EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — The Raiders on Sunday had everything to play for, every reason to be focused and sharp and inspired.
There were, embarrassingly so, none of the above.
What transpired before an announced gathering of 78,523 at a damp MetLife Stadium was both confusing and concerning for a Raiders side that had put itself in prime playoff talk by winning its previous three games.
“They ran the ball well, they passed the ball well and we didn’t come to play,” said Raiders defensive lineman Johnathan Hankins. “It’s pretty simple — they kicked our ass. We didn’t show up. Not much else to say.”
Another manic Sunday
It happens almost weekly across the NFL — indescribable results and performances — and yet in no way does such a truth lessen the frustration by those on the wrong end of such a decisive score.
That’s not to say the Raiders were a sure thing here as a 3-point favorite. Hardly. Fans might cringe when head coach Jon Gruden talks weekly about building a foundation around several young players, but it’s true.
His is a good team in parts now, but should be much better when arriving to Las Vegas in 2020.
So it’s not surprising that the Raiders lost to a Jets team, once left for dead with a quarterback suffering from mononucleosis and seeing ghosts, that has now won three straight and scored 34 points in each of those victories.
It was more than plausible the Raiders would do so.
It’s how they lost that was so absurd.
Dropping passes, missing tackles, yanking field goals wide, blowing coverage assignments. The Raiders traveled east for a body-clock kickoff of 10 a.m. and didn’t handle anything at all well, be it the elements of a soggy turf or one inch of what transpired when the ball was snapped.
And if you can figure out why, head to the nearest sports book and start cashing tickets.
Preparation during the week often guarantees nothing on Sunday. It’s impossible to totally decode why some teams rise to the occasion and others don’t, why some execute at a high rate and others, like the Raiders here, never get going.
“I’m not going to say we were flat,” Gruden said. “It’s the NFL. They have good players and really good coaches. … Today was a setback. We get what we deserve. I’m really disappointed. We missed an opportunity to show our fans who came out here what kind of football team we have. I’m emotional about it. I’m really anxious to get on to the next game.”
Chiefs on deck
The Raiders are 6-5 and most projections gave them a 43 percent chance of making the playoffs before Sunday.
That number will certainly drop.
They next face a game at AFC West-leading Kansas City, which opened an 8½-point favorite and with a head coach in Andy Reid who is 17-3 following a bye week, which the Chiefs just enjoyed.
There is also this: The extended forecast at Arrowhead Stadium for the game is a high of 37 degrees and snowing, meaning if the Raiders struggled handling some of the wet stuff at MetLife (they did), things could get really messy in Kansas City.
“We have to lock in,” Hankins said. “There is a lot riding on that game.”
Still, it’s fairly deep into a season to believe one game can aptly define what exactly a team is. The Raiders at their best can still challenge for a wild-card berth among similarly flawed AFC teams.
But they’re a lot closer to the likes of the Steelers and Colts and Titans and, as we saw, the Jets than a team such as the Chiefs.
And yet, crazy, indescribable performances occur all the time.
One did Sunday.
“We got our face kicked in a little bit,” said Raiders quarterback Carr said. “Hopefully it wakes everybody up. … We better show up (in Kansas City) or they’re gonna beat us by 50.”
After all, the Raiders will have everything to play for again, every reason to be focused and sharp and inspired to compete.
Maybe this time, they’ll act like it.
Contact columnist Ed Graney at email@example.com or 702-383-4618. He can be heard on “The Press Box,” ESPN Radio 100.9 FM and 1100 AM, from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. Monday through Friday. Follow @edgraney on Twitter.