Two weeks ago, Reggie Bush ran through big holes; this past Sunday, it was the Packers' Ryan Grant. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
The Raiders aren’t dead yet. They still have a pulse and a chance to win the AFC West or fight their way into a wild-card spot in the AFC playoffs.
They may have to do it without running back Darren McFadden and a couple of limping, deep-threat wideouts in Jacoby Ford and Denarius Moore, who missed the past two games.
“Every game from here on in for us is a must-win,” head coach Hue Jackson told Monte Poole of the Bay Area News Group Monday. “If we want to accomplish our goals, which is winning this division, every game, one game at a time, is a must-win.”
But if Oakland is to accomplish that division title, it likely will be the defense that needs to step up. Forget the absence of the offensive playmakers, or Carson Palmer’s four interceptions in the loss to the Packers this past Sunday. It’s the defense that will need to show the way, beginning with this Sunday’s home game against the Lions.
As Poole notes, Oakland’s defense has allowed more points per game (27.2) than any team in the AFC but Indianapolis, ranks 29th in run defense and has given up more first downs by penalty than any other in the NFL.
In two straight games, the Raiders have been down 34-0 before showing signs of life.
That won’t cut it in the final three games, as the 7-6 Raiders try to overtake the 8-5 Broncos for the division lead. Though Tim Tebow has been getting the headlines for leading the Broncos to a six-game winning streak, it’s been Denver’s defense – in contrast to Oakland’s – that’s been rock solid in that stretch.
The Raiders, meanwhile, have allowed 345 combined rushing yards vs. the Dolphins and Packers the past two weeks.
Oakland linebacker Rolando McClain said the 46-16 beating he and his teammates took in Green Bay was “embarrassing.”
Raiders safety Mike Mitchell says the defense can get back on track, but the defenders have to do it immediately. Otherwise, the season could just slip away.
“The only thing we can do is just work on the mistakes that we made this past week, keep our heads down, keep grinding and get things fixed going into Sunday,” Mitchell told reporters. “Now, we are desperate. We got to win these games to hopefully win the division, and that’s what our goal is.”