“Raiddd-uhs, Raiddd-uhs.” The chant rolled through the Coliseum like it did in the in the days of Kenny Stabler, Gene Upshaw and Ted Hendricks, the days when the Raiders could roll through the NFL, irritating, intimidating, a silver and black version of the autumn wind that would knock opponents down just for fun.
The last few years haven’t been fun at all for the Raiders or their fans, the team tumbling from the upper levels of the game to places that were both embarrassing and tormenting. Then, Sunday night arrived with all its nationwide appeal, with Al Michaels and Chris Collinsworth, with the opportunity to show once more this was a team, of pride, poise and most of all toughness.
It was only one game, but what a game, a game in which the Raiders clubbed the Super Bowl champion, Denver Broncos — held them to nine yards and no first downs in a stunning first quarter and beat them, 30-20, before a boisterous crowd waiting for this primetime show
“It was a great performance,” agreed head coach Jack Del Rio, and then referring to the fans said, “We gave them what they wanted.”
What anybody in sports wants is play the best when the best is required, to make an impression, and even in this era of declining NFL TV ratings there’s no game more important, or more watched, then Sunday Night Football.
What an atmosphere. “It was electric,” said Del Rio. What a demonstration.
The perception was that with quarterback Derek Carr, running back Latavius Murray and receivers Michael Crabtree, Andre Holmes and Amari Cooper — “Coooop” — Oakland had an offense. But did they have a defense.
Only two games ago they were stomped by Kansas City. This time, however, they did the stomping. And controlling. And the penalty-avoiding.
This time they held the Broncos to 299 yards while gaining nearly 100 more. This time they only had eight penalties compared to Denver’s 12. This time they vaulted into first place in AFC West at 7-2, a game ahead of 6-3 Denver.
The torch at the southeast end of the stadium dedicated to Al Davis was glowing, set aflame by Otis Sistrunk, the defensive tackle Alex Karras, on a Monday night said was from the University of Mars. Otis despite his bald head is an earthling, who never attended college.
The bells that gong from the loudspeakers, a call to arms if you will, resonated through the night, setting off cheer after cheer. OK, so maybe after lean times it wasn’t a return to glory, but it will do until something better comes along.
Del Rio, was we know, grew up in Hayward, and he was asked if he ever came to the games when the Raiders were building the best Monday night record of any franchise and a reputation for eccentricity. “Discipline?” Davis said more than a few times. “I don’t believe in.”
He believed in talent, speed and power. He’d like these Raiders. Del Rio loves these Raiders. His Raiders.
“I only went to the Monday night games when my dad let me,” said Del Rio
Now, in his second head-coaching position, he’s not going to let anyone — his players particularly — think the Raiders are where they need to be, even if the fans, Raider Nation, revel in how far they’ve come.
“We’re growing to expect success now,” he said. “We know we’re a good team. Raider Nation showed up. I’m so proud to deliver the kind of performance they deserve.”
The kind of performance the Raiders gave so long ago — and Sunday night.