Fans of the Silver and Black have had far too many nauseating moments to recount all of them. Needless to say, Raider Nation knows heartbreak. There has never been a season quite like this, though. No, the 2021 season is a unique kind of torment. This is one season that every fan of the Las Vegas Raiders is going to remember forever.
Sadly, it’s also a season that might just be awful enough for some fans to fall by the wayside altogether. It’s that bad. Raider Nation has been through so much already that, for some, this is finally too much. It’s hard to imagine reaching the final breaking point, but sometimes it does feel like a litmus test trying to find the absolute limits a sports fan will go to. It’s hard to blame a fan too much if they have reached their limit.
For those who continue their masochistic fandom of this team, the latest gut punch comes by way of their 32-13 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals. It was yet another entirely winnable game that ended with an L in the record books. The Raiders now sit at 5-5 with a three-game losing streak.
When looking at that 32-13 final score, you would think this loss was as much on the defense as the offense. You would be wrong. The Raiders’ defense played their hearts out, but after three quarters of nearly constantly being on the field, they simply ran out of gas. The time of possession was an embarrassing 37:20 to just 22:40 for Vegas. It was nearly an entire quarter of play differential, and no wonder the defense faltered by the end.
This loss was on the offense…
This loss to the Bengals falls squarely on the shoulders of the Raiders’ offense. Well, the lack of offense, to be specific. The 72 yards rushing on 18 carries is one ridiculously bad stat to start with. Being one of seven on third down is another doozy too. There’s also the fact that there were only two wide receivers to catch balls the entire game, accounting for a measly 50 of Derek Carr’s paltry 215 yards passing.
However, the worst stat of all was on their opening drive. They started at the Cincinnati nine yard line and only gained one yard. The defense started the game with a huge turnover, so there is no excuse for settling for a field goal. That is on Rich Bisaccia and Greg Olson. Coming away with nothing would have been better than another failed red zone trip. The horrid red zone offense is demoralizing the team, and it set the tone for yet another loss.
The Raiders couldn’t afford to come away without a touchdown, but you wouldn’t have been able to tell by their play calling. Where was the urgency? It certainly wasn’t there on the opening drive, nor on any other drive for the Raiders in the first three quarters. The Vegas defense held their own that whole time, but calling the offense sputtering would be a compliment. Incompetent would be far more apt.
Then, all of a sudden, the light came on. For one single, solitary drive, the offense came alive. In just three plays, the Raiders covered 75 yards, culminating in a 19-yard touchdown grab from Foster Moreau. The drive flashed the Raiders’ impressive offensive capabilities, and it cut the Bengals’ lead down to 16-13.
Unfortunately, two things happened immediately following the one great touchdown drive: the Vegas defense was too exhausted to stop the Bengals, and the offense reverted back to its original incompetence. That’s how an actually close and very winnable game ended with such an ugly score.
Cowboys are up next…
Carr’s interception and lost fumble on consecutive drives after falling behind 22-13 was the death knell to another home loss in Vegas. It was an ugly end to an ugly game and leaves little to be optimistic about going forward. Falling to 5-5 with a short week and playing a playoff caliber contender in the Dallas Cowboys is a recipe for disaster waiting to happen.
The Raiders appear to have gotten a lucky break with Cowboys wide receivers Amari Cooper and possibly CeeDee Lamb both being out. That would go a long way toward helping their chances in a tough Thanksgiving matchup, but they have to be actually ready to play for it to matter.
It’s honestly hard to say if a 5-5 Raiders team has ever felt worse than this. Being an optimistic person at heart, it hurts to have to write that. Especially with so much time left, it feels too reactionary. Still, it’s the truth. This is one of the most bizarre seasons for any team in NFL history, and righting this ship is far too difficult to imagine. Maybe they will do it, but anybody expecting it is wearing prescription strength rose colored glasses.
The 2021 season is most comparable to 2016, when Carr was injured on Christmas Eve. It’s worse than 2016 because of the Tina Tintor tragedy, though. A life lost like that goes so far beyond the football field that it’s incomparable. Even now, weeks later, it is still just so sad, may she rest in peace.
It is surreal knowing the team has gone on this losing streak immediately afterward. It makes being upset about losing feel so petty in the grand scheme of things. In turn, that doesn’t stop being mad and pained by the latest string of losses; it only adds guilt for it on top of it.
All isn’t lost for Raider Nation, not yet at least…
The good news is that with seven games left, there is still time left to turn things around. The bad news is that if they don’t turn things around, there will be many more times of feeling like this to go through before the season’s end.
Being a member of Raider Nation is not for the weak of heart. Consider this a tip of the hat to each and every loyal fan. It’s never easy being a Raiders fan, but right now it may very well be the hardest it’s ever been. That’s how hard this season has been. It’s not hyperbole.
Now more than ever, it is time for the Raiders to reward that loyalty. This Thursday, the fans deserve to have their team show them just how thankful they are for Raider Nation’s fortitude. The team needs the win to keep their season alive, but even more so, they need it for their fans’ sake. Hopefully, they can at least give their fans a happy Thanksgiving after so much awfulness jam-packed into one season.
If they can win, the season is somehow not as over as it already feels. One odd bonus in this situation is another loss, and it’s time to enter the mostly numb mode Raiders fans already know all too well. It hurts less when you give up the final hope of the season after all.
*Top Photo: AP Photo/Isaac Brekken