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Archive for Wednesday, October 4, 2006

If Raiders can’t beat Browns, then who?

As difficult as it is to believe, Oakland just might be looking at NFL’s first 0-16 season

October 4, 2006

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— Are you ready for some 0-16 football?

It ought to be impossible for the Oakland Raiders, or any NFL team, to flirt with a season-long skunking. It ought to be crazy to contemplate the phenomenon, even for a dwarf franchise like the Raiders.

Just by accident, you're supposed to win a few games, and I know it, because how else did Al Davis' crew win four of them last year?

But Sunday's mind-blowing 24-21 loss to the Cleveland Browns at McAfee Coliseum was, in every way except the final score, a made-to-order victory for the Raiders.

If they can't win this game, what will it take for them to get victory No. 1? A forfeit? Don King influencing the scorecards? Pac-10 officials manning the replay booth?

The Raiders didn't have to be good to win this game. The Raiders are a terrible team, but they had a 21-3 lead late in the first half because Cleveland was playing worse.

The Raiders didn't even have to be decent. Coming off a bye week, matched against a winless opponent traveling across two time zones, all the Raiders had to do was stay upright. All the Raiders had to do was gain the easy yards, pick up the easy turnovers, say thank you, and move along.

Which, it turns out, was asking too much. Is 1-15 asking too much, also?

"Worst thing about it is to put in the amount of work we put into it and come out and give that effort," defensive tackle Warren Sapp said. "We ran for (almost) 200 yards and we lose the game. It's unheard of."

They did get 194 rushing yards - a massive jump from the previous two debacles - and they got three turnovers from the erratic Cleveland offense as the Raiders built that 21-3 lead.

The Raiders scored their first offensive touchdown of the season - a five-yard pass from Andrew Walter to Randy Moss. They took their first lead. They were in control of a game for the first time since last October.

But they couldn't stop the Browns - who scored 21 consecutive points to finish the game - or move the ball themselves in the second half.

They couldn't figure out how to challenge a horrendous officials' spot that forced a fourth-and-one, then they couldn't come close to converting on the crucial fourth-and-one try.

"It's fourth-and-one," said LaMont Jordan, who gained 128 yards but was stopped for a two-yard loss on the fourth-down play from the Cleveland 30. "That's hard-nosed football. Just so happened that their noses happened to be harder than ours."

They couldn't win a game that everybody else in this league would've won. Now the Raiders are 0-3 in Art Shell's return engagement, and things are due to get worse, not better.

The Raiders are one of only four winless NFL teams. And of the pitiful, Tampa Bay has a better defense, Tennessee has Vince Young, and Detroit has scored 71 points in four games while the Raiders have scored just 27 in three - the lowest three-game scoring output in franchise history.

No team has ever gone 0-16, though, after Sunday, I think the Raiders have a shot at true greatness here.

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