October 20, 2021 - 4:45 pm
The Raiders’ commanding win over the Denver Broncos on Sunday after a week’s worth of turmoil showed they can deal with adversity.
But as they digest their most efficient performance in years, with the Jon Gruden saga now in the rearview mirror, the challenge is facing up to an even bigger foe than calamity and tumult.
As the past two seasons painfully showed, the Raiders’ kryptonite isn’t adversity. It’s success. Their inability to successfully manage the good times has led to two straight collapses during the second half of the season that sabotaged their postseason aspirations.
Hence, the ongoing relationship-building interim coach Rich Bisaccia is doing to get a better handle on his team’s emotional state.
That included a players-only meeting he initiated Saturday in which players expressed their feelings about everything that was going on and challenged themselves to remain focused on the team’s goals.
It started with safety Johnathan Abram looking at quarterback Derek Carr and asking him to lead.
“He’s like, talk to us,” Carr said. “So I talked to them.”
That set the stage for a collective soul-searching session.
“We kind of looked at each other and talked about everything and how we felt and what we wanted to achieve,” running back Josh Jacobs said. “And what the main goal was, regardless of who was coaching or who wasn’t. That kind of set everybody in a right state of mind.”
Carr was impressed, to say the least.
“I think it’s a beautiful thing that something crazy can happen and a group of men can be even more unified and say, you know what, we’re going to lock arms even tighter,” Carr said. “That’s kind of what happened that night.”
It’s going to take more than just a connected team to navigate the remaining schedule in a way that avoids the pitfalls of the past two seasons.
On the surface, the Raiders appear much better positioned to deal with prosperity than in the previous two seasons. Whereas their defenses in 2019 and 2020 were patchwork groups with obvious talent deficiencies across all three levels, this year’s defense has gotten contributions from front to back while displaying competence not seen from the Raiders in years.
Last year’s defense surrendered 29.9 points per game, which ranked 30th in the NFL, and coughed up three late-game leads on the opponent’s final possession over the last seven games of the season.
It was the difference between the Raiders finishing 8-8 rather than 11-5.
The Raiders currently are allowing 24 points per game, which is the 16th-best mark in the league.
After generating the third-fewest sacks in the NFL last year at 21, the Raiders are up to 16 already, the league’s sixth-best total. They have the fifth-most quarterback pressures at 68, and their seven takeaways rank 16th in the NFL after forcing the third-fewest last year at 15.
But to succeed over the entire season, it also will be about processing the good things that happen in a much better manner than they have in the past.
Maybe that was the motivation for the team-wide film session Bisaccia presided over Wednesday in which more mistakes were pointed out from Sunday’s win over the Broncos than great plays.
“Where everyone got to see, this isn’t good enough. This is what you did in practice. This is what you did in the game. That’s not gonna cut it,” Carr said. “It opened your eyes that every rep matters. The fact that he’s pointing that out, hopefully, will be able to sustain us because Lord knows we need to.”
Contact Vincent Bonsignore at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @VinnyBonsignore on Twitter.
■ Who: Raiders vs Philadelphia Eagles
■ When: 1:05 p.m. Sunday
■ Where: Allegiant Stadium
■ TV: KVVU-5
■ Line: Raiders -3; total 49