There’s some optimism in the Raiders locker room, as voiced by cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha, that the Raiders may wind up looking back at the Denver game as the point where they turned around their season.
“It has the potential,” Asomugha said. “Anytime that you’re coming off a loss and you can put together a game like that, absolutely it has the potential to string into a number of victories going down the road and then you can point back to this game and say, ‘Oh, this was the game that we got over the hump.’ So, that’s our goal.”
A 59-14 win over Denver was a magnificent deviation from the norm, but can no way be extrapolated into the normal NFL season. It will probably be another decade until the Raiders put another 45-point margin on someone. It was in fact a decade since they last did it.
On Dec. 19, 1999, in their second season under Jon Gruden, the Raiders had a win even more impressive than Sunday’s win in Denver.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers came to town in first place in the NFC Central, with the NFL’s second-ranked defense and three potential Hall of Fame players in Derrick Brooks, Warren Sapp and John Lynch.
They were 9-4 and would take eventual Super Bowl champ St. Louis to the wire in the NFC Championship game.
Final score: Raiders 45, Bucs 0.
Oakland rushed for 262 yards, with Tyrone Wheatley (19 carries, 111 yards) and Napoleon Kaufman (9 carries, 122 yards) both going over 100. Against the Oakland defense, the Bucs crossed the 50-yard line exactly twice _ and on one of those possessions punted from the Oakland 49-yard line.
The win evened the Raiders record even at 7-7 and on the periphery of the playoff chase.
What did this momentum get them? A 23-20 loss to the Chargers in San Diego the following week. The Raiders had 46 yards rushing and were shredded for 325 yards passing by Jim Harbaugh.
Every once in awhile a game gets out of control. It’s what happened against the Bucs, and it’s what happened against the Broncos. The Raiders were the better team that day, yes, but the losing teams weren’t nearly as bad as the score indicated. It was simply a quirk of two teams at one point in time having a completely opposite experience and in no way indicative of the usual week-in, week-out grind that is the NFL.
Actually, the Raiders defining moment came two weeks after the Tampa game, and the week following the Chargers debacle.
Trailing 17-0 to the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium, the Raiders came back and won 41-38 in overtime. The game knocked the Chiefs out of the playoffs and was the springboard for a 12-4 season which brought Oakland a division title and a spot in the AFC championship game.
Unlike the Tampa game, the Chiefs game epitomized what it really takes to win in the NFL _ a willingness and even an eagerness to fight back from a deficit, to make plays in all three phases at crucial times, and to prevail on a day when the end result could have gone either way.
Turnarounds are made on those kinds of games, rather than the rare blowout which is actually more of a statistical fluke than a true indicator of a team’s strength.
With the Seattle Seahawks and Chiefs coming to town the next two weeks, the Raiders will have their chance to prove they can win an important game when every break isn’t going their way.