Since taking over as head coach of the Raiders in 2015, Jack Del Rio has gained a reputation as an aggressive leader.
There was that fourth-and-1 gamble late in a game against the Texans last season that helped secure a 27-20 victory, and, of course, the successful decision to go for an end-of-game two-point conversion on the road against the Saints to open 2016.
But on Sunday, Raiders fans saw a different Del Rio. In a 30-17 loss to the visiting Baltimore Ravens – Oakland’s third straight defeat – Del Rio decided to punt on fourth-and-3 from the Ravens’ 44-yard-line with 8:58 to play while trailing by 10 points.
The move didn’t work out well, when Marquette King’s punt went into the end zone for a touchback and Baltimore bled the clock on a long march to a field goal to lock up the win.
After the game, Del Rio defended the move that seemed so uncharacteristic of his 2016 coaching style.
“Hindsight is always 20/20 on things like that,” Del Rio told the media. “You’re thinking you’re going to pin them inside their 10. We didn’t. You’re thinking the defense will give us a stop and get us the ball back. We didn’t.
“A fourth-down call with nine minutes left in the game. Was that the difference today? I don’t think so.”
Of course, the Raiders had other problems. A key turnover that gave the Ravens an early touchdown, a poor running game and leaky pass protection all helped torpedo Oakland’s hopes to break a two-game losing streak.
But now, five games into the 2017 season, the Raiders are 2-3 and seem to have lost the swagger Del Rio helped build in their 12-4, playoff-bound 2016 season.
The Raiders will try to get back on track this Sunday against the visiting Chargers. They need a victory to regain the momentum they somehow lost after winning their first two games this season.
“I think you’d have to have a little bit of a question about the confidence level,” Del Rio said. “You just went out and didn’t get it done three weeks in a row. To me, it’s real simple. It’s a group of … prideful men. We’ll get back in the saddle, get back to work.”