September 30, 2015

In order for the Oakland Raiders to succeed, Jack Del Rio knew his team needed to focus on the present and not worry about the past.

Having bought in to their coach's uncomplicated philosophy, the visiting Raiders can match their win total from last season Sunday against a Chicago Bears team that's already begun reshaping the roster while trying to avoid its first 0-4 start in 15 seasons.

Oakland (2-1) hasn't had a winning season or been to the playoffs since 2002, but that didn't stop Del Rio from expecting things to change when he was hired in January. He believes what happens in the past should stay there.

''This is what coach Del Rio has been talking about all offseason,'' said safety Charles Woodson, who turns 39 next week. ''We need to change the culture of football here."

That appears to be the case.

One week after Derek Carr threw a go-ahead touchdown pass with 26 seconds left in a 37-33 win over Baltimore, Woodson's interception with 38 seconds remaining helped snap an 11-game road skid with last Sunday's 27-20 victory at Cleveland.

Oakland, which didn't post its third and final victory last season until Dec. 21, hasn't won three in a row overall or consecutive road contests since 2011. A win Sunday would leave the team above .500 after four games for the first time since a 4-0 start in 2002.

''There's a lot of growth in front of us and we absolutely got to grind and push and continue to sacrifice, and as coaches we're going to continue to demand,'' Del Rio said. "And we expect to play a lot better football as we go forward in the season, and the only way you can do that is if you put in the work.''

Del Rio hopes the talented, young trio of Carr, Latavius Murray and rookie Amari Cooper continues to pace an offense that's made strides since being held to 246 yards in the opening 33-13 loss to Cincinnati.

Carr has thrown for 665 yards with five TDs and one interception in last two weeks while Cooper has 15 receptions for 243 yards and a score in those games. Murray gained 109 yards on 26 carries in the first two contests then ran for 139 on the same amount of attempts last Sunday.

''It's important to have weapons available,'' Del Rio said.

That's something Chicago (0-3) will again be void of if quarterback Jay Cutler (hamstring) misses a second straight game and receiver Alshon Jeffery (hamstring) sits his third in a row. With Jimmy Clausen under center, the Bears managed 146 total yards while being shut out for the first time since 2002 in last Sunday's 26-0 loss at Seattle.

"This league's about winning no matter who you line up against, so we're still in that process," said first-year Chicago coach John Fox, who employed Del Rio on his staffs in Carolina and Denver. "We haven't won our first game yet and we're doing everything in our power to get that accomplished."

Though the Bears are in danger of going 0-4 for the first time since 2000, they also seem to have an eye on the future.

This week, Chicago traded underachieving pass rusher Jared Allen to Carolina for a 2016 sixth-round pick, linebacker Jonathan Bostic to New England for an undisclosed pick and waived safety Brock Vereen. The Bears also signed safety Chris Prosinski and linebacker LaRoy Reynolds to perhaps bolster a special teams unit that's allowed a kickoff to be returned for a TD in each of the last two weeks.

"Whether it is acquiring additional picks or signing players, we will continue to be aggressive in finding ways to improve our football team," rookie general manager Ryan Pace said.

In the final year of his contract, Matt Forte remains in Chicago for the time being. He'll look to rebound after following his 141-yard season-opening rushing effort against Green Bay by gaining 135 on 35 carries in the last two games.

Clausen, meanwhile, is 23 of 40 for 184 yards with an interception and has been sacked four times since replacing the injured Cutler in Week 2.

Cutler practiced Thursday on a limited basis for the second consecutive day, saying ''we'll see'' when asked if he will face the Raiders.

Regardless who is under center, the Bears might have a good chance to rebound against a Raiders defense that's last in the NFL allowing 414.7 yards per contest.

Chicago yields a league-high 35 points per contest, but could get a boost if nose tackle Jeremiah Ratliff is available. The veteran's three-week suspension for a league substance abuse violation has ended but it's uncertain if the ankle injury he suffered during the preseason will prolong his return.

Oakland won the most recent meeting, 25-20 at home Nov. 27, 2011.

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