Guest Gameday Thread: The Long Journey Back
Thanks to The 5er for this awesome take heading into tonight's game:
Hello Relevance, Nice to see you again. It’s been a long while…
13 years 9 months and 18 days to be exact. That’s 720 weeks, or 120,960 hours since we last saw you… depending on how you want to look at it.
Yep, that was the 2002 AFC Championship.
We weary desert travelers have been mislead by many a mirage since then. So many disappointments, it’s hard to even list.
Sure, there have been a few big games for the Raiders since then (i.e 2012 against SD to get into the playoffs, maybe last year against KC to stay in the playoff race).
The difference between then and now is that while those were important games for us, they had little significance for the larger NFL landscape. There were still many teams far beyond our reach. We were simply battling for some degree of superiority among the NFL’s middle class.
This one is different.
Make no mistake about it this is the MARQUEE matchup in the NFL. Not only this week, but for the entire season up until now. The most anticipated by all media outlets and the one NBC is drooling over. And guess what? After 5040 days, it finally includes the Raiders.
I wrote last year that the KC game was a defining moment on our return to relevance, and it was. Unfortunately for us that day, we were not yet ready. It signified that we were still a few players and some additional experience at QB away from being able to beat a sound team in a big game and make a legitimate push in the post season.
I have many of the same thoughts about this one. There are very similar undertones surrounding this week. Despite our recent success on the road and our proud 6-2 record, there are still some questions surrounding the potential of this team.
Has the defense really improved of late or are we the beneficiary of playing two of the worst offenses in the NFL?
Can our offense continue to bail us out against a playoff caliber defense as we get into December and January?
We have made huge strides in learning how to win again, but are we really poised to take the final step and win a game of this magnitude?
Those answers are going to be revealed tonight… and it’s going to be on the NFL’s grand stage.
Now with the table set lets get to some of the in game details, or keys to victory as you might say.
#1 – Outcoach em’
Much like the KC game last year, I think this game will come down to coaching and our offensive game plan. What kind of adjustments will we make this week to mix in some new looks and try to keep that defense off balance?
Denver’s success is mostly dependant on getting quick pressure with that front 4. They lead the league in QB pressures, being able to do so on 41% of passing plays. They also generate a sack 8% of that time.
That kind of pressure forces quick decisions and typically short routes. Their secondary then always gets to play on its toes, jumping the short routes and keeping the game in front of them in the 5-15 yard range. It’s a philosophy that reminds me a lot of the great Tampa defenses. And they force a lot of turnovers with it.
Musgrave needs to mix it up well to keep them off balance. I think this needs to include some good playaction, and a willingness to take some shots down the field to keep them on their heels. If we play the ultra conservative move the chains type of game plan all night I think we play right into their hands.
I’d also like to see a good dose of the no huddle. I think it keeps the tempo up where Carr is more comfortable and we can dictate the action.
#2 – Don’t let the Game Manager manage the game.
Seimian is young end inexperienced but he has proven to be effective as a game manager. Well, the way to get him out of that comfort zone is to get ahead of them and make him play from behind.
SD was able to build a 2 TD lead two weeks ago and it made the Donkeys look like a different team on offense. This point obviously goes hand in hand with point #1. Have to attack on offense to build a lead. Trying to play them in a close, 17-14 or 20-17 type game favors Seimian and the Broncos dramatically.
#3 – Minimize critical penalties and TO’s
This one probably goes without saying. Obviously a performance like either of the last two weeks and we will be in serious trouble, regardless of how well we do anything else.
#4 – Believe you BELONG
Success in the NFL is a fickle thing… hanging delicately in the balance almost each and every week. Despite our 6-2 record there are undoubtedly (and rightfully) some questions in our player’s minds about whether they are really among the league’s elite.
Belief in what you are capable of is the most important part of taking this final step.
Much of the success the Patriots experience these days is because they believe they are elite… and to some extent they manifest that reality.
Bottom line - All of our arguments and disagreements about the rebuild process along the way are pretty much irrelevant. How we drafted, busted in free agency, missed on coaches. Whether it should have taken 4 long years or not…
The fact of the matter is we ARE here. We ARE relevant. The NFL knows it. The media knows it.
The time is NOW. Take the final step and become an elite team. Your home crowd will be raucous. I want a Silver and Black avalanche of effort and will.
I want to hear Papa thundering down all night…
And so it will be on this night, we have officially ARRIVED!