Six games is a small sample size in most professions. In pro football 6 games is enough to warrant a new contract or the termination of one. It’s that type of business which is exactly why it’s not too early to praise Dennis Allen and his staff for their ability to get the most out of the roster during those crucial moments late in games.
You don’t go 8-8 in consecutive years without leaving a few wins on the table that were otherwise there for the taking. Now at this point the Raiders finishing at .500 for a third straight year would feel like an accomplishment. 2-4 out of the gate is promising mainly because of the status of the AFC West where 8 or even 9 wins could be enough to take the crown.
What is also highly encouraging is how the Raiders have closed out some close contests this season. Even the loss in Atlanta was encouraging minus Carson Palmer’s costly INT.
In both of the Raiders wins this season they’ve had to stage fourth quarter comebacks and in both instances they’ve operated with near flawless execution.
That’s the good news. The bad news is we still don’t know how this team will perform when they’ve actually got a lead late in a contest. Sometimes it’s easier to play from behind because all the pressure is on the opposition. Taking a lead into the final quarter and protecting it is quite a different beast.
Last season we saw a few occasions in which the Raiders just couldn’t close. Safe to say blowing leads against the Bills and Lions all but cost the Raiders a playoff birth last year. So far under Allen it has been an all or nothing proposition. Either we see an inspired effort from the team or a flat one. Up next on the coach’s agenda is getting a consistent effort every week.
But that’s all part of the process. Winning ugly is still winning. It’s just not a recipe for sustained excellence. At least we know that if there’s a game there for the taking these Raiders are going to be much more prepared for the critical moments.