Carr, Del Rio kindred spirits as gamblers
Donald Penn doesn’t have a clue as to how the Oakland Raiders have put together the best road record in the NFL.
“Man, it’s crazy,” the left tackle said during a press conference in advance of the team’s Week 8 matchup with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
“I really can’t give you a certain thing. I don’t know if we like going in there and overcoming adversity, you know, being [in] a road game. I don’t know. I really cannot tell you.”
A look back at the boxscores provides a reminder that plenty of luck has been involved in the Raiders’ flawless 4-0 start away from the Coliseum. The team claimed the first three of those wins by a combined margin of nine points — and two of them were of the one-point variety.
The AFC West co-leaders have also done their part to create much of that luck. Through the first seven games of the season, the Raiders have a +8 turnover differential, which is tied for second-best in the NFL.
“When it comes to stats, I’m not big on [on them],” said quarterback Derek Carr. “I don’t care too much, but when it comes to those kind of team stats I am.”
“Whenever you can be in the plus territory and then some in the turnover margin that always equivalates to winning. That’s how, if you look back in the league, the most-winning teams have a plus margin 99 percent of the time.”
His head coach Jack Del Rio agreed, saying: “There’s nothing more important than the turnover battle.” In the team’s four wins on the road, the Raiders are +6.
The circumstances are conspiring for the Raiders to run that record to a perfect 5-0.
When Carr, Penn and the rest of the Raiders step on the field at Raymond James Stadium, they’ll be facing a Bucs teams that boasts one of the lousiest home-field advantages in the NFL.
Tampa Bay is 0-2 at home this season and 3-15 at Raymond James Stadium since the start of 2014.
Bucs head coach Dirk Koetter is so concerned with the situation that he plead with the fanbase, via the Buccaneers Radio Network, not to let Silver and Black supporters take over the stadium.
“Hey, all you fans out there, tell all your neighbors selling your tickets to Raiders fans, give ’em away as Christmas gifts to somebody who’s a Bucs fan,” Koetter said.
The Raiders meanwhile have made Florida their home ever since arriving in Jacksonville last Friday. After taking care of the Jacksonville Jaguars 33-16, the team bused down to Sarasota where they set up their temporary headquarters at the Ritz-Carlton, which overlooks a white sand beach.
To get ready for the NFC South opponents, the Raiders spent the week practicing at the sprawling IMG Academy in nearby Bradenton.
“You can’t beat this weather. You can’t beat this scenery. The Ritz. You can’t beat none of this,” wide receiver Michael Crabtree said. “So, I’m just taking it all in, enjoying it, and we playing ball.”
Derek Carr the ‘gambler’
Jack Del Rio has already earned a reputation as a gambler for his daring play calling, and now the term is being applied to his quarterback as well.
“Just some of the things he does like that, he’s just growing. Did you see how pretty that pass was too?” Penn said, referring to a key first-down connection between Carr and Amari Cooper in the team’s win over the Jacksonville Jaguars.
“With the game on the line? To have the balls to do that? I mean, it was one of those, ‘NO! YES! [moments],’” Penn said. “He’s done that a lot this year and he’s gambled very well for us.”
“It’s not even a gamble. I don’t call it a gamble anymore. He knows what he’s doing and he knows he’s going to make it right. And that’s the growth we’ve seen from last year.”
No place like home
When asked to compare the team’s facility in Alameda to the IMG Academy, Crabtree offered a telling
“It’s different, man. You know the Raiders. Our facility is coming along,” Crabtree said before stopping to flash a big grin. “But IMG is IMG.”