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If only the Raiders could make it 2016 again …

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In a game to forget, the Raiders’ receivers combined to drop six passes on Sunday. (Courtesy Keith Allison/Flickr)
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The Raiders still have a path to the playoffs despite getting beat down by the New England Patriots, 33-8, on Sunday. But after seeing how they fared against a team that will undoubtedly be in the postseason, Oakland fans should be ecstatic just to get there.

Jack Del Rio’s squad couldn’t compete with Tom Brady and the rest of the defending Super Bowl Champions. The Silver and Black defense submitted another forgettable performance, failing to commit a turnover or slow down Brady at all. The San Mateo native completed his first 12 attempts, and finished 30-for-37 for 339 yards and three touchdowns.

To say he dominated would be an understatement.

Del Rio said during the week that the key to beating the Patriots was to slow them down. New England scored a touchdown on its first possession and was leading 30-0 before the Raiders could get on the board.

While the defense couldn’t contain Brady — especially not when he was targeting Brandin Cooks downfield — the offense sputtered against one of the worst statistical defenses in the NFL.

The Raiders had four possessions in the first half: They ended punt, interception, punt, fumble. Derek Carr underthrew his receivers when they weren’t dropping the ball. Offensive coordinator Todd Downey’s offense managed 137 yards before halftime. (For reference, the Pats racked up 242.)

This was against a New England defense that allows 400-plus yards per game — the worst mark in the league.

Afterwards, Carr was his typical, perfect self. He somehow took the blame for his receivers’ six drops, saying he’ll throw the ball better next time. And he stood by the direction the Raiders are headed despite their 4-6 record.

“Nothing changes for us,” he said. “We are who we are. We’re not going to turn on each other. We’re not going to turn on anything that we do. Obviously we know that our culture and what we do works. Because we’ve seen it work.”

But if this season has taught us anything, it’s that things change quickly. For instance, remember when the Kansas City Chiefs were on the verge of being the best team in the league? Well, they lost to the New York Giants on Sunday.

People and systems that were once effective can lose it overnight. Or in the Raiders’ case, over an offseason.

There’s no easy fix here. It isn’t a matter as simple as “catch the damn ball” — although it would help. What was on display on Sunday in Mexico City were systemic breakdowns. It isn’t fair to expect the Raiders to beat the Patriots.
But there’s no excuse for getting outplayed in every facet of the game.

“Mailing it in and those kinds of things, that’ll never happen as long as I’m here,” Carr said.

That’s great. And what fans want to hear. But Carr’s singular resolve to turn this franchise around isn’t going to cut it.

It’s going to take Del Rio — or someone in leadership — to stand up with a clear vision for how Oakland can prove it isn’t content being a B-minus operation.

That isn’t something that is done in speeches or a magical switch that simply needs to be flipped. It’s a matter of smart planning and utilizing the many weapons on the
roster.

It’ll never be as simple as saying, “We’ve done it before, fellas, why don’t you figure we do it again?”

An example: While the Raiders stayed in the East Bay the week leading up to the game, the Patriots acclimated to the elevation by practicing in Colorado.

That doesn’t explain the whole story of why Oakland lost, but it’s a start.

Bill Belichick had the first half planned and scripted to give his group an advantage. He was going to run an uptempo offense early to put the Oakland defense short of breath. Then, as the clock ran down, he was going to take advantage of the thin air by attempting a field goal he would’ve never dreamed of attempting in Foxboro — a 62-yarder by Stephen Gostkowski to set a franchise record.

Those two preplanned strategies accounted for 10 points, which was enough to beat the Raiders.

Del Rio wasn’t interested in spending the week preparing at elevation because the team didn’t do that last year and it worked then.

Now if only they could just make it 2016 again somehow, they’d be in great shape for a playoff run.

Contact Examiner Sports Editor Jacob C. Palmer at jpalmer@sfexaminer.com or on Twitter, @jacobc_palmer.

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