AFC West: Oakland Raiders

Tony Sparano back in office early after Raiders' first win

November, 21, 2014
Nov 21
ALAMEDA, Calif. – The Oakland Raiders were given the day off Friday, one day after winning for the first time this season and ending their 16-game losing streak. Interim coach Tony Sparano, however, kept his same schedule and was back at the team’s facilities early in the morning breaking down film long before the sun began to rise.

[+] EnlargeTony Sparano
AP Photo/Ben MargotTony Sparano coached the Raiders to their first win of the season on Thursday.
Though the Raiders were eliminated from playoff contention long ago and don’t play again until Nov. 30, when they fly to St. Louis, Sparano saw no reason to change his daily routine. A quick stop to grab a cup of coffee on the way to work qualified as a highlight of his morning.

“I was the first person at Starbucks this morning, I’ll put it that way,” Sparano said. “I left the house at 4:30 and I was in here this morning. But I have every intention of walking out of this building today when the sun is still up, hopefully.”

Many of Oakland’s players have credited Sparano for keeping things together after general manager Reggie McKenzie fired head coach Dennis Allen after the team’s 0-4 start.

The soft-spoken Sparano has repeatedly deflected the attention onto the players for anything positive they’ve done since he took over, and was in that same mode following the stunning 24-20 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs on Thursday night.

But he was unable to shrink from the spotlight in the team’s locker room afterward when left tackle Donald Penn handed Sparano a game ball.

“I have gotten some game balls before [and] quite honestly, probably none more meaningful than that one,” Sparano said. “I say that because of what this team has been through and how far we’ve had to come; and how much the guys have stayed together in that locker room. But really, they’re the ones that deserve the game balls. Our owner, our GM, those people and all of our fans that were out there last night. It was fun last night to go out to dinner and see Oakland Raider fans out there last night with a smile on their face. It was good.”

The Raiders won’t resume practicing until Monday. Bet that Sparano will be up in his office long before then.

Rapid Reaction: Oakland Raiders

November, 21, 2014
Nov 21

OAKLAND, Calif. -- A few thoughts on the Oakland Raiders' 24-20 win over the Kansas City Chiefs at Coliseum:

What it means: The Raiders stop a 16-game skid by winning for the first time since Nov. 17 , 2013. After building a two-touchdown lead, the Raiders trailed 20-17 in the fourth quarter. Rookie quarterback Derek Carr and fullback Marcel Reece fueled a 17-play touchdown drive that consumed seven minutes, 21 seconds of the fourth quarter to help the Raiders come back. While Oakland is 1-10 and destined to finish with a losing record for a 12th consecutive season, the Raiders no longer have to ask questions about the possibility of going winless. Like all things with this team, it wasn’t easy and there were plenty of ugly plays along the way. But they won, and for a team that had lost 16 straight games, it doesn’t matter how it looked.

Stock watch: Carr completed 18 of 35 passes for 174 yards and a touchdown. He threw the winning touchdown to James Jones with less than two minutes to play in the game. The rookie has shown flashes throughout his first 11 games. But Thursday, he played a relatively mistake-free game in leading the Raiders to a win.

Rising into the history books: It figures that on a night Oakland rediscovered its running game to upset the Chiefs that Charles Woodson would find a way to steal some of the spotlight. The 38-year-old took over the punt return duties after Denarius Moore’s muff led to a Chiefs field goal, becoming the second-oldest player in franchise history to return a punt. Woodson later came blitzing in and dropped Kansas City quarterback Alex Smith for a 10-yard sack on a third-and-7 play in the third quarter. In doing so, Woodson became the first player in NFL history to have 50 career interceptions and 20 sacks.

Game ball: Running back Latavius Murray, who had 112 yards and two touchdowns on four carries before leaving with a concussion, showed he could be the Raiders' future at running back. The third-string running back who has been buried on the depth chart provided a much-needed spark on the ground and may have pushed Darren McFadden and Maurice Jones closer to retirement. His 90-yard touchdown run in the second quarter is the third-longest by a Raiders running back. The Chiefs had not allowed a rushing touchdown in their first 10 games this season.

What's next: The Raiders travel to St. Louis to play the Rams on Nov. 30. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m. ET.

Chiefs vs. Raiders preview

November, 20, 2014
Nov 20
video When: 8:25 p.m. ET, Thursday Where: Coliseum, Oakland TV: NFL Network

The Kansas City Chiefs have won seven of their last eight games and at 7-3 are tied for first place in the AFC West. Their push for a playoff spot begins in earnest with Thursday night's game in Oakland against the Raiders, who are making a push of their own.

The Oakland Raiders are 0-10. With a difficult closing schedule, including a Dec. 14 game against the Chiefs in Kansas City, Oakland is in danger of finishing the season as a winless team.

ESPN Chiefs reporter Adam Teicher and Raiders reporter Mike Wagaman preview the game.

Teicher: Mike, the Raiders have a difficult remaining schedule. Do you think they'll win one of their final six games or are they destined to become the NFL's latest team to finish a winless season?

Wagaman: A month ago I would have said the idea was ludicrous, simply because it's next to impossible for an NFL team to go winless. It's easier to win the Super Bowl than to go 0-16. Yet that's exactly what the Raiders are staring at, and to be honest, Adam, I don't see a winnable game left on their schedule. At one point it seemed like the Week 13 game in St. Louis or the Week 16 matchup with Buffalo might be games Oakland could steal, but that's not true anymore. You'd think they'd catch one team sleeping, but even if that were true, the Raiders would have to play a near-perfect game -- something they haven't done for more than a year now.

Adam, the Chiefs own the NFL's No. 1 pass defense and haven't given up a rushing touchdown this season, but their overall run defense has been up and down. Are opponents having success on the ground because they don't want to throw against that pass rush or is there more going on?

Teicher: It's been a number of factors. The Chiefs have played almost the entire season without three of their best run defenders. End Mike DeVito, linebackers Derrick Johnson and Joe Mays would have helped, but two of them haven't played since the season opener and Mays is only now coming back. Another of their best run defenders, safety Eric Berry, missed five games. The Chiefs also made a commitment to eliminate the big pass play, to some extent, at the expense of allowing some rushing yardage. They allowed a ton of big pass plays last season and were determined to reduce that number this season. They've done it, but at a cost to their run defense.

Give us a little scouting report on Oakland's rookie quarterback Derek Carr. It's his first time facing the Chiefs. What are his strengths and weaknesses? Is he closer to being the next Rich Gannon for the Raiders or the next JaMarcus Russell?

Wagaman: Carr's development this season has been extraordinary considering the Raiders don't have any playmakers in their receiving corps and the running game has been nonexistent. Physically, he can make all the throws and has solid footwork, which has enabled him to avoid being sacked much. Carr has shown good touch on the short passes and has a nice zip on the ball on the few occasions he's been able to air it out deep. He also has a remarkable poise in the pocket and doesn't get rattled easily. Remember, Adam, this kid has been studying films of NFL teams since he was a teen, when he would study tape with his older brother David. Still, it's far too early to compare him to Gannon, who was an 11-year vet when he came to the Raiders. Carr is also clearly more serious about his craft than Russell ever was. I think the answer is that he's right about where most NFL rookie quarterbacks would love to be, firmly planted as the starter and learning both from his successes and mistakes.

Adam, when Alex Smith was in the Bay Area with San Francisco he was known as a game manager, which is code for an average quarterback who avoids making the costly mistakes. He seemed to shake that label during his first year in Kansas City, but what's gone wrong with the passing game this season?

Teicher: The Chiefs aren't getting many big passing plays. Their longest pass play of the season is 34 yards, which is the worst in the league. But they've made it work because they can run the ball effectively and run it in the red zone, they're very good in both the red zone and on third down and, perhaps most importantly, are committing few turnovers. That's where Smith comes in. He's doing an extraordinary job of protecting the ball. Eventually, they'll need more from him. They'll run into an opponent who takes away the run and Smith will have to do more. For now, he's doing exactly as he's been asked to do.

The Raiders went on a free-agent signing binge over the offseason, which makes their record all the more disappointing. Losing with youth is bad enough, but it's worse losing with veterans. Does Oakland have any young players other than Carr who might still be with them if the Raiders eventually turn their program around?

Wagaman: General manager Reggie McKenzie has taken a lot of heat, and rightfully so, for many of the free-agent moves he's made since taking over in 2012. However, Oakland's most recent draft has produced three starters -- Carr, linebacker Khalil Mack and left guard Gabe Jackson -- and a fourth (cornerback TJ Carrie) who has been a valuable fill-in defensively while doubling as the kick returner. The three starters are going to be the cornerstone for this franchise moving forward. Tight end Mychal Rivera and wide receiver Brice Butler also have shown some long-term potential. The only other younger player who has shown any kind of consistent promise is wide receiver Rod Streater, who has been on injured reserve most of the season with a broken foot. Beyond that, the rest of the youth on the roster is too unproven to make an honest evaluation. But at this point, you have to believe with the way things are going, if the youngsters had much to offer, they'd be in the lineup already.

Adam, the last time the Raiders saw Jamaal Charles, they held him to 20 yards on eight carries. He's had some big games against Oakland prior to that, and this season he looks like he's back to his old self. He doesn't get the national attention that guys such as Marshawn Lynch and Adrian Peterson get, but does Charles deserve to be talked about as an elite back?

Teicher: Charles is for real. The Chiefs are getting next to nothing from their wide receivers and have a patchwork offensive line featuring one rookie and two street free-agent starters. Charles is still delivering for them. It is interesting that the Raiders have generally done a better job of containing Charles in the running game over the years than most other frequent Chiefs' opponents. But the last time Charles played against the Raiders, he caught eight passes for 195 yards and four touchdowns, so the Raiders need to cover him far better than they did then.

Raiders LG Gabe Jackson questionable for Thursday's game against Chiefs

November, 19, 2014
Nov 19
ALAMEDA, Calif. -- Oakland Raiders rookie left guard Gabe Jackson continues to make a slow recovery from a knee injury and is uncertain whether he’ll play against the Kansas City Chiefs on Thursday night.

Jackson has missed the previous two games after injuring his knee late in the second half of Oakland’s 30-24 loss to the Seattle Seahawks on Nov. 2. He returned to practice this week but has been limited and is listed as questionable on the team’s injury report.

Interim coach Tony Sparano has been hesitant to clear Jackson to play for several reasons. The Raiders are working on a short week, Jackson has yet to do any drills at full speed, and there is rain in the forecast for Thursday, making for slippery playing conditions.

“Sometimes that comes into play,” Sparano said. “It’s something that you’ve got to take into consideration. He really hadn’t done a whole lot of fast-speed running with the week being the way the week was.”

If Jackson is unable to play on the quick turnaround, veteran Khalif Barnes will start at left guard.

The rest of Oakland’s injury report:

Raiders' Rod Streater hopeful of returning soon

November, 19, 2014
Nov 19
ALAMEDA, Calif. -- Rod Streater hasn’t been fully cleared to return from the broken foot he suffered in Week 3, but the Oakland Raiders leading wide receiver a year ago is getting closer to getting back on the field.

Streater continues to work out with team trainers away from practice, doing mostly conditioning work in an effort to speed up the process. He’s been on the injured reserve list with a designation to return since Oct. 2.

Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, Streater sounded optimistic he’ll be able to rejoin his teammates soon.

“I feel like I’m close,” Streater said. “I’m just making sure I’m out there at full speed. I feel I can run. Just trying to make sure I can go out there and perform. I don’t want to go out there and be half and put bad snaps on tape. I want to make sure I’m full to go.”

Streater’s absence has been sorely felt in Oakland’s passing game.

An undrafted free agent in 2012, Streater led the Raiders with 60 catches and 888 yards last year. He got off to a slow start this season (nine receptions, 84 yards, one touchdown) before breaking his left foot in a 16-9 loss to the New England Patriots.

Interim coach Tony Sparano has been non-committal when asked about the timetable for Streater to return. Players with the designation to return must stay on the list for eight weeks but can practice for the final two weeks of that period.

Streater, who has yet to practice with the rest of the team, is eligible to come off the list on Thanksgiving. Once that happens, the Raiders have two weeks to decide to add Streater to the 53-man roster or keep him on injured reserve for the remainder of the season.

“Hopefully soon,” Streater said. “Really no target date yet. I’m just trying to get back as soon as possible. I came along to where I’m able to run and cut, things like that. I just want to make sure I can do it efficiently so I can beat the defender across from me.”

Streater says he’s still ahead of schedule in his rehab and is just waiting to clear the final few hurdles.

“About two, 2 1/2 weeks I was kind of able to walk, and then three weeks I was feeling better [after surgery],” Streater said. “As time went on it got better and better. It was pretty fast. They say I’m way ahead of the progress and they’re excited about it.”

Raiders OC Greg Olson preaches need for stability

November, 19, 2014
Nov 19
ALAMEDA, Calif. -- Even as he realizes the likelihood he’ll be gone next season, Oakland Raiders offensive coordinator Greg Olson is preaching the need for stability on the team.

Since returning to Northern California in 1995, the Raiders have gone through 11 head coaches, changed assistant coaches almost annually and had an ever-changing roster. Yet since 2002, the organization has failed to produce a winning record, and now the team is on the verge of attaining NFL infamy for all the wrong reasons.

Olson readily acknowledges his role in this season’s mess, which has left the Raiders at 0-10 heading into Thursday’s game against the Kansas City Chiefs. Like many others before him, however, Olson also recognizes the need for some sort of stability, specifically among the coaching staff.

“Just look at the last three years when you’ve switched head coaches, switched offensive coordinators, switched systems,” Olson said. “We did a different system for (Terrelle) Pryor. There has been a lot of change here. When you look at the whole thing, get some stability here, whether that’s with me or without me, with Tony Sparano, without Tony Sparano, I just think there has got to be some continuity here for these players and this team.”

Olson has personal reasons for touting the need for stability. He’s been one of the most criticized members of the Raiders coaching staff for obvious reasons.

Oakland’s offense is putting up historically bad numbers this season. The Raiders are last in the NFL in rushing and in total offense and are 25th in passing offense. While rookie quarterback Derek Carr has provided a glimmer of hope for the future, the rest of the offense has been sporadic at best and downright unwatchable at worst.

That’s made Olson an easy target for critics and an ever-growing disgruntled fan base.

“I understand I’ve got to do a better job and that the job has not been up to par at this point,” Olson said. “I think you always know that going in and know that it’s part of the profession. There is a responsibility to the fans and to the players and to the team and to myself to do better. Right now, that hasn’t happened. But we’ll continue to work hard to get better.”

Raiders should play Latavius Murray

November, 19, 2014
Nov 19

ESPN NFL Nation reporter Paul Gutierrez says it is time to see if Latavius Murray has what it takes to be the No. 1 back going forward.

Justin Tuck mentoring Khalil Mack has paid off for Raiders

November, 18, 2014
Nov 18
It’s no mistake that Oakland Raiders rookie linebacker Khalil Mack’s locker sits right next to veteran defensive end Justin Tuck’s stall. The team believes Mack can be the cornerstone of the defense for years to come and want him to learn as much as possible from the two-time Super Bowl champion.

It appears to be working.

Mack is one of the leading contenders for Defensive Rookie of the Year and has been one of the few positive signs the Raiders can point to this season. The fifth overall pick in the draft, Mack has 56 tackles (40 solos) and recorded his first career sack Sunday against San Diego.

He and veteran safety Charles Woodson have been the two constant playmakers on a defense that has improved over the past month. Oakland heads into Thursday’s game against the Kansas City Chiefs ranked 18th overall, including 12th against the pass.

According to ESPN Stats & Information, Mack has the fifth-most tackles among rookie linebackers this season. Baltimore’s C.J. Mosley leads the group with 87 tackles, followed by Buffalo’s Preston Brown (73), Minnesota’s Anthony Barr (62), San Francisco’s Chris Borland (57) and Mack.

Tuck, one of a handful of veteran free agents signed by the Raiders in the offseason for their leadership and experience, has two sacks and 27 tackles -- not nearly what the team had hoped for. His work in mentoring Mack, however, has been priceless.

That’s why when the coaching staff laid out its plans for where each player would fit in the locker room, the Raiders made it a point to put Mack next to Tuck.

“It’s not a coincidence,” Oakland interim coach Tony Sparano said. “It was something that was thought out. I had a vision for people that I wanted around people, and what you’re trying to do is stimulate conversation within the locker room, and conversation where a young player might learn from somebody else. In that situation it was absolutely, 100 percent, ‘Let’s find a way to get him near Justin,’ because that’s a conversation that you want to take place every day. Those guys sit in there talking about football, and Khalil being able to learn a little something from a veteran player like that, and that’s why I did what I did.”

Ironically, Mack has not made himself available to the media this week despite finally notching his first sack. He was scheduled to talk on Monday but was not in the locker room when reporters were allowed in and was likewise missing on Tuesday.

Andy Reid praises Raiders GM Reggie McKenzie

November, 18, 2014
Nov 18
ALAMEDA, Calif. -- Raiders GM Reggie McKenzie has a whole lot of critics who believe he should be fired at the end of the season.

Kansas City Chiefs coach Andy Reid isn't among them.

Speaking with Bay Area reporters on Tuesday, Reid praised McKenzie and defended the job the Oakland GM has done this season.

"You're in good hands with Reggie there," Reid said during a conference call. "He knows football players. With time -- you know how that goes when you're building something -- with time, you're in good hands there."

It should be noted that Reid and McKenzie have a shared background. The two worked together in Green Bay from 1994-98, Reid was an assistant coach and McKenzie in the front office.

Reid was also effusive in his praise of Oakland rookie quarterback Derek Carr: "He's got great composure for a young guy and he's got a big arm, a good feel for the game," the Chiefs coach said. He also sang the praises of Raiders interim coach Tony Sparano.

Of course it's a lot easier to praise opposing coaches and players when your team is winning. The Chiefs head into Thursday night's game with a five-game winning streak and are tied with the Denver Broncos for first place in the AFC West

Raiders QB Derek Carr passes for 2,000 yards in first 10 games

November, 17, 2014
Nov 17
ALAMEDA, Calif. -- Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr doesn't put much stock in numbers, not when there is a zero hanging underneath the team's win column.

Yet it's hard to ignore what Carr has been able to do so far in what has been a nightmarish rookie season for the team.

[+] EnlargeDerek Carr
Ed Szczepanski/USA TODAY SportsRookie QB Derek Carr has been a bright spot among the Raiders' dismal 0-10 season thus far.
While the 0-10 Raiders stumbled to their latest loss, Carr quietly became only the 12th rookie quarterback in NFL history to pass for more than 2,000 yards in his first 10 games. He's completed 59.8 percent of his throws for 2,075 yards and 13 touchdowns with nine interceptions.

Carr's passing yards are more than any of the three quarterbacks drafted ahead of him -- Jacksonville's Blake Bortles (1,921), Minnesota's Teddy Bridgewater (1,479) and Cleveland's Johnny Manziel (0).

While he's still prone to rookie mistakes -- the botched first snap in Sunday's game against San Diego, for example -- Carr seems to have settled Oakland's search for a permanent starting quarterback. His progress has been helped by his background and upbringing, as Carr used to watch film of NFL defenses when his older brother David played in the league.

What's remarkable is that Carr's success has come despite having a stable of mediocre receivers and getting little to no support from the ground game. The Raiders are still on pace to finish the season with the fewest rushing yards for any NFL team since 1946.

Here are some other numbers and notes, according to ESPN Stats & Information:

  • The Raiders, who last won on Nov. 17 at Houston, are the first team since the 2006-07 Miami Dolphins to lose 16 consecutive games.
  • Oakland only turned the ball over once against the Chargers -- the fumbled snap exchange between Carr and center Stefen Wisniewski was converted into San Diego's lone touchdown. That's progress considering the Raiders had committed at least three turnovers in each of their previous three games. Overall, the Raiders have coughed up the ball 20 times this season and are a minus-12 in the takeaway/giveaway department.
  • Latavius Murray had a 23-yard run in the second half that was the longest by a Raiders' running back this season, topped only by Carr's 41-yard scramble against Houston in Week 2. Murray has been buried on the depth chart behind Darren McFadden and Maurice Jones-Drew, both of whom have been mostly ineffective, so it will be interesting to see if his touches increase over the final six games.
  • Kicker Sebastian Janikowski made both of his field goal attempts against San Diego and has now 356 successful kicks in his career, tying him with Olindo Mare for 14th in NFL history. Just imagine what shape the Raiders would be in without the Polish Cannon.
  • Charles Woodson made a career-high 14 tackles in the loss Sunday. At 38 years old, Woodson is still outplaying his younger contemporaries in Oakland and would probably get more national attention and support for the Pro Bowl if the Raiders were winning.

Oakland Raiders prep for short week

November, 17, 2014
Nov 17
ALAMEDA, Calif. -- The winless Oakland Raiders will have to get over their latest setback in a hurry. Oakland hosts division rival Kansas City on Thursday night, and interim coach Tony Sparano has shuffled the practice schedule to get ready.

To help with the quick turnaround, Sparano has called a one-hour practice for Monday night beginning at 5:45 p.m. The Raiders will hold a full workout Tuesday -- the normal day off for players -- followed by another abbreviated practice Wednesday.

Because the team’s practice fields are not lit up, Oakland brought in towers of lights last week and will use them for the evening workout.

Thursday's game is the Raiders' only appearance in prime time this season. Oakland has lost four of its previous five Thursday night games and has won only three games in prime time since 2004.

Kansas City (7-3) has one of the toughest home stadiums to play at, but the Chiefs have felt pretty comfortable at Coliseum, too. They’ve won nine of their previous 11 trips to Oakland, including a 56-31 victory last December.

The Raiders (0-10) are riding a 16-game losing streak overall and haven’t won at home since beating the Pittsburgh Steelers 21-18 on Oct. 27, 2013.
SAN DIEGO -- When trying to put the frustration of a 10th consecutive loss this year -- and 16th straight defeat going back to last season -- Oakland Raiders safety Charles Woodson broke into song.

“You ever seen that movie ‘The Five Heartbeats?’ Remember that song?” he said before singing the chorus, “Nights like this I wish [that] raindrops would fall.”

Who knew Woodson could carry a tune as well as a football? The playmaking safety held onto the last word for a second before smiling and laughing.

[+] EnlargeDerek Carr
Jake Roth/USA TODAY SportsDerek Carr and the Raiders reached Chargers territory on three of their 13 possessions Sunday.
“Hey, man, it’s hard,” he said after the Raiders' 13-6 loss to the San Diego Chargers on Sunday. “It’s been a long time since this team has felt a victory. We’re all feeling it. You try to keep a positive attitude, keep a smile on your face to keep from crying. It’s the nature of the business. It happens. We’re not the first team to be going through this type of thing. We’ll find a way to get up out of it somehow and try to make the most positive situation out of this season that we can.”

A trip through the Raiders' locker room after another close-but-so-far defeat offered glimpses of frustration but no reservoir of despondency, largely because they could look each other in the eyes and honestly say they were giving maximum effort.

But effort alone does not win games. Execution does, and the Raiders have been unable to consistently perform at a high level. Against the Chargers, it started on the first play from scrimmage, when the ball was snapped to quarterback Derek Carr in a shotgun formation before he was ready. It resulted in a fumble recovery the Chargers turned into a touchdown and 7-0 lead two plays later.

It didn’t get much better for the Oakland offense. The unit was just 3-of-15 on third down and gained only 156 net yards through the first three-and-a-half quarters. Of its 13 possessions, nine ended in four plays or fewer. Only three reached San Diego territory.

Overall, the offense has been held to 14 or fewer points in each of its past three games, and its running game remains the worst in the league, though second-year back Latavius Murray did show flashes of promise with consecutive carries of 14 and 23 yards late in the third quarter.

As simple as it would’ve been to point the finger at the nearly invisible running game and the struggles of the rookie Carr, Raiders defenders chose to put the loss on their shoulders.

“Defensively, we’ve got to find a way to get our offense out of our own end zone,” defensive end Justin Tuck said in reference to the Raiders' first seven offensive possessions inside their own 20-yard line. “We didn’t give up a lot of points, but we didn’t flip the field and give our offense an easy field. Their defense gave them an easy field, and they got seven off it [following the first-quarter fumble recovery]. That was the difference in the game.”

If there is a positive for the Raiders, it is that no one appears to have made vacation plans for the offseason. There is an abundance of pride to go with a dearth of victories, even with the surging Kansas City Chiefs coming to town Thursday night.

“My heart feels for every single person on this team, [especially] when you watch each and every person on this team fight,” defensive end Antonio Smith said. “One thing I’ve always believed and has been instilled in me since I’ve been playing this game is when you line up out there on a field, a man against a man, a grown man against another grown man, you’re out there to whip that grown man. You ain’t out there to play with him. You ain’t out there to go toe-to-toe. You’re out there to dominate. I just think that I’m going to play that way till my dying day.”

“I love the fact of how this team comes to work every day and keeps their spirits high when everything around them seems to be collapsing,” Tuck said. “We just continue to fight. And I believe we’re going to crack this rock soon. I really do. You can’t sit here and sourpuss on yourself because we’ve got three nights before we’ve got to play one of the best teams in the country. What are you going to do?”

If you’re Woodson, you sing a little song, then go back to work.
SAN DIEGO -- Observed and heard in the Oakland Raiders locker room after a 13-6 loss to the San Diego Chargers.
  • When asked for words of wisdom after an 0-10 start, tackle Antonio Smith said: "What is that movie where they use the word precipice? It talks about where you're at your lowest, and you have to find the best in you to achieve what you want to achieve. Right now, that hope is just to win. As embarrassed as I am to say that, that's just what it is -- to just win." What it will take to get over the hump? "All year, we've been trying to figure that out," Smith said. "We fight every week, we come in the locker room and ask each other the same question that you just asked me, and I don't know the answers to that. I don't know the answers to what we need or what needs to happen to get over the hump. I'm a soldier that just wants to get over the hump. That's just it."
  • Justin Tuck couldn't put into words what an 0-10 start is like: "I won't even try. It's beyond anything I've got in my vocabulary, and my vocabulary is huge."
  • Running back Latavius Murray on if he deserves more playing time: "I hope so. I don't make those decisions. I just make sure I'm ready when my number is called. It's tough for everybody to [sit]. Everybody wants to play. I know I want to play. I just have to be patient, and when my number is called, go out there and execute. … I have to make sure I give them a reason to put me back in there."
  • Safety Charles Woodson could not draw positives from the game: "We lost. I don't want to get into any positives on one side of the ball. We did not get the win. It's all bad."

Rapid Reaction: Oakland Raiders

November, 16, 2014
Nov 16

SAN DIEGO -- A few thoughts on the Oakland Raiders' 13-6 loss to the San Diego Chargers.

What it means: The Raiders have now lost 16 in a row, including all 10 games this season. NFL teams generally fall into at least one victory each season, but it’s becoming harder and harder to find a win on the Raiders’ remaining schedule, which is as follows: vs. Kansas City, at St. Louis, vs. San Francisco, at Kansas City, vs. Buffalo, at Denver. If they fail to win in any of those games, they would join the 2008 Detroit Lions as the only teams to go 0-16 in a season.

Stock watch: It’s time to give second-year running back Latavius Murray more looks. He was the lone bright spot in an otherwise dismal running game; he gained 14 and 23 yards on back-to-back carries late in the third quarter. Erase his contributions, and the running game managed just 71 yards on 19 carries. In the first half, Oakland rushed for just 15 yards on 10 carries. The Raiders began the day averaging 62.1 yards a game, the lowest in the league since 1946. Much of that was on the legs of Darren McFadden and Maurice Jones-Drew, veterans near the ends of their careers.

Offensive deep freeze: The Raiders are 0-10, and even a 75-degree afternoon couldn’t help thaw a Raiders offense that appears stuck in a polar vortex. It produced just 233 yards, failed to reach the end zone for the second time this season and was held to a season-low nine first downs. More notably, Oakland has failed to score more than 14 points in three straight games, which isn’t completely shocking, considering the offense ranks last in total yards and rushing yards. Still, the depth of the ineptitude is stunning. Of the unit’s seven first-half possessions, five ended with a three-and-out and another concluded with a lost fumble on the first snap. The previous week against the Broncos, they had nine three-and-outs.

Game ball: Rookie linebacker Khalil Mack had five tackles and the first sack of his NFL career.

What's next: The Raiders play host to the Kansas City Chiefs on Thursday night. The Chiefs moved into a tie for first place in the AFC West on Sunday.
video When: 4:05 p.m. ET Sunday Where: Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego TV: CBS

Looking to rebound from a three-game losing streak, the San Diego Chargers (5-4) hope the Oakland Raiders (0-9) offer the tonic needed to get back on track.

The Chargers have won two straight and five of the past six matchups against the Raiders.

However, the Chargers have lost four of their past five games coming off a bye week. Last year, the Chargers lost three straight after the bye before turning things around and eventually making the postseason for the first time since 2009.

Sunday’s matchup is important for San Diego if it wants to stay in the playoff hunt. According to ESPN Stats & Information, under the current playoff format established in 1990, teams that have reached 6-4 have earned a playoff berth 61 percent of the time.

A loss for Oakland would mean the Raiders were mathematically eliminated from postseason consideration. Raiders coach Tony Sparano is working to hold that off for another week.

“Everybody wants to know answers,” Sparano said. “And you have to have a plan. And so I continuously each week try to come up with the best plan of attack that I can come up with as we go forward right now.”

ESPN NFL analyst Matt Williamson and ESPN Chargers reporter Eric D. Williams preview the game:

Williams: Matt, although he has nine interceptions, Derek Carr has completed more than 60 percent of his passes and thrown 13 touchdown passes. He’s also been pretty effective in the red zone. It looks like the Raiders have finally found their franchise quarterback, no?

Williamson: I think they have. Carr has a big-time arm and all the physical traits you look for in a franchise quarterback. After watching him in college, I worried about how he dealt with pressure, but he has really excelled in that department thus far. Raiders fans should be excited.

Eric, to me the Chargers needed this bye week in a huge way and could be primed to make a real run out of the bye to finish the season. Agree?

Williams: Sure do. Players such as Dwight Freeney and D.J. Fluker said this week the time off helped heal nagging injuries that they have been playing through leading up to the bye week, so the extra rest certainly helped. The Chargers also did a lot of self-scouting to fix specific schematic issues such as improving the run game and executing better on third downs defensively. The Chargers should get an added boost with the return of players such as Ryan Mathews, Melvin Ingram, Manti Te'o and Jeremiah Attaochu from injuries. The improved depth will help bring energy to both sides of the ball, setting up San Diego for a very tough stretch run to try to reach the postseason for a second straight year.

Matt, what’s your evaluation of how rookie linebacker Khalil Mack has played so far this season?

Williamson: Much like with Carr on offense, the Raiders have found their cornerstone player on defense in Mack. Since his sack numbers are not great (Mack does not have a sack this season), it might not look like he has been great rushing the passer. However, the film tells a different story. He is also already an excellent player against the run.

Eric, San Diego’s pass rush has been a big problem. Do you think that continues? Also a healthier secondary (and not-so-exciting Raiders wideouts) should help as well.

Williams: The Chargers have been held without a sack in three of the team’s past four games. San Diego’s best pass-rusher, Freeney, hasn’t recorded a sack since September. However, Freeney has been playing with a balky knee and has probably been playing too many snaps with the Chargers thin at edge rusher. San Diego will get some depth back at edge rusher with the return of Ingram and Attaochu this week. Getting those two players back, along with Te’o, should add juice to San Diego’s pass rush, particularly on third down.

Matt, the Raiders have the fewest rushing attempts in the NFL at 165, and average just 3.4 yards per carry. Why do the Raiders continue to struggle running the football?

Williamson: I think there are a few reasons for it. First off, the offensive line is better suited toward protection than moving people off the ball, but the two biggest reasons are (A) they simply are not very good at the running back position, and (B) opposing defenses don’t fear Oakland’s receivers to get deep or blow past them, so they can get more bodies closer to the line of scrimmage.

Eric, do you expect Mathews to step in right away and carry the load?

Williams: While I believe Mathews will be San Diego’s starter this week if he’s active on Sunday, coach Mike McCoy likely will ease him into the game. That means we will see a good bit of Branden Oliver and Donald Brown running the football as complementary pieces to Mathews. After missing seven games with an MCL knee sprain, the Chargers want to make sure that Mathews can make it through the season healthy, particularly considering his lengthy injury history. But there’s no doubt that the Fresno State product’s physical running style can help improve one of the worst rushing attacks in the NFL.