It truly is magic when a coach sees the fruits of his labor get instilled into the roster that he resides over. Oakland Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio, who is credited for the culture change, has his team fully invested in a business-like mentality. With a respected outlook, the team is currently sitting pretty, but thinking about their main goal.
Entering Week 13, a 9-2 record has them first in the AFC West, but also tied for first in the entire conference. The Raiders are off to their first winning record since 2002, with the city excited for what it to come.
The difference in this season has also come with the risks Del Rio has taken. With ultimate confidence in his team, a few decisions this season have been the difference between a win and a loss. The decision to go for the two-point conversion to start the season against the New Orleans Saints set the tone.
While the offense has been magnificent, the recent emergence of the defense late in games has been crucial. In Week 12, All-Pro Khalil Mack put his stamp on the end of the contest, with a strip sack on Cam Newton.
Del Rio was asked about noting any key differences from last season and stated that the growth of play during the fourth quarter is the key, via Raiders.com:
“That’s one of the areas [fourth quarter play] where we’ve grown from last year to this year. I think it’s smoother and maybe more confident. I think there’s a level of trust that’s been built and that is a part of what we do.”
Quarterback Derek Carr credited Del Rio with instituting a chance amongst the roster, while the head coach and quarterback also don’t want to make any excuses.
Entering Week 13, they face off at the Oakland Coliseum against the Buffalo Bills. The Bills are currently 6-5 on the season, just outside on the cusp of playoff contention. Rex Ryan’s team always play tough on defense, as the featured matchup will certainly reside in Carr’s hands.
The mental and physical preparation for the Raiders is crucial in having a planned outlook. Del Rio always tells his team to respect their opponent, but never fear them. The Raiders have stuck with Del Rio’s plan and it has posted results.
During the media session on Tuesday, Del Rio stated that continual preparation and cohesiveness are the pillars the Raiders have stuck with:
“I think the biggest thing from that standpoint is to continue to do what we do. What that is really, is you take it game by game, day by day with that process that you go through. And so right now, today, this is the day that guys are banged up will come in, we begin to recover from the game, the staff will turn our attention forwards, start game planning and dial in the preparation and then you do it again. That’s what you do, and that’s where all of our energy has to go.”
The basic fundamentals are key for Del Rio, as he wants his team to become accustomed to these situations. Prior to the postseason, it seems as though Carr and the offensive unit have excelled in the fourth quarter.
During their matchup in Mexico City, the offense hadn’t done much until the fourth quarter. Trailing by a touchdown, Carr would then turn up another gear and connect on two quick touchdowns to give them the win.
The trademark of a great team is when their mental preparation becomes instinct. When the team is able to answer as a unit, the head coach certainly understands he has done his job.