The Oakland Raiders left New England with a moral victory, having taken the Patriots down to the closing minute a week after being completely uncompetitive against Houston.
The quest for a win that actually counts in the standings will continue this week in London. The Raiders arrived in England on Monday to begin preparations for this week’s “home” game against Miami, when they will try to snap a nine-game losing streak that dates to last season.
The 16-9 loss to the Patriots on Sunday gave Oakland (0-3) some needed confidence after getting thoroughly outplayed in losing to the Jets and Texans the first two weeks.
“We had a good chance to beat a good team on the road and it didn’t happen for us,” defensive end Justin Tuck said. “If we play the type of football we know we can play, we can beat anybody. It was disheartening that we didn’t come out of here with the win, but it is something that we can build on. We’ve got a lot of games left to play, and that is our mindset.”
The loss to the Patriots was a bitter one as Oakland had a touchdown wiped off the board by a disputed holding penalty on rookie Gabe Jackson with just over 1 minute to play.
When Derek Carr’s pass on the next play deflected off receiver Denarius Moore’s hands, leading to an interception by Vince Wilfork, the Raiders fell to 0-3 for the first time since 2006.
“I guarantee we put a scare into them late and that’s for sure — no one expected that but we did,” Carr said. “That’s what we expect out of ourselves and now we’ve just got to finish it. It doesn’t matter if there was a holding call, it doesn’t matter what happens, it doesn’t matter we lost. We have to go back to work this week in London and fix what we need to fix. But if we come out with that same effort we’re going to be a good football team.”
The Raiders fixed some of their issues this week, most notably on defense, where they held the Patriots to 76 yards rushing after giving up a total of 400 the first two weeks and put heavy pressure on Tom Brady.
But Oakland still is waiting for its running game to get going after gaining just 193 yards the first three games and developing an offense that can get into the end zone. Discounting the fourth quarter against Houston when the Raiders scored two touchdowns after falling behind 27-0, the team has two TDs in its other 26 full drives this season.
“I think we took a step forward, but we’ve still got a ways to go,” coach Dennis Allen said. “We’ve got to continue to go.”
The Raiders lost more than just a game against the Patriots. They lost two key starters to injuries that will sideline then for significant time. Strong safety Tyvon Branch and wide receiver Rod Streater both left the game with broken bones in their feet.
This marks the second straight year that Branch has gone down with an early season injury. He missed the final 14 games last season with an ankle injury and that severely limited what the Raiders could do defensively.
Usama Young will likely replace Branch in the lineup but he is not nearly as physical a player near the line of scrimmage, which could hurt the run defense.
Streater, who led the team with 60 catches for 888 yards last season, is one of the few reliable targets in the passing game for Oakland. Streater has nine catches for 84 yards and a touchdown this season despite missing the second half the past two weeks with injuries. He recovered quickly from a hip injury in Week 2 against Houston but won’t be so lucky with this injury.
If the Raiders believe one of the injuries is not season-ending, they could place one of the players on the injured reserve with a designation to return list to create a roster spot.