Sunday, October 16, 2016

Raiders Regress In Rainy Loss

A proverb about a battle during which the loss of a nail in a horseshoe leads to the loss of a horse, which leads to the loss of the rider, which leads to the loss of the battle, which in turn leads to the loss of a whole kingdom.

The Kansas City Chiefs out-played, out-coached and out-pointed the Oakland Raiders at the Coliseum today. And all for the want of a horseshoe nail. Other than an impressive opening drive for a touchdown, setup by a kickoff returned to the 50 yd-line, the the Raiders looked as dreary and miserable as the wet weather that soaked everything in sight.

It was an ugly loss for the now 4-2 Raiders, who blew a huge opportunity to take over first place in the AFC West and at the same time distance themselves from the Chiefs. Instead, they're back to being tied for division lead with the Denver Broncos and have made the now 3-2 Chiefs appear to be the team with the most upside in the division.

It was obvious to everyone watching that not only was Raiders QB Derek Carr having a bad day, but the coaches were stuck in the mud with their play-calling and non-adjustments. After the Raiders opening drive score the Chiefs defense made adjustments and just like that they were forcing the Raiders out of their rhythm. 

The Raiders offense would not put together another dominant drive for the rest of the day. Instead, it was the Chiefs offense that kicked in and executed a short pass/running game that had the Raiders off balance and on their heels throughout the game. Credit Chiefs coach Andy Reid & Co. for studying their opponent well and exploiting a predictable Raiders game plan. Plenty of Chiefs redirection on offense and planned positioning on defense. For a team suffering from injuries they were productive.

"A man's got to know his limitations"
Clint Eastwood as Harry Callahan

This was week 6 of the NFL and by now teams cannot use the "getting comfortable with one another" excuse. Today the Raiders defense struggled as bad as they did earlier in the season, maybe even more. Add to that the offensive struggles and you start thinking that maybe we've seen the best that this Raiders squad has to offer in 2016. If saying goodbye to those warm, sunny, summer day games means goodbye to that once powerhouse Raiders offense that's carried them to 4-2, then what we're saying hello to is another very embarrassing and disappointing season.

But I ain't saying goodbye to greatness just yet. I believe our offensive and defensive coordinators need to admit they're at a loss for how to position our players in a way they can execute plays with consistency. Today it seemed like they came armed with knives to a gun fight. That tells me there's a problem with planning and preparation. I can't blame the players, they're all looking game and showing that they have NFL caliber skills as they try desperately to carry out the coaches' game plan. But if that game plan appears inflexible and predictable to the opponent, guess what? time for a change in game plans and/or coaches.

You're 4-2 right now going into week seven Raiders. Your early season success, partly due to your never quit fighting spirit, has positioned you nicely in the division and conference. There's 10 games left in the regular season. Play like you've played to this point and perhaps with a lot of luck you'll end at 9-7 or 10-6. Fix what's not working, improve your plan and play and there's a good chance 12-4 is your reward. 

12-4 all but guarantees playoffs. But more importantly, 12-4 guarantees no more games like today. It guarantees you've overcome what ailed you today, rising above such illness to become deserving of AFC elite team status. It's gonna take reminding yourselves, your teammates and your coaches what works best for you to be great as a team. Then all the parts need to execute consistently without fear of fault or failure. 

Champions play with a cocky, confident character about them. Their championship pedigree is forged in the struggle with self to be great. Knowledge of their "greatness of self" gives them that cocky, confident character that champions come to play with. Look no further than the character of great Raiders teams past; Snake, Alzado, Ghost, Assassin, Marcus, Lester, Guy. All legendary players who individually were very very good, but together forged seasons of greatness.

So do what you gotta do Raiders to capture that Swagger of greatness; then trust each other to get this pirate ship streamlined and on to the promised land.  I see the greatness in you all just wanting to surface and shine. I need you to see it and believe that you can bring that greatness from the depths of your beings and have it demonstrated in your planning, preparation and play for game days to come. 

It starts with head coach Jack Del Rio. Coach, you've got some skilled war horses in that Oakland organization. Men who'll fight on as strong, for as long as you'll lead them. Their team greatness begins with you coach. And all for the want of a horseshoe nail properly placed. Guide them with the calculations of a Copernicus, knowing that the universe is ever shifting, ever changing, ever expanding. Be the change that you wish to see in them. Be great!
10/16/2016  Oakland Coliseum                                                             Photo By Raiderlegend

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