ALAMEDA (AP) — The four games since Tony Sparano took over as Oakland Raiders interim coach might have been more competitive than the first four under the fired Dennis Allen.
The results, however, haven’t changed a bit.
The Raiders (0-8) finished the first half of the season as the NFL’s only winless team and are assured of a 12th straight season without a winning record after losing 30-24 at defending Super Bowl champion Seattle on Sunday. Oakland has lost 14 straight dating to last season.
For the fourth time in four games under Sparano, the Raiders entered the fourth quarter either tied or within one score only to fall short at the end. Oakland had two lopsided losses in their first four games, which led to Allen’s firing.
Sparano said the biggest differences have been players haven’t let one bad play mushroom into many more, which was evident when Oakland fell behind by 21 to Seattle thanks to three first-half turnovers only to get right back into the game with a pair of touchdowns in the third quarter.
He also praised improvement in the pass rush and pass blocking and said effort has been consistent.
“I think there’s a lot of areas of improvement right now,” Sparano said. “I think you’re seeing a lot of young players contributing to those factors and that’s a good sign too. But it’s still 0-4.”
One facet that hasn’t improved much is the running game. The Raiders are last in the league in rushing at 65.5 yards per game — a mark that would be lowest in the NFL since 1946.
Oakland has averaged just 2.8 yards per carry the past three weeks and was held to 37 yards on 18 rushes against the Seahawks.
“We have to block better at the point of attack,” said Sparano, who is also the team’s offensive line coach. “Bottom line is yesterday that team just beat us at the point of attack. You have to give them credit. They beat us at the point of attack. That’s a hard thing for me to say.”
But despite that, Sparano still sees signs of encouragement.
The biggest bright spot for the future is that Oakland is getting positive contributions from many of its younger players, led by rookie quarterback Derek Carr and linebacker Khalil Mack.
Carr was shaky in the first half in Seattle with two interceptions, but rebounded to throw two TD passes in the second half. Carr’s 11 TD passes are tied for the second most by a rookie after eight games, one shy of the mark held by Andy Dalton.
Mack has been dominant on run defense and has 23 quarterback pressures the past four weeks even though he still is seeking his first sack.
Oakland is also getting promising play from other first- and second-year players such as tight end Mychal Rivera, guard Gabe Jackson, linebacker Sio Moore, defensive tackle Justin Ellis and cornerback TJ Carrie. Even last year’s top pick, DJ Hayden, had one of his better games Sunday with two near interceptions.
But none of that has led to a win.
“When you’re 0-8, I get it, there’s not a lot to be proud of if you’re a fan sitting out there looking at it, saying ‘They’re 0-8,’” Sparano said. “I understand that. This business is about wins. When I look at the young players ... you’re seeing a lot of young players that are going to be the core of this football team for a long time that are really getting involved and contributing an awful lot.”
NOTES: Jackson left the game late with an undisclosed injury. Sparano gave no update on his status Monday. ... Kevin Boothe got in on the final extra point try with Jackson hurt for his first play of the season.