Henderson, Nev.--If this was a heavyweight fight, the Las Vegas Raiders would have been on their collective back on the canvas when the bell sounded to end the bout.
It felt like it anyway after the thorough 43-6 pounding administered by the underdog Atlanta Falcons.
But feelings are deceptive. They do not always tell the entire story – not in a 16-game NFL season. One game in this league is a mere snapshot but not the entirety of a season.
"The turnovers, the penalties, inexcusable,” Raiders coach Jon Gruden said. “It's a reflection of me. We're a lot better team than that, and I'll answer any questions.”
From start to finish, it was their worst performance of the season. My job is neither cheerleader nor doomsday prognosticator, and no matter how you look at the game, it was an unmitigated disaster.
"I haven't felt this way in a while, it's a gut punch for sure," Raiders quarterback Derek Carr said.
But for a franchise in the midst of rebuilding and trying to climb back to the Al Davis heights, the journey, while disappointing on Sunday and more difficult today, is far from over.
Now Gruden and his staff must pick this team up for a remaining five-game gauntlet that it is still capable of maneuvering and handling.
Before the season, I predicted the Raiders to have a 10-6 regular-season record and make the playoffs.
Following an October 30-23 loss to the Buffalo Bills, I said that an NFL season is long, and fans should not allow one loss to define the season.
The very next week, the Las Vegas Raiders rebounded against the Kansas City Chiefs, handing the defending Super Bowl champions their only loss of the season at Arrowhead Stadium.
Again, I warned about getting too excited. One loss or win doesn't define a season.
"We have a team that kicked the crap out of us last year coming next (New York Jets),” Carr said. “They beat the dog out of us last time. We better get our minds right before we get on the plane for that game.”
"We've got to get up off the mat and fight back better as a coaching staff and as a football team,” he said. “That's something we got to take a look at. Like I said, it's a reflection of me, and I apologize to the Raiders fans."
In these last five games, the Raiders will define themselves and their season. While they certainly made fulfilling my 10-6 prediction more complicated, it is far from impossible. Now the Raiders will show us who they are.
Every NFL team faces adversity every season. The question is, how do they respond?
I still think they finish 10-6. I still think the 2020 Las Vegas Raiders are a playoff team. To prove that, they can't allow an "inexcusable," loss to the Falcons, as Gruden called it, to be a knockout blow.
They are saying the right things. Now they must live by the words of Al Davis, "Just win baby."
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