ALAMEDA – The Raiders beat the Miami Dolphins 27-24 Sunday night, flew across country and were back at their Alameda training complex around 6:45 a.m. Monday morning.
The bye week technically started then. Vacation, however, did not.
The Raiders players put in work through Thursday, with two practices and meetings to refine operations before starting the stretch run Nov. 19 against New England in Mexico City. Their main focus, however, was on rest and recovery.
Coaches will take some time off, but they don't have it as easy. They're still grinding, in the midst of an intense reflection period. That includes all phases of the game. Each one needs improvement.
The offense, however, is under a microscope because it was supposed to be a juggernaut. A unit that finished sixth in total offense and seventh in scoring now sits at No. 15 in both categories. That isn't good enough, and must better if the Raiders (4-5) are to make a legitimate playoff run.
Offensive coordinator Todd Downing knows it. He's squarely focused on improvement, and is using the bye to find ways his talented unit can consistently do better.
"(We're) diving into a really, really extensive self-scout and looking for efficiency," Downing said. "(We're looking at) what we're good at, what we're not good at, seeing if we need to tweak some things we're doing schematically.
"Also, it gives us an opportunity to emphasize some of the things we're doing well or possibly even eliminate some stuff that we're not doing so well. We're definitely looking forward to diving into that and being able to come out of the week with some hard information that we can use."
Offense must key a second-half run after causing first-half troubles. That unit averaged 13.4 points in five losses this season and 32.3 points in four wins, proving how reliant this team is on scoring often.
"It's obvious that in some of the games that we lost, we were not able to put up some points," Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie said in a Friday meeting with local press. "We definitely need to get better there and find a way. We have some guys we feel like can get that thing done and that's what they're working on. We'll get it done. We just have to be consistent in the way our approach is."
That unit has turned in nearly equal numbers of star turns and letdowns. That in itself is maddening. The talent is there. It doesn't always show up.
McKenzie didn't want to evaluate Downing publicly on Friday, though it's become a common occurrence on the outside. The rookie play caller has been criticized, though he deserves praise for excellent game plans in wins over Kansas City and Miami that seem like efforts to build on. Those victories sandwiched a disappointment in Buffalo, which points again to consistency issues.
The Dolphins plan was especially impressive, with encouraging signs that the Raiders may be able to crank things up for good down the stretch.
That's mandatory in McKenzie's mind, though the other units must also pick up some slack.
"We need to get better offensively and score some points and move the football and help the defense out," McKenzie said. "And vice versa, the defense has to get the ball back for our offense. We have to continue to work together in every facet of our game, starting versus New England."