The Oakland Raiders have been through many close contests this NFL season, bringing fans to the edge of their seats. The 9-2 start to the season has Raiders nation optimistic, as head coach Jack Del Rio has led a culture change amongst the organization.
Sunday’s contest against the Carolina Panthers was much of the same. The Raiders held a comfortable 24-7 lead, as the team was connecting on all cylinders. Quarterback Derek Carr was finding his teammates across the field, while the running game continued to pound the Panthers’ front seven.
However, the momentum at the Oakland Coliseum completely shifted in the other direction. The Panthers scored 18 unanswered points in the third quarter, giving their team the upper hand. It seemed as though the Raiders hit a bump in their offense, where they couldn’t get any consistent drives going down the field.
These thoughts constantly run through a coach’s head. Del Rio needs to continually think forward, about how he can help his team overcome the slump. Del Rio was asked how the momentum changed and stated that his optimistic praise towards his team helped ease them into returning to form, via Raiders.com:
“I thought we had that late. I thought there was a stretch there where as things were kind of unraveling a little bit,” Del Rio said. “That third quarter there was three, four possessions by them in a row and we weren’t moving it and I actually tried to make sure to say, ‘Hey, let’s remember if we keep fighting and we keep believing and we’ll go from there. Then whatever happens, we can deal with.’ I thought we snapped out of that and got our energy back and continued to fight and then found a way.”
This season, Del Rio and the Raiders have established a professional, business-like mentality about themselves. This thought process has helped ease their mindset, while heightening their mental focus and preparedness. Although the cards would stack against them, the team remained composed in their comeback effort.
Entering the fourth quarter, the Panthers would strike first, on a 44-yard passing touchdown to Kelvin Benjamin. With an eight-point lead, the team still had work to be done.
However, the team immediately stepped on the field and slowly chipped at the Panthers’ defense. The team held their composure during a 10-play, 4:49 minute drive that took them 75 yards across the field. Carr’s final touchdown pass of the day went to tight end Clive Walford, who scored on a 12-yard route.
When teams are faced with adversity in the NFL, a head coach always understands that this scenario is a stepping-stone for our franchise. Del Rio continued praising his team because he understood they are capable of succeeding, just as they have done this entire season.
Del Rio was asked if any particular moment stood out in their comeback attempt and stated this it was a gradual movement where the team collected themselves:
“No. I thought it was a gradual thing. I didn’t know if it was any one moment in the game,” Del Rio stated. “There was a point and we kind of collected ourselves and rode it out. It’s a really good football team. You have to remember that. I think that can get lost. It’s a really good football team. Ron Rivera does a great job with their team. They’ve won a lot of football games over the last several years. It’s a proud group and we got their best effort.”
The Raiders’ defense would go on to shutout the Panthers, not allowing Cam Newton much room to breathe. The offense was able to muster up one final drive, which resulted in a Sebastian Janokowski field goal and the lead.
Of the Raiders’ 11 contests this season, eight of the games have been decided by a touchdown or less. Del Rio’s decision to go for the two-point conversion against the New Orleans Saints in Week 1 has set the tone for the entire season.
This 2016 team isn’t the same Raiders of the past and the team is on a collective mission to prove they can contend with the best in the NFL for years to come.