The Oakland Raiders ground out yet another tough victory against a playoff-quality team at Invesco Field last night.
Despite being doomed to another losing season and already being eliminated from playoff contention, this team is still showing a genuine fighting spirit of both sides of the ball.
That is something other Raiders' teams since 2003 have lacked at this point in the season.
Progress? I think so. For everyone.
Tom Cable has held this team together despite some very dark times this season, both for himself and for the team. They had a poor midseason, with the blowout home loss to the Jets being the low point.
Cable himself had accusations flying from club employees and ex-partners about his allegedly violent nature.
But when he made the change to Bruce Gradkowski at quarterback, things started to turn around. The Raiders won two out of three, including an impressive away win against the Super Bowl champion Steelers at Heinz field. Last night’s win at Denver was just as emotional.
There can’t be much that tastes sweeter to a Raider fan in the regular season than a win over the Broncos.
With Cable’s job on the line, his players have really rallied around him and given their all.
That is the mark of a coach who has the loyalty of the locker room.
The addition of Richard Seymour and Greg Ellis have not only helped to shore up a poor Raiders' defensive line, but have also added that veteran presence in the locker room that helps to keep a young team together.
What is also important is that this team has learned how to win close games, not lose them. That is a huge step forward.
If Oakland can manage just one more win from their remaining games against Cleveland and Baltimore, they will finish 6-10. Not a great record, but it will be the best for any Raider team since the Super Bowl. That is at least something to build on.
Cable may also have done enough to keep his job.
What will be interesting to see this week is who starts at quarterback after JaMarcus Russsell’s game-winning drive in the final seconds on Sunday.
Before anyone re-anoints Russell as the Raiders "quarterback of the future," there are a number of things that should be kept in mind.
Russell wasn’t demoted to the bottom of the depth chart just for poor play, but for the poor attitude and work habits he displayed over a period of time.
Also, he made some bad mistakes on Sunday and got away with it. The old problem of ball security raised its head again. When he was sacked, he lost the ball, and Cooper Carlisle was fortunate to recover.
He was bailed out by the Denver secondary on a pass interference call shortly afterwards, when he badly under threw Louis Murphy on a deep route. Murphy would never have caught the ball, but the flag got thrown anyway.
Credit to Russell for the final score, but for those calling it a breakthrough, curb your enthusiasm. He is still JaMarcus Russell. It took a long time for him to get in Al’s dog house, and will take a lot more than this for him to get out again.
The depth chart this week will tell us where Russell stands, but Cable should remember that although Russell managed a game winning drive on Sunday, this team has generally played better without him than with him.