Updated November 17, 2021 - 4:19 pm
Without naming names, Derek Carr remembers teammates of the recent past who, when push came to shove, checked out.
It wasn’t necessarily anything flagrant, no one blatantly quit, but there were subtle hints that guys weren’t as into things as they were during better times.
It doesn’t excuse the second-half collapses the Raiders experienced in 2019 and 2020, both of which sabotaged once-promising playoff runs. But it does help explain them a little bit.
“The woe is me, guys showing up late to the building. Oh, here we go again” is how Carr remembers some players’ reactions to hitting a skid.
The Raiders have eight games left to prove they are built differently, both physically and mentally, to make sure their recent slump doesn’t turn out to be another beginning of the end. But from Carr’s vantage point, at least, he hasn’t seen any of the bad traits of seasons past.
That gives him hope the 5-4 Raiders will not fall victim to another face-plant.
“Why do I believe, why do I think we can finish better?” Carr said. “This group is different. I came in this morning — and usually, in the past, I would show up and I wouldn’t see guys for a little while. I show up in the morning and guys are in there. Guys are showing up. We’re walking in at the same time … they’re on fire, ready to go.”
Carr also believes that, as opposed to past seasons, the Raiders’ recent two-game losing streak is not a matter of manpower deficiencies or a talent gap but rather correctable problems. Over the last two weeks, the Raiders were on the wrong side of the turnover and penalty battles. Both played big roles in derailing scoring opportunities and assisting scoring drives of the Giants and Chiefs.
Cleaning up those areas will go a long way toward getting things back on the right track, beginning this week against the Bengals.
“You watch the tape the last two weeks and we see, OK, this is what we need to do. Boom, that and that,” Carr said. “You see it, and then you try to replicate it in practice. Be better in certain ways.”
In that way, the messaging between players isn’t one of hopelessness but of anticipation.
“It’s simple,” Carr said. “We’ve got to keep doing what we do. It’s won us five games.”
The Raiders had aspirations of being on the higher side on the win total by this point of the season, but a glance around the rest of the AFC proves the current number leaves them right in the thick of things.
If the season ended today, the Raiders would be on the outside looking in on the playoffs. But the distance between first place on their division and a spot in the postseason is just a half-game in either case.
Meanwhile, their remaining schedule offers rematches against both the 5-4 Chargers, 6-4 Chiefs and 5-5 Broncos, plus games against the 5-4 Bengals, 7-2 Cowboys, 3-6 Washington Football Team, 5-5 Browns and 5-5 Colts. They also own tiebreakers against the 6-3 Ravens and the 5-3-1 Pittsburgh Steelers after beating both to open the season.
Controlling their destiny, then, is predicated on how they handle business over these last eight weeks. The best way to do that is to have a short memory whether it’s dealing with a win or a loss.
“What I’ve learned in this league, the six years I’ve been here, it’s a season within a week every week,” said Raiders running back Kenyan Drake. “You gotta go into the next game with a clean slate.”
That has been the constant theme over the last few days as the Raiders pick themselves up from the two-game skid.
“It’s a week-to-week league,” said Raiders head coach Rich Bisaccia. “I think if you get caught up spending too much time in the (telescope), what’s down the road and how can we get there. … I think you can spend too much time in the telescope, you can get lost. The microscope is really what you want to pay attention to.”
Who: Bengals at Raiders
When: 1:05 p.m. Sunday
Where: Allegiant Stadium
Radio: KRLV-AM (920), KOMP-FM (92.3)
Line: Bengals -1; total 48.5