“Raider Nation Rally”
For once in a long time, there is no empty rhetoric surrounding Raiders football.
For once in a long time, they need not go to the back of the closet to pull out some dented Old Super Bowl trophies from another era.
Because at this moment, the Raiders are truly in a playoff race, overcoming acute adversity that few teams have seen.
They don’t need to invoke the Raiders past, Al Davis phrases, or ask fans in the Black Hole to believe in them.
Derek Carr, having a career year at quarterback, is a different leader now.
It’s not just the 300-yard passing games, or the outings with no turnovers. It’s the emotional leadership he has shown in the face of a horrible mid season set of problems.
Carr standing up in the lockeroom after the Jon Gruden disgraced resignation happened. It’s Carr finding a way to rally the offense after the Henry Ruggs drunk driving homicide arrest.
The (6-5) record, including the amazing wins in Baltimore and Denver, has set them up for a playoff run they could pull off.
But this is not just a quarterback driving a team for there are unsung heroes in all this. Interim coach Rick Biasuccia, an NFL assistant lifer, has kept the locker room together despite all the trauma, that included the firing for former number 1-draft pick Damon Arnett on gun charges after the Gruden-Rugg crisis. All that in a two week span.
Another unsung leader is longtime NFL assistant Greg Olson’s play-calling, Rod Marinelli’s defensive line teachings, and the X-and-O designs of first year defensive coordinator Gus Bradley.
It is a team that has come together, but the job is not complete.
As of Thanksgiving Day, there were 8-AFC teams within 1-game of each other, fighting for the two wildcard playoff spots. Eight of them with 7-weeks left in the season.
The key for the Raiders will be more than winning critical road games at Kansas City, Cleveland and Indianapolis, or the season ending home game against the fast rising Chargers.
The Raiders have to be able to continue to distribute the ball to a wider variety of skill people. That means Darren Waller gets help at tight end from Ethan Moreau.
That means newly signed DeSean Jackson’s speed must be utilized not just on deep sideline passes, but crossing patterns.
Add on Zay Jones, coming off a good game on Thursday, who must be added to the receiver rotation to compliment Hunter Renfrow.
The Raiders may not be able to play power ball with the run game, but there’s no reason they cannot throw more to Josh Jacobs and Kenyan Drake.
They have a fierce pass rush on defense. A young athletic secondary, learning on the job, anchored by safety Jon Abrams and playing with reckless abandon.
They have a league leading punter in AJ Cole and the venerable Daniel Carlson kicking field goals, 5-of them in the win in Dallas on Thursday.
It won’t be easy, with four very tough games left on the schedule.
The Chiefs have the easier schedule, hosting the Raiders, and having to play road games against the Raiders and Bengals.
The Chargers have 3-tough games left after the Sunday game with last place Denver, that includes a road trip to Cincinnati, a home game with the Chiefs and the season ending road game to end the year in Las Vegas.
But after watching the heart and soul and passion of that Raiders win in Dallas, you have to believe they are back in the AFC race for one of those wildcard games.
Don’t tell me what the Raiders used to do in another era, show me what you are doing this season. And what we saw Thanksgiving night might be the tip of the iceberg of this team’s potential.
Quarterback Derek Carr has done so much, to the point, he might make me a Raiders fan this season.
It’s the reality we have this season, watching this Raider Nation Rally.