The Raiders were up two scores late in Sunday night’s game against Denver, with one objective in mind.
Kill the clock.
The Broncos had just cut the lead to 10 points with a quick touchdown. Head coach Jack Del Rio didn’t want to give them another chance.
A Raiders run game that dominated from the outset was asked to be a closer, to put the Broncos away with a long, sustained drive.
The offense took possession with five minutes left, and only cut Denver’s clock in half. The Broncos got the ball back, but squandered an opportunity. Reggie Nelson intercepted a pass four snaps later to secure a 30-20 victory that put the Raiders atop the AFC West.
Del Rio was obviously happy with a dominant win over a division rival. He wants more. He wants better, even after the season’s most complete game.
“I think it was closest,” Del Rio said. “I think all three phases certainly contributed in the game. I think they had really good moments, all three. We see a lot of things that can be better. That’s what we’re going to keep working at. I don’t know if you ever reach that perfect performance you’re striving for anyway, but there are things that we need to clean up that we need to be better at.”
Welcome, Raiders fans, to Del Rio’s new world order.
Standards are sky high for a recently downtrodden franchise in the midst of a renaissance. The Raiders are 7-2 heading into a bye week, but Del Rio believes they can be better.
Del Rio hosts “Tell the Truth Tuesday” each week, where he’s brutally honest with players and coaches about past performance. The players got this Tuesday off during a bye week, but the reaper’s coming before Wednesday’s practice. But, after Sunday’s resounding win, Del Rio will pass out candy and coal.
“We’re telling the truth about the good, too,” Del Rio said. “So we’re showing really physical play and we’re showing the things we want to see; the crisp effort and acknowledging what was really good. Then we’re going to be honest about things we have to do better, and that’s everywhere. That starts with me. I’ll point out a thing or two that I could have done better. That’s really how we approach it. Nobody is shielded from that. Nobody is above criticism or above being able to be held accountable.”
Del Rio might have to nit pick. The offense is well balanced and scoring 27.5 points per game. The coverage units are top notch. Even a widely criticized defense is on the rise after allowing less than 300 yards in consecutive games.
His players aren’t satisfied, clearly hoping to do something special this season. They trust Del Rio’s process, and trust that he wants and expects more.
“I’m pretty straightforward about it with the staff and with the players about what we’re looking for and what championship football looks like,” Del Rio said. “We’re just going to push for it. It takes time to develop and to grow. The good news is we recognize where these areas are, yet we’re winning. Being able to win, you put that big smile on. You go home and feel good about things. Lay your head down at night, but wake up in the morning knowing you have work to do and there are things we must improve.”