Holy crap. Did that just happen? That just happened.
Whatever hopes that last game’s comeback drive and win against the Chiefs would translate into positive momentum for the Raiders were dashed on the field at Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis. I said that the Rams were the best 4-7 team in the league, given the elite opponents they had beaten. And one of the key differences between good teams and bad teams is that while bad teams might win one once in a while, it doesn’t matter whether the team they beat is good or bad, they’ll just squeak by on luck or circumstance, a good drive at the right time. But a good team will punish bad teams.
And that’s what happened here; the Raiders were historically awful today, in all phases of the game. The offense is a dead fish, unable to get a first down until they were already down 21-0. They barely got across the 50-yard line, forget the red zone. McFadden and Jones-Drew ran hard, as usual, but mostly got stuffed (as usual), and once the score got out of hand the running game was abandoned (as usual). Matt Schaub finally got in the game in the fourth quarter, just long enough to fumble the ball away, and then throw a pick-six. That was $8.5M well spent.
The defense was slow and listless, looking like they were running uphill, underwater, through snow. Tre Mason ran through multiple tacklers, over and over again, racking up yards and touchdowns, looking like Jamaal Charles last year, as the D looked like they had never seen a screen before. While the defense did play tighter and better in the second half, by then the Rams were up 38-0. Too little, too late. By that point Shaun Hill, a career scrub, looked like Kurt Warner. Rookie WR Stedman Bailey rolled up nearly 100 yards receiving in the first quarter.
Special teams was a big fail also; George Atkinson III returned kicks as if he had never done it before, running indecisively, fumbling the ball away deep in their own territory. T.J. Carrie almost broke off a nice punt return, only to be flattened by Ray-Ray Armstrong. This is how teams end up 1-11 (or 1-15, at the rate they’re going); this is how they get pounded 52-0.
There’s no way to sugar-coat this one, no way to put a positive spin on it. This is literally the worst loss for the team since 1961, just three points off their record 55-0 loss to Houston over half a century ago.
Three years into the Great Rebuild, this is the team we have — listless, indifferent, undisciplined, incompetent. On the one hand, successful teams are built on continuity and stability and consistency, which would seem to indicate that it might be best to stay the course on management and coaching, or at least not replace anyone until someone better is available. On the other hand, 52-0. And like so many of their blowout losses this season and the previous two seasons, it wasn’t even that close; the Rams just let off the gas in the second half. Amazingly, it could have been even worse.
But the contrast was stark right from the beginning. St. Louis played tight, focused ball on offense and defense, taking their game right to the Raiders, daring them to punch back. And the Raiders were having none of it.
One of the more disheartening moments was seeing Carr and Schaub on the sidelines, down 45-0, chatting and smiling and laughing. News reports from the locker room afterward said the locker room demeanor wasn’t “angry” or “disgusted,” but rather “disappointment” and “surprise”. Frankly, I want them to be angry and disgusted. They embarrassed themselves and their fans, once again. It’s becoming a habit with this team and these players. They played like shit, ineptly, without passion or purpose. It’s unbelievable that they had ten days — after their first win in an entire year — to prepare for this game, and came out so flat and incompetent in every single phase. It’s unacceptable to fans, and it should be unacceptable to players and coaches.
So we’ll see what happens next — the Niners, reeling from their own embarrassing Thanksgiving loss to their arch-rival Seahawks, come to Oakland next Sunday. Speculation about Jim Harbaugh coming to coach the Raiders next season has been rampant all weekend, and there are pros and cons to that (like anything else). San Francisco’s visit across the Bay Bridge comes sandwiched between their Seahawk games; they have to travel to Seattle the following week, for a must-win game if they are to make the post-season.
Will the Raiders step up, use this humiliating experience to take their jobs seriously and play hard and well, against a team that may be looking ahead to a game they desperately need to win? Or will the Niners use an incompetent Raiders team as a punching bag for their own frustrations, as a warm-up and an easy win before they have to play a division rival? It’s up to the Raiders players and coaches to decide which way they want to go, to start fighting back and playing like the team that shocked the Chefs, or continue to be the team that other teams’ fans don’t even hate or laugh at any more, because they feel sorry for them.
Three years (with 9 wins and 25 losses) into the rebuild, and they are basically an expansion team at this point. If the NFL had English Premier League rules, the Raiders would be relegated. Losing but being able to see tangible progress is one thing, but there has been no progress — they get blown out every few weeks, just suffered their worst beatdown in 53 years, are on pace to have the worst running game in 70 years, have no kick/punt return game at all. How many times this season have you seen receivers bumble into each other on crossing routes, struggle to get separation, drop easy passes, how many times have they failed to get a simple push for a single yard on 3rd down?
Reggie McKenzie refuses to talk to media at this point (which will probably have to change after this most recent embarrassment), but the only question for him is where is the progress? There are glimmers of hope here and there in the potential of rookies like Mack and Carr, but not nearly enough to overcome the chronic dysfunction that seems to plague this team and organization. So many areas need change and improvement, it’s hard to know where to start. But after three years and regular blowout losses, it doesn’t even seem like it’s been started yet.
Al Davis built this team’s greatness and legacy on the premise that “we’d rather be feared than respected,” but at this point, the team and fans have been relegated to where they’d just rather be hated — or even ridiculed — than merely pitied.