ALAMEDA – The Raiders have put fans through the wringer this season, with dramatic games throughout the 2016 season. They’re 9-2 heading into Sunday’s game against the Buffalo Bills, with five fourth-quarter comebacks to their credit and seven wins in eight games decided by a touchdown or less.
That’s a lot of stress on fans. Now imagine how that feels for the Raiders architect. General manager Reggie McKenzie would prefer to dominate games from the outset, as the Raiders but that hasn’t always worked out.
Late-game heroics have been the norm, generally generated by quarterback Derek Carr’s high-octane offense.
McKenzie sits in the press box on road games, and always remains stoic. Inside, however, he’s as anxious as ever. Though the experience isn’t always pleasant, McKenzie has great confidence the Raiders can find ways to win.
“As many heart attacks as I’ve had, I absolutely do,” he said. “It goes without saying that you can feel it. They have an air about them, that they know they’re going to win. That’s good to be around.”
The Raiders have learned how to win in pressure-packed moments, a trend McKenzie believes began in the season-opener. That’s when head coach Jack Del Rio called for a last-second 2-point conversion when an extra point would’ve tied the New Orleans Saints, and Carr came through on a fade to Michael Crabtree.
“It set a tone for the confidence the coaching staff had in the players and that the players had in each other,” McKenzie said.
Despite the Raiders’ successful track record, escaping a tight spot is not guaranteed. That’s especially true against the quality competition they face late in the season and would spar should they make the playoffs.
“You want to dominate, and domination starts with physicality and defense,” McKenzie said. “We have to get to that point, but winning close ones builds confidence that they’ll find a way to win. That’s what is positive about those close ones.”
McKenzie would like the Raiders to consistently exert control, but he doesn’t mind the method as long as they win.
“I’m a bottom-line guy,” McKenzie said. “Just give me a safety and I’m good. It’s all about winning football games. The good thing about postgame is that you can find something to practice for the next week.”