EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – The Raiders were supposed to be the New York Jets on Sunday. They were road favorites. They were riding high on a three-game winning streak. They were in the middle of the playoff hunt. The Jets were a team with two of their three wins over terrible teams.
This game had a ‘W' written next to it with permanent ink.
They'll have to cross out that letter and replace it with a big, fat ‘L.' This wasn't a nail biter. This was a 34-3 trouncing here at MetLife Stadium where everything that could go wrong did.
"We didn't come to play today," Raiders defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins said. "It's very simple. They kicked our ass."
The Raiders kicked a field goal on the opening drive and then gave up 34 unanswered points, including 21 in a fateful third quarter that put the game out of reach.
The Raiders didn't try to excuse such a performance. Not for one single second.
They took responsibility for this debacle, refusing to cite inclement weather or tough travel or a constantly morphing defensive lineup.
Jon Gruden tried to absorb all the blame, but this loss hangs on everyone.
"We dropped passes. Hell, we dropped four center-quarterback exchanges in the second half. We missed tackles. We missed FGs," Gruden said. "We missed the opportunity to show fans who came out today what kind of football team we are. I'm really disappointed in it.
"Credit the Jets. They're part of the story today. It's not all on how bad we played, though we sure didn't play very well."
The Raiders don't have the talent base to overcome an incomplete performance littered with sloppy individual play.
"We're not the '85 Bears," Gruden said. "We're a developing football team. We're developing our roster. We're making strides. Today was a setback."
It also wasn't a season killer. They're tied with the Steelers, Colts and Titans at 6-5 while battling for the last wild-card spot. They have a date with Kansas City next week, where they can pull even in the AFC West with a victory and four games left to play.
They could've had a game up on all of those contenders for a wild card spot but blew a golden opportunity to show well on the road.
"We got our butts kicked. There's no way around that," Raiders quarterback Derek Carr said. "They got after us from start to finish, and hopefully it's an eye-opener."
It's safe to call that the case. This team has been solid rebounding between games and within them, but the latter didn't happen Sunday. The Raiders never recovered from a terrible start and things got so out of hand that Carr and running back Josh Jacobs were removed from the game to preserve health. As an aside, and I can't emphasize this enough: they were not taken out for poor performance.
The Raiders were upset by the outcome but not downtrodden, with heads planted in hands. The Raiders still have a solid shot to make the playoffs, with relevant games ahead as the regular season concludes.
"No one was hanging their heads," Carr said. "I'll just say it was different than times past. I've been around guys where stuff like that would happen and it's kind of miserable to be around some people for reasons that aren't good. That wasn't the case this time.
"We know how quickly things can change in the NFL. We were just on a [three-game] winning streak and came out and got our butts kicked. I hate to say it, but it's not going to be last time you come out and just get beat up. … It happens. It's this game. As long as you trust your process, trust the plan the coaches are putting together like our guys do, we're going to bounce back. We're going to be just fine."
There aren't many redeeming moments to mine from this effort, but the Raiders won't simply burn the tape and move on. They'll extract lessons from the experience for use for the line, starting with next week's massive game in Kansas City.
They could have moved into a first-place tie with the Chiefs by beating the Jets, but let a golden opportunity slip away with a terrible showing.
"You can't take anybody lightly," rookie defensive end Maxx Crosby said. "They have been playing well, and we didn't play well at all. We played bad in every phase. We have got to learn from it."