What’s harder: An 0-10 team finally getting its first victory of the season? Or that same team winning two consecutive games?
The Raiders are about to find out.
After pulling off a victory over the Kansas City Chiefs in their last outing, the 1-10 Raiders travel to St. Louis to take on the 4-7 Rams. NFL oddsmakers don’t see head coach Tony Sparano’s team winning two straight. They’ve made the Rams 6½-point favorites for the game, which kicks off at 10 a.m. Sunday (Bay Area time).
This will be a nice test for Oakland to see if it can build on the gains in the running game made in the victory over Kansas City. Latavius Murray and fullback Marcel Reece were given more opportunities to run the ball, and did well Their performance gave Oakland some juice for its 32nd-ranked rushing attack.
Murray, in fact, excelled, getting 112 yards on just four carries before being knocked from the game with a concussion. He was back practicing Thursday, and it appears he’s on his way towardbeing cleared to play Sunday.
His presence was a big help to rookie quarterback Derek Carr, who’s been asked to carry the offensive load without much help. Against K.C., Carr was 18-of-35 for 174 yards and one TD pass. He leads NFL rookie QBs in passing yardage (2,249) and TD passes (14 vs. nine interceptions). He’ll be matched against a St. Louis pass defense that’s ranked 21st in the NFL.
More important than the numbers has been the way Carr has learned and worked hard to become a leader. Even his veteran teammates, such as defensive end Justin Tuck, believe in Carr.
“I love Derek,” Tuck told reporters this week. “He’s one of the most positive people I’ve ever seen. He never gets out of his element. Regardless of the situation, he’s just a cool, calm and collected dude. I definitely think he’s a future star in this league.”
The Rams, meanwhile, have a losing record but have been one of the most surprising teams in the league this season, beating three of the four teams that reached last season’s conference championship games: Seattle, Denver and San Francisco.
The Rams have a solid running attack with rookie Tre Mason and a defensive front seven that can put good pressure on opposing quarterbacks, plus good special teams.
Sparano, excited about the team’s first win and effort this season, believes the Raiders can win two in a row.
“I’ve seen us get better each week,” he said. “I think our players have played really hard. … I don’t ever question our players’ effort. We’re getting better.”