The Raiders still haven’t intercepted a pass this season. It won’t be easy today, when they face Tom Brady. (Mira Laing/Special to S.F. Examiner)

The Raiders still haven’t intercepted a pass this season. It won’t be easy today, when they face Tom Brady. (Mira Laing/Special to S.F. Examiner)

Raiders aim to end 15-year drought against Patriots

When the Oakland Raiders last beat the New England Patriots, Rich Gannon was throwing passes to Tim Brown and Jerry Rice while the franchise’s home stadium was known as Network Associates Coliseum.

The Raiders’ Week 11 matchup at Estadio Azteca in Mexico City comes 15 years and two days after that last win over the Pats. Derek Carr, the Raiders’ ever-steady leader, was 11.

“It’s not a scary thing to play them,” Carr said with a chuckle during his midweek news conference. “They’re the next team on the schedule, so let’s not make it something it’s not, but let’s also respect that they’re very smart. They’re very wise in how they game plan things and they have great players that can do it.”

None is greater than Tom Brady. Carr insisted that he doesn’t get extra amped facing Brady, joking that, fortunately, he’s not the one who has to play defense.

Still, the reverence for the five-time Super Bowl champion is strong.

“He’s done a lot of great things in his career,” Carr said. “He’s a hall of famer — a walking hall of famer. I’ve got nothing but respect for him. Love his game.”

The difference between Brady — the quarterbacking gold standard — and Carr, an emerging star who’s on one week but off the next, can be summarized in a single stat: touchdown/interception ratio.

Brady has slung 19 touchdowns to a pair of picks. Carr has 13 TDs and seven interceptions.

That ratio goes a long way in explaining why one of the QB-driven but defensively suspect teams is 7-2 and the other is 4-5.

While Carr admits that he’d like a couple of those picks back, he’s not fixated on his elevated interception total.

He’s not one to obsess over the numbers. 

“I don’t get caught up in stats because stats lie, a lot of the time,” Carr said. “I just try and play efficiently each play and the more that I can do that, the more hopefully I don’t throw any interceptions or anything like that and the more that we have a chance to have the ball in our hands and the more chance we have to win.”

Carr’s boss, head coach Jack Del Rio, sees a reflection of his team in the reigning champs — at least, on one side of the ball.

“Defensively, [the Patriots have] been playing better. So, they got off to a slow start — much like I guess we have,” Del Rio said. “We don’t rank real well defensively — nor do they, but they’ve been effective in helping them win, so that’s what it’s all about.”

The rise of the Pats defense is real.

After surrendering 30-plus points in three of the first four games, the Patriots have allowed 17 points or less in each of the past five games.

That stat calls into question Del Rio’s comparison as the Raiders have held an opponent to just 17 points in only one of the past five games.

Even with that defensive turnaround in New England, opportunity exists through the air. The Patriots rank last in the NFL in passing yards allowed per game. The Raiders aren’t much better, checking in at No. 22 in that department.

That means openings will be plentiful for Brady, who, at 40, has authored five 300-yard games. It’s an unenviable matchup for the Raiders defense, which, infamously has yet to record an interception through nine games — the longest such streak to open an NFL season.

One of the leading questions for Del Rio and defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. is determining who will step up to co-star alongside the silver and black’s resident game-wrecker, Khalil Mack.

“Everybody,” Del Rio answered. “It’s a game of football. It’s a team game. Khalil’s a special player. He needs to continue to bring great energy, which he does.”

With 4.5 sacks through nine games, Mack has yet to reprise his Defensive-Player-of-the-Year form from a season ago, although it’s difficult to tell how much of that is on the edge-rusher and how much owes to a lack of talented colleagues surrounding him.

The Mexico City meeting with New England would mark an opportune moment for Mack to produce his first turnover of 2017.

The reality for Mack and the Raiders is that even as the club sits at 4-5 — and dates with the Kansas City Chiefs, Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles still await — the matchup with the Patriots doesn’t represent a must-win situation.

That’s because the AFC has been putrid at large. All four divisions have negative point differentials and only five of 16 teams are in the positive.

Carr knows the Raiders are still afloat amid a sea of mediocrity.

“It doesn’t surprise me at all,” Carr said. “And that’s why we don’t freak out. That’s why we don’t ever get too high or get too low. Because as soon as you get too high, then your bubble’s popped real quick. As soon as you get too low, it’s over.

“Just stay in the middle and keep competing your tail off.”

kbuscheck@sfexaminer.com

Derek Carrestadio aztecaJack Del RioKhalil MackMexico CityNew England PatriotsNFLOakland RaidersTom Brady

Just Posted

San Francisco Giants manager Gabe Kapler, pictured in July at Oracle Park, says team members simultaneously can be “measured and calm” and “looking to push the accelerator.” (Chris Victorio/Special to The Examiner)
How Gabe Kapler sets the tone for Giants’ success with strategy, mindset

‘There’s no doubt in my mind that he’s the hands-down manager of the year’

Artist Agnieszka Pilat, pictured with Spot the Robot Dog from Boston Robotics, has a gallery show opening at Modernism. (Courtesy Agnieszka Pilat)
Screenshots of VCs, Kanye and tech parties by the Bay

In this week’s roundup, Ben Horowitz’s surprising hip-hop knowledge and the chic tech crowd at Shack15

If he secured a full term in the Senate, Newsom would become the most powerful Californian Democrat since Phil Burton at the height of his career, or maybe ever. <ins>(Kevin Hume/The Examiner)</ins>
Firefighters extinguish burning material near Lake Tahoe on Sept. 3 in the wake of the Caldor Fire; environmental scientists say the huge fire is bringing to light deficiencies in forest management. <ins>(Max Whittaker/New York Times)</ins>
Cal Fire, timber industry must face an inconvenient truth

We are logging further into the wildfire and climate crisis

Changing zoning in San Francisco neighborhoods where single family homes prevail is crucial in the effort to achieve equity. (Shutterstock)
To make SF livable, single-family zoning must be changed

Let’s move to create affordable housing for working class families

Most Read