The 33-8 loss to the New England Patriots was one of the most embarrassing losses the Oakland Raiders have suffered in the post-2002 era.
Heading into Week 11 of the 2017 NFL season, the Oakland Raiders were 4-5 and in need of a win to climb back into the AFC playoff race. With their conference peers reeling, the Silver and Black were being handed a golden opportunity to play their way back into contention, but they had to handle their own business in order to make that a reality.
Standing in their way was the reigning Super Bowl champion New England Patriots. Coming off a bye week that would offer additional time to plan and prepare for Bill Belichick and company, perhaps there was *some* reason to be optimistic. There was also hope that coming off of a win prior to the bye week — albeit not a pretty one — that playing with some urgency, with a playoff type of mentality, would spark some fight and bring the best out of the Raiders.
And then the game started.
Long story short, the Raiders were taken to school Sunday afternoon. They were bullied and their lunch money was stolen. They were punched in the mouth. Whatever cliche you want to use would probably be appropriate, because any way you say it, the point is that Oakland put forth a pitiful performance in Mexico City. It may not be as lopsided as some of the awful performances that plagued this team in the dark years, but it was still one of the worst losses this team has suffered since the 2002 Super Bowl appearance.
That might seem like an exaggeration at face value, or it might even seem like a prisoner of the moment overreaction. Perhaps so, but there are several reasons why this loss is as bad as any of the last dozen or so years.
First and foremost, gauging or comparing one loss to another is purely opinion based. There is no right or wrong answer here. Different losses sting for different reasons. And this one stings for several.
For starters, a big reason why this loss is one of the most embarrassing since 2002 is because of the expectations of this team. When the Raiders lost 52-0 to the Rams in 2014, or 44-7 to the Giants and then 38-0 to the Jets just two weeks later in 2009, there was one key thing those teams had in common. They were completely awful, and any fan with any sense whatsoever knew that those Raiders teams were arguably the least talented in the entire league. Pick any loss from any Raiders team from 2003 to 2014 and the same can be said — those teams stunk, and the reasons why so many of those losses were lopsided were obvious.
But that isn’t the case with the 2017 Raiders. Coming off of a 12-4 season, the expectation for this team was to take the next step forward. And that next step would be to challenge the Patriots for supremacy in the AFC — these same Patriots that just molli-whopped them for 60 minutes.
Todd Downing was supposed to open up the offense, getting away from the random conservativeness of Bill Musgrave that frustrated a large part of the fan base. He was supposed to give Derek Carr more freedom at the line of scrimmage, and the offense was expected to flourish as a result. Instead, the offense has been a complete train wreck and they have somehow managed to hurt this team more than their defensive counterparts.
The defense still gives up a ton of yardage, but at least in 2016, they were second in the NFL in takeaways. This year, they’ve set an NFL record for longest interception drought in NFL history. The pass rush is still awful, and the secondary is the worst in the league.
So considering that this team was *supposed* to be able to keep up with the Patriots, this game was a stark reminder that the Raiders are not yet ready for primetime. In fact, it seems that they aren’t even close.
What makes matters worse is that the Raiders put forth this kind of effort coming out of a bye week. With extra time to prepare and plan for the game, at the very least, one would hope that the Raiders would be somewhat ready to go. This coaching staff is hardly hailed for their X’s and O’s, but with so much time to prepare, it’s not unreasonable to expect more — even out of this group. Not only that, but the bye week is usually a great time to self-scout. Go back through all the games prior to the bye and fix your problems. Not only were Oakland’s problems not fixed, they were magnified.
For the Raiders to come out as flat as they were, to look as unprepared as they did, is damning of this coaching staff. They were ready for absolutely nothing the Patriots threw at them, and it showed from the start. The Patriots had the luxury of playing in Denver the week prior, and wisely made the decision to stay in town to get acclimated to the even higher elevation level of Mexico City.
Oakland, on the other hand, opted to fly into town the night before the game after spending the last 14 days in Oakland. Such a sudden shift in elevation takes a toll, even on NFL athletes. Obi Melifonwu was gassed on the first series, and the rest of the team didn’t look much better as the game went on.
The cherry on top of this crap sundae is that heading into this game, New England had the league’s worst defense in terms of total yards allowed. It was literally the best chance, statistically speaking, for this offense to get back on track. There was no defense out there worse than New England’s as of the time of kickoff, and yet, the Raiders were only able to muster 8 points. EIGHT! With Derek Carr, Amari Cooper, Michael Crabtree, Jared Cook, Marshawn Lynch and an elite offensive line, it looked like the Raiders were playing the 2000 Ravens instead of the 2017 Patriots.
Lastly, the final reason why this loss was one of their worst since 2002 is that with their backs against the wall, urgency in what was essentially a “win or go home’ type of game was non-existent. Considering how ugly this loss was, it very well could drain the rest of whatever hope was still left. As frustrating as this season has been, this loss feels like the one that broke the Camel’s back.
The Raiders were, and technically still are, in the playoff race. They didn’t *need* to win this game, and a 9-7 finish and a playoff berth is still possible. But what the loss showed is that this team isn’t ready to compete at the level needed to get there. With games against the Chiefs, Cowboys and Eagles still looming, among others, the Raiders somehow would have to win two of the three, and that’s only if they beat everyone else on the schedule.
So no, this wasn’t the most lopsided loss the Raiders have had in many years. It didn’t have the putrid play of a certain quarterback and it didn’t have a fumble kicked sky high in the air. But with the hope that the Raiders were past the dark ages and into a new era of Super Bowl contenders, facing an actual Super Bowl contender confirmed that they are not. It proved that perhaps the 12-4 season was the fluke, and not the slow start to 2017. It proved that with this coaching staff, this is the reality of the Raiders. And that’s embarrassing.