Updated September 19, 2021 - 6:44 pm
Can you sense it?
Foster Moreau can. It’s not something you see on a stat sheet or from a certain play. Nothing really tangible. Just a feeling.
“It’s in the air,” said the Raiders’ tight end. “An air of confidence. Of camaraderie. A lot of teams work hard and a lot of teams have good players. I just feel like we’re coming into our own. We’ve had flashes of it in the past.”
That was then.
This is now: The Raiders have begun the season with consecutive victories after beating the Steelers 26-17 before 63,707 at Heinz Field on Sunday.
This is now (again): Raise your hand if you believed the Raiders would defeat both Baltimore and Pittsburgh.
If you thought they would outwork and in many ways out-physical such bruising AFC North teams.
If you predicted they would travel east on a short week and take out Pittsburgh in a game which saw the Steelers welcome their wild and crazy and towel-waving devoted fans for the first time since the pandemic struck.
Yeah. Me too.
My hand remains down.
Never in … 10 years? … more? … would I have believed it.
The tougher team
But the Raiders did. They have overcome an already long and detailed injury list to grab that 2-0 start. They have played better defense than any of their recent sides and have a quarterback in Derek Carr who has strung together six straight terrific quarters after a shaky beginning against the Ravens.
They have been tougher against some really tough opponents. It’s in the air — and apparently on the field.
Look. The Raiders have earned a playoff berth once in 17 years. So that most might have hesitated to anoint them anything beyond another record near .500 to begin the season was more than a fair judgment.
It’s just two games with 15 more to go. It’s not just early. In many ways, the alarm clock hasn’t yet sounded.
But it sure is better to awake in the NFL having posted back-to-back wins than losses. Postseason life isn’t secured in September — but it sure can be lost.
“The absolute worst thing in the world are preseason rankings and talk shows and all that stuff,” Carr said. “None of it matters. You still have to put the ball down and play and whatever team put in the work and is on their stuff hopefully wins. Just put the ball down and let’s see.”
He doesn’t blame others for doubting the Raiders. Not before the season. Not now. They haven’t earned much belief and trust in recent times. They have started 2-0 before and done nothing with it.
Carr’s stated mantra late Sunday afternoon: Don’t let things do downhill now. Keep the mindset strong, stay within the process and keep doing things the right way.
He said they would laugh and celebrate on the plane ride home, land, get some sleep, awake and wipe the black and yellow slate from here clean.
The Raiders next host Miami on Sunday. I’m guessing there could be as many players entering the training room this week as the practice field.
Not near perfect
“I’m not going to get all philosophical about things and be Socrates up here,” said coach Jon Gruden, who looks nothing like the Greek founder of Western philosophy. “We have a confident group. We were confident last year and lost some heartbreaking wins — gut-wrenching, disgusting losses at the end of football games.
“We have a long ways to go. We are nowhere near perfect.”
Not close. They’re beat up with lots of things to clean up.
But do you know what is perfect after this Baltimore-Pittsburgh swing?
Raise your … stop.
Put it down — like most everyone should.
“If I’m a Raiders fan,” Gruden said, “I would love this team.”
Can you sense it?
Ed Graney is a Sigma Delta Chi Award winner for sports column writing and can be reached at email@example.com or 702-383-4618. He can be heard on “The Press Box,” ESPN Radio 100.9 FM and 1100 AM, from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. Monday through Friday. Follow @edgraney on Twitter.