Thursday, October 23, 2008

Can we just hit the snooze button?

It happens to everyone. That damn loud shriek, ringing, buzzing, radio. Seriously. Please, just five more minutes. Five more minutes of ecstacy, jubilation. Pretty please?

No such luck. Time to wake up, get back to work.

That was the feeling and thinking this week. Big win Sunday. New day and week on Monday. The Jets have left Oakland and the Raiders will be getting on a plane for Baltimore later this week. Tom Cable knew this and knew there was lots to be done.

First, the issue of penalties. Time to put a stop to that. It was good to hear Cable take responsibility for the penalty problem and address it. I realize players get jacked up and the raucous crowd helps that, but we need to maintain focus. Wade Phillips, earlier this season, said something to the affect that wins and losses aren't measure by penalties. True. But let's just put this out there now.....penalties can cost you games though. Just look at the game on Sunday. A penalty cost us a touchdown pass from JaMarcus Russell to Zach Miller. We wouldn't have even needed overtime to win that game, had it not been for Javon Walker not lining up on the line of scrimmage. Lack of focus. Simple as that. The penalties are ridiculous, to use the words of Cable. We are the Raiders. We should play hard and hit hard. We should not be proverbially shooting ourselves in the foot. That is not playing hard, that is not aggression. That is lack of discipline and lack of focus.

Second, it's time to use the positive team dynamic that came from last Sunday's game. No chaos, no dysfuntion. Just one team pulling together for the win. The offense managed the game better, the defense did not get frustrated with the offense, coaches collaborated on play calling and adjustements. That's how real teams face adversity and overcome it. Has the time finally come where we are seeing a true team? Not coaches being mad at coaches, defense being mad at the offense, the owner (woops....I mean managing general partner) not being mad at the head coach? That's not the Raiders' way, is it? Jay Richardson put it pretty well, "In previous times, if we had been in this situation, guys would have been pointing fingers, or saying why did this happen, what's going on, or here we go again. But no one had that attitude this time. Everyone was together. I think it's the first time since I've been here that I've seen the whole team have the same feel about something like that."

I think that is something we could all agree with. However, while Richardson hit the nail on the head, when one of the defensive captains speaks up and says something very similar, we know we need to listen. Nnamdi Asomugha said, “We believe now, whereas before, we would get in the fourth quarter and it would kind of fall apart on us. I think we needed this to spark our success.”

The third piece to this trifecta of hope that was three different Raiders players was what Justin Fargas had to say. “I wanted to be part of the Raider team that turns this thing around and gets things going in the right direction."

What? Really? Are these the same Raiders? They are, and I'm glad. This is what it's a about, this is what wins games. This is how you turn around seasons and franshises. This is how we start to improve. Players want to play with and for each other. Coaches want to coach with and for each other. Players and coaches want to be with the organization and they want to win.

I must ask though, is there a "Cable Factor?" I don't know what to call it, but it seems that even the players and coaches that were most embattled with and under Kiffin, seem to be buying into Cable and enjoying having him as the head coach. Even if they're not enjoying Cable as the head coach, at least they're not bickering in the media and airing the team's dirty laundry in public. It seems the coaching staff's focus has returned to coaching and improving the team. It's nice to see the media talking about what the Raiders do on the field rather than off. I hope that the team takes that and runs with it.

When the new stories began on Monday, they were about how the Raiders still had lots of work. I didn't want anything to take away the joy of the win, but the stories were true. I would've been totally happy with sitting back and enjoying the win from this past Sunday. All happy, fat and content all the way to Baltimore. But that's not how teams win and one win isn't what we fans shoudl be settling for. So, when the euphoria from this past Sunday was about to wear off and I didn't want it to, I fought it for a second. But, then I thought, it's time to move on and win in Baltimore and beat Atlanta at home and so on and so forth. This is a wake up call the Raiders and their fans haven't had in a while. Not the kind when your alarm goes off early Monday morning and you have to go to work. The kind where you are happy to wake up because you know that you have something to look forward to.......WINS.

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