What happened to the Oakland Raiders on Sunday is known to the Wall Street suits as a “correction.”
Stock market trends last only so long, no matter how pretty the numbers. Boom always leads to bust. Success in the NFL, to all regions other than New England, is fleeting. The difference from one team to the next often ranges from a coach’s hunch during the week to a quarterback’s touch on Sunday afternoon.
Even the most devoted Raider fan recognized his team’s high-wire act. They’ve been the Flying Wallendas, balancing by their toes to win four of their first five, their best start in 14 years. The missed field goals, fortuitous flags and risky bets by coach Jack Del Rio all seemed to pay off for the Men in Black – until Sunday afternoon.
Hence the correction, the discouraging 26-10 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. On this day, the Raiders fell off the wire.
Never miss a local story.
Only once – Derek Carr’s perfect throw leading to a perfect catch by Andre Holmes in the end zone for an early Oakland lead – did the Raiders demonstrate their first-month form. The rest of the rainy day belonged to the Chiefs.
A week ago, Del Rio was “Black Jack,” the Castro Valley man who’s returning the swagger to his home turf. But on Sunday, he was just another NFL field boss explaining a loss. When Del Rio and his peers refer to the NFL as a week-to-week thing, they’re not kidding.
8-1 Alex Smith’s career record against the Raiders
“We have to teach it better. We have to learn it better and we have to do it better,” Del Rio said. “It’s nowhere near what it needs to be.”
Del Rio looks like an NFL coach straight out of Central Casting. He projects strength even after the worst of days. For that alone, he’s earned his bona fides in Oakland.
Even during Sunday’s loss, the Raiders stayed stubborn. They somehow melted a potential 13-point deficit to only 13-10 before halftime. Minimizing damage is what good teams do. A stop on defense, a missed K.C. field goal and a masterful last-second march to an Oakland field goal gave the Raiders a chance at halftime.
Trouble was, Kansas City quickly pulled away in the second half. It was a reminder of the Chiefs’ major ownage over the Raiders. They’ve won six of the past seven meetings.
Then there’s quarterback Alex Smith, the man Del Rio called “a good football player and a little underrated.”
Smith, the quarterback the 49ers did not keep, makes a living slow-dancing the Raiders. He throws to safe places, paces the lead like a jockey in the back stretch and leaves the mistakes to others. Sunday was an Alex Smith kind of day.
Get this: Smith is 8-1 against the Raiders with 18 touchdown passes and only three interceptions. He’d own a few Super Bowl rings if he could tow the Raiders with him each week.
K.C. coach Andy Reid probably circled the game’s date over the summer. His teams after a bye are golden. They’re 16-2 with an extra week to prepare. Between Smith and Reid, the Chiefs needed only to figure out the final score. To them, the outcome was academic.
We have to teach it better. We have to learn it better and we have to do it better. It’s nowhere near what it needs to be.
Jack Del Rio, Raiders coach
All these factors added up to the Raiders’ correction. Their 4-2 record, though still good, amounted to a chance missed against the Chiefs (3-2). The Raiders stood a win away from early-season control in the AFC West. Now it’s a logjam that probably won’t be settled until late December.
The Raiders are ranked dead last in the NFL in yards allowed and 25th in points per game. That means they built their success on tiny margins for error. Del Rio, who’s not often fooled, no doubt figured this out before Sunday’s kickoff.
“We took our lumps,” he said. “We were outplayed and out-coached.”
He didn’t seek an NFL-style correction. But the league often doesn’t give you a choice.