It was a nauseating Oakland Raiders loss to the Detroit Lions last Sunday, turning my stomach a million times over. It was horrifyingly grotesque, making me want to look away from the full-steam-ahead train crash. It was utterly depressing, like watching the end of Old Yeller.
You knew it would happen. And it was abysmally saddening.
And yet the Raiders have to trot themselves back out there, one week later, come down from off the ledge, strap on their big-boy pants and play as if nothing happened.
Sure, it’d be understandable to see players, staff and fans trembling with self-loathing. Who could blame them after Oakland’s collapsing defeat in the last minute that sent tidal waves of anguish over the Raider Nation’s playoff hopes?
While football fans can hunker down into their basements and hibernate as a result of such depressive performances, football teams do not have that luxury of crawling away from their heartache. At least, not until the season is over.
And so the Raiders will look to do the impossible this week against the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium.
Yes, Oakland must muster up the fortitude to focus on the task at hand, and that’s winning the game.
The difficulty isn’t so much about defeating the Chiefs—though that’s tough-enough stuff by itself. It's more about putting behind the dispiriting and crippling three-game stretch in the team’s recent memory.
Prior to the heart-wrenching defeat to the Lions, the Raiders suffered embarrassing lashings by the Green Bay Packers and the Miami Dolphins by a combined score of 80-30. The three-game bruising streak knocked Oakland from atop the AFC West and into a near-desperate panic as they attempt to somehow manage a playoff berth.
Sprawled out on the canvas with a faint pulse, the Raiders need to come-to rather quickly, or else, for all intents and purposes, they’ll be TKO’d from contention. To do that, they must pay attention only to what they can control—win at Kansas City.
No more finger-pointing at coaches’ play-calling and strategies. No more injury excuses. No more scoreboard watching. No more quarterback lobbying. Just play. And play like they know they are capable of playing.
If they develop the mentality that “all they have to do” is win the two remaining games on their schedule, they most likely won’t. And besides, that’s not all that needs to happen in order for the Raiders to get back into the postseason.
Though there are a few variables that need to occur for Oakland to reach the playoffs either by winning their division or via the AFC wild card, the Raiders actually do control their own destiny. That means that all that they can control is winning their own games.
The Raiders cannot think for a minute that they can just get by the Chiefs (6-8). If Oakland wants an opportunity to sneak into the playoffs, it starts with winning a difficult game at a difficult place to play.
Jackson needs to rally his troops, pop those lithium pills to treat his team’s obvious bi-polar performance throughout the year and put everything that has happened to them in the past month behind them.
Otherwise, it could get even more depressing. Everyone—fans, players, coaches, the Black Hole—will want to walk the plank and dive headfirst into the San Francisco Bay.
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