Long, Quiet Ride Home

In 1991 I was in Buffalo for the AFC Championship game between the Raiders and Bills. The Raiders scored a field goal early on to grab a 3-0 lead, before Buffalo scored 51 straight points, and hung on to beat L.A., 51-3.

I flew back on the Raiders team plane, and let me tell you, that was the quietest plane ride I’ve ever been on. I have a feeling that the ride home tonight is just as quiet.

That’s because if there is anything worse than getting your hat handed to you like they did 20 years ago, it’s having your hat stolen from you like what happened today.

Up 21-3 at the half, the Raiders defense couldn’t stop the Bills in the 2nd half. Not once. 5 possessions, 5 touchdowns, including the game winner on 4th and 1 with just 14 seconds left on the clock as Buffalo won a thriller, 38-35.

If the Raiders defense could have made one play at anytime in the 2nd half, they’d be landing in the Bay Area loud and with a swagger. Instead, they committed too many penalties, allowed two 4th down conversions on the game’s final drive and will land quiet and dismayed.

Instead of 2-0, the Raiders are 1-1, which it isn’t the worst thing in the world, but they had it. You could feel it. I saw the standings, and they looked beautiful. They were looking 2-0 in the face, with the home opener against the Jets looming. They can beat the Jets, but they, and I, would have been more confident of that if they hadn’t just looked so brutal in the 2nd half today.

Now, I’m not so sure. The Jets this Sunday followed by Tom Brady and company the following week, before heading to Houston a week later. Excuse me for being concerned, but that’s a pretty tough stretch, one that would look much better with an unblemished record.

On the positive side of things, the offense looked pretty good, with Jason Campbell throwing for 323 yards and a couple of scores, including a 50-yarder to rookie Denarius Moore who caught 5 balls for 146 yards.

All of this would sound so much better, if it hadn’t gone for naught. Because in this league, winning is the only thing that matters. 2010 was the year of moral victories for the Raiders. We needed to prove we weren’t the worst team in the league anymore. We proved that.

What’s next? I’m afraid to ask.

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