Raiders Don’t Know How to Win
This was a fair statement after the team failed to close out games last season en route to a 7-9 record. However, they were young. Del Rio was always confident they just needed to keep grinding and they’d learn how to close out tough games. He always said he had faith in Derek Carr.
The season opener, on the road, in a stadium filled with fans dealing with more tragedy who love their hometown Saints more than anything, down by two touchdowns and your offensive line is decimated by injury. New JBB staffer Ryan Prime was there and can tell you how intense it was.
That’s a tough ask. But this team did it, and it was because of toughness, grit, confidence and trust. Cliches are what they are when they apply. It is what it is.
And ‘it’ was the offense, which carried the day as Derek Carr grew up a lot in this one. Rightly criticized for poor decision-making and forcing things when games got tight last season – think Denver and KC, or, if you want to stay happy, don’t — Carr was all cucumber water and laser focus Sunday.
The man reacted to each Saints punch with a simple neck stretch and an okay, my turn. Then he had the last laugh when the final piece of the winning puzzle got cemented.
Teams that know how to close out tough games are teams that trust each other. They’ve put in the work, know each other inside and out. They believe they can will a win out of thin air. When it’s winning time, they play to win — and make the hard choices needed because of that trust.
All of that was on display when Carr immediately turned to go for two after the potential game-tying touchdown with under a minute remaining. There was no hesitation. As Del Rio said matter of factly after the game “I said WHEN we go down and score, we’re going for two. It was never in doubt.”
That was clear. There was never a thought of kicking the extra point, not even after Del Rio called timeout. Del Rio trusted his players, and that confidence gave them the boost they needed and they made the play. As I wrote here, the team had nothing but positive things to say about each other and their faith in their abilities.
After the game of course it was sweetness and lights because it worked. But something about this team makes me think they would’ve said similar things — albeit with more disappointment — had it not.
This team grew up a lot on Sunday, and it was Del Rio giving them the car keys and eliminating the curfew that allowed them to do so. He made a gutsy call that nobody on team deemed “risky” because he knew they were ready. They did too, and rewarded his faith with perfect execution.
If the Raiders continue to play winning football and get to the playoffs for the first time in fourteen years, future generations of Raider Nationer’s will point to the day “Black” Jack Del Rio clanked his boys together in New Orleans and said “No ties. We’re winning this”, while Derek Carr stared right back at him and said “Yes sir, we sure are.”