the playoffs and post a winning record, it seems the Raiders have finally remembered the phrase that defines the franchise: "Just Win Baby".