To be bluntly honest with you, dear reader, this Rumble should have been titled Raiders vs Raiders. It doesn’t matter who they play this week, the toughest obstacle for them to overcome is themselves. They were truly their own worst enemy against the Cowboys.
I often think about young emerging players having their football epiphany, that moment where everything goes a bit Matrix-code and they can suddenly see the game, and beyond it. At the moment the Raiders are plugged into the simulation, unable to overcome their mental limits.
Epiphanies don’t come easy. You have to be on the right track, the rhythm getting stronger as the patterns carve themselves into your brain. The patterns establish themselves and you play good, structured footy.
Then it hits. You’ve learnt all the rules, now you know how to bend and maybe even break them a little. You are both at once an orchestra in full flight and a free form jazz solo, switching between the two disciplines as play necessitates.
The Raiders breached this barrier in 2019. It required energy, passion and drive. They came close to duplicating it in the disrupted 2020 campaign. Two strong years of football overlapping two years of chaotic rule changes are taking their toll.
The first step to recovery is simply fielding the best 17 you can. That means not dropping your premier lock to teach other players about accountability. It means admitting that the bench roster and rotation isn’t having the desired effect. It means combing through video and stats to find out who’s genuinely performing.
For the players it simply means dipping into their fuel reserves. Know where you need to be, when you need to be there. If the play-the-ball is taking place on the the 40 on the right sideline then the left winger should not be past the 30. Against the Cowboys the Raiders looked flatter than Lake Burley Griffin on a still Autumn morning.
There’s one more thing that needs adjusting: expectations. Ours. I feel part of the reason we all feel the way we do right now is that we just lived through a Raiders renaissance. This team is not the one that got us nearly to the summit. Most of it remains, but key elements, Bateman, Leilua, Cotric, have moved on. Other key players have had to recover from hefty injuries.
The Bunnies will be there on Thursday night, but the Raiders will need to focus on the Raiders if they hope to have a foot in the game. If they can overcome their funk-rut they might just stand a chance.
CARN GREEN MACHINE! HOT BLOOD & COURAGE!