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It was sometime late in the third quarter when a moment of truth arrived for Derek Carr and his Oakland Raiders, who were getting their hats handed to them while having their lunch money taken by the New England Patriots.
The Patriots also had stolen the Raiders’ crowd at mammoth Estadio Azteca on Sunday.
“Nothing changes for us. We are who we are, and we’re not going to turn on each other, we’re not going to turn on anything about what we do. Obviously, we know that our culture, and everything that we do, works because we’ve seen it work. Mailing it in and those type of things, that will never happen. Not as long as I’m here.”
Carr, who signed a five-year, $125 million contract extension with Oakland last summer, perhaps had one eye on the schedule.
Entering the season, the Raiders had the fourth-toughest schedule in the NFL, with the other three also residing in the AFC West. But here is where it gets relatively soft. The key word being “relatively,” of course.
Consider: The Raiders are in dire need of some home cooking, as they have not played in Oakland since their thrilling 31-30 defeat of the Kansas City Chiefs on Oct. 19. Games in Buffalo and Miami preceded a bye before this “home” game in Mexico City.
The next two games are in Oakland, against the Denver Broncos, who are 3-7, and the New York Giants, who are 2-8. Of course, the Broncos already beat the Raiders, 16-10, on Oct. 1, when Carr suffered broken bones in his back. And the Giants just upset the Chiefs.
Plus, the Raiders are only one game out of the second AFC wild-card spot.
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Win these next two games, at home, and the Raiders remain in the thick of things and could potentially make a serious run.
But are we simply whistling past the graveyard here? Have the Raiders already checked out on an extremely disappointing and underachieving season after going 12-4 last year?
The offense has not sustained the firepower it showed in 2016, and the defense, well, it has been wracked by injuries and ineffectiveness.
Against the Patriots, the Raiders looked like anything but a contender to New England’s crown, as they were purported to be this offseason.
Tom Brady carved up Oakland’s depleted secondary — second-round draft pick Obi Melifonwu, a safety by trade, started at left cornerback and had a rough go of it — to the tune of 339 yards passing, with three touchdowns and a 131.9 passer rating.
“You know, [Oakland] does quite a few things with their front and the coverage,” said Brady, who was sacked once by Khalil Mack. “We talked all week about just being prepared for how they were going to play the game, and the tempo helped us out early. I think it settled some things in. We got down the field and scored on the first drive, which was good.
“[The Raiders] play hard. They’ve got a good rush. I thought we found some spots in the zones.”
On their opening drive, the Patriots went no-huddle and gassed the Raiders’ defense with an 87-yard touchdown drive in 15 plays.
“We had a rough day,” Raiders coach Jack Del Rio said after the Patriots compiled 420 total yards and cashed in five of their first six third-down conversions.
“Couldn’t get them slowed down enough and couldn’t get ourselves going. Tough loss.”
So how does Del Rio maintain order and keep his players focused without checking out?
“To me, I don’t give any credence to those kinds of questions,” he said. “I mean, no offense, but I — to me, it’s we’re professionals and, to me, so long as you have hope, you keep your hope, you keep hope alive.
“So we’ll continue to scratch and claw and fight for everything we can.”