With all the culture change that has gone on for the Oakland Raiders this season, they currently find themselves with a 10-3 record and are one win away from clinching a postseason birth. Quarterback Derek Carr and defensive end Khalil Mack have turned into the pillar stones of the franchise, while head coach Jack Del Rio has the entire roster invested moving forward.
Del Rio has continually stated that the team needs to always be thinking forward, while staying focused on their business and the task at hand. The Raiders obviously had a set back against the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 14, but the team isn’t letting it ruin their outlook.
Offensive lineman Donald Penn was pissed about the outcome, but defensive end Jihad Ward stated the team wants to move on. Del Rio has continually asked the team to gain experience from their losses, in order to learn from their mistakes.
Carr and the Raiders need on victory to clinch their first postseason birth since 2002, when they went to the Super Bowl. The 2002 season also happens to be the last season the Raiders had a winning record.
During a live press conference on Wednesday, Del Rio was asked if he talked to his team about clinching a postseason birth. He stated that the only task at hand is continuing their business approach and posting results against the Chargers, via Raiders.com:
“I don’t really talk about it. I talk about us playing good football and continuing to grow as a football team. Our approach has been very consistent throughout the year about how we approach it and the things that we do. We just dig into our preparation, recover from the last game and get ready to go compete.”
The business-like attitude was tested this week, as the secondary had to make changes regarding the departure of D.J. Hayden. Del Rio stated he was impressed with how Nate Allen and T.J. Carrie stepped up the secondary, especially while shutting out the Chiefs in the second half.
Carr, who still ranks as a MVP candidate, took the most slack for the Week 14 loss. While he will never admit that the pinky was the reason for his inaccuracy (17-for-41 Week 14), the weather conditions surely didn’t help.
While playing in freezing weather, Carr continually tried to ease the pressure off of his pinky, but it affected his throws. Del Rio elected to use a shotgun system for their matchup, so that they can avoid reaggravating the injury.
Now in his third season with the Raiders, Carr has been through both the ups and downs the NFL has to offer. When asked about clinching a postseason birth, he alluded to his first season and said that each individual game is the biggest goal for the Raiders:
“Starting 0-10 was not fun. It makes these moments so awesome and makes these moments really cool to already have 10 wins and those things. I know for our team, our sole focus is beating the Chargers because if we don’t, we’re still sitting there hoping and wishing. Our focus is just going down to San Diego and trying to come out with a win.”
The humility the Raiders have shown this season is a pleasant site to see, as they aren’t contingent with just reaching the postseason. The Raiders truly are focused on the bigger goal at hand, which is securing the best possible road to the Super Bowl.
Carr, Del Rio and the Raiders gear up for a Week 15 showdown at Qualcomm Stadium against the Chargers, in perhaps the Raiders’ last game in San Diego.