Moral victory? What moral victory?

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Moral victory? What moral victory?

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ATLANTA -- First things first-- there is no such thing as a moral victory.Just wins and losses, and the Raiders to a man in their downcast locker room, uttered it over and over again in the wake of their heartbreaking last-second 23-20 defeat to Atlanta on Sunday.But also as true as that tried maxim is this -- the Raiders may have lost the game, but they also won some respect around the league with the way they played and, probably, gained some self-confidence amongst themselves.The Falcons were undefeated at 5-0 and 9 12-point favorites in the din of the Georgia Dome. The Raiders, coming in at 1-3 off their bye week, did not blink. Until there was literally no time left on the clock, or, one second after Matt Bryant drilled a 55-yard field goal for the victory."We competed against them but we don't take solace in the loss," said Raiders coach Dennis Allen. "At the end of the day our job is to go out there and win football games and that's what we intend to do. So there will be no moral victories, but I am proud of the guys for the way that they competed."And there it is.
The Raiders, by virtue of their earlier road meltdowns at Miami and Denver, had no business being in this game, let alone leading at the half, 13-7. But they were, and they were doing it with their most complete team effort of Allen's rookie tenure.Entering the game, the Raiders had yet to get an interception. They picked off Matt Ryan three times in the first half.Oakland also had only three sacks in four games with even less pressure on opposing passers. Against the Falcons, they sacked Ryan once, hit him numerous times and put him off balance for a good spell.Hustle plays? Yeah, there were a few, like quarterback Carson Palmer taking down Robert McClain as he returned Darren McFadden's first-quarter fumble, as well as McFadden chasing down Ray Edwards and saving a touchdown at the 2-yard line when Palmer was strip-sacked in the third.The defense responded and kept the Falcons out of the end zone, forcing a field goal. Even Rolando McClain got in on the action with a big run-stuffing tackle on third down."It gives you some reassurance that you can play with anybody," he said.In fact, McClain was an observer for most of the game, when the Raiders went into nickel and dime defenses and the unit responded. Oakland's defense seemed faster, quicker to the ball and offered more food for thought for the immediate future.On the other side of the ball, the Raiders run game showed signs of getting on track behind the zone-blocking scheme. Mike Goodson broke off a 43-yard run."We definitely can play with anybody," he said. "We see that."You want to see stats to back it up?Marinate in these: the Raiders had 22 first downs, to the Falcons' 16; the Raiders' limited the Falcons' third-down efficiency to a mere two of nine; the Raiders had 474 total yards to the Falcons' 286; the Raiders held the ball for 36:26 and the Falcons, 23:34. Even Palmer outperformed his younger, more-hyped counterpart with a passer rating of 102.2 to Ryan's 59.4.Alas"I'm not a stats guy," said defensive tackle Richard Seymour. "Stats are for losers."This hurts. I'd be lying if I said it didn't sting. We took one on the chin."True, but perhaps most reassuring for the Raiders was the way Palmer and the Raiders responded after his potentially crushing 79-yard pick-six by Asante Samuel late in the fourth quarter gave the Falcons a 20-13 lead.Palmer calmly guided the Raiders 80 yards down the field in two minutes, McFadden plunging in from two yards out and Sebastian Janikowski converting the extra point to tie the game at 20-all with 40 seconds to play.Seymour said Palmer showed "the heart of a champion" in that drive after the Samuel interception and score."At the end of the day," Seymour said, "I want to play with guys like that."Check that: Seymour wants to win games with guys like that. As do the rest of the Raiders, moral victories be damned. After all, there's no such thingright?

Battle between Raiders, Chiefs for AFC West isn't over yet

Battle between Raiders, Chiefs for AFC West isn't over yet

The Raiders were clearly frustrated by Thursday night’s proceedings. A pivotal game against Kansas City didn’t go as planned, moving the Chiefs ahead in the AFC West with three games to play.

Few thought the Raiders would be able to win a game played two time zones away, in the bitter cold, on a short week. Players and coaches certainly did. They left Kansas City believing they could’ve and should’ve won.

Tackle Donald Penn wasn’t thrilled following this missed opportunity, and articulated how the entire team felt.

“My mindset is that I’m pissed right now,” Penn said. “I’m pissed. We had control and we gave it to somebody else.”

Records are now even at 10-3, but Kansas City has a tiebreaker in hand following a season sweep. The Raiders dropped into the wild-card pool and are currently the AFC’s No. 5 seed.

Those facts would only matter if the season ended today. It, you know, doesn’t. That makes the where-are-they-now exercise purely academic, with time for things to change.

“We will continue working,” running back Latavius Murray said. “Like Coach (Del Rio), ‘What we want in our goals and what we’re after, those things are still out there for us.’ We won’t let this determine who we are and what we want to accomplish."

Kansas City can win the division by winning out. They have home games against Tennessee and Denver before wrapping the season at San Diego, teams with a combined 19-17 record and two pushing for the playoffs.

The Raiders have a tough slate ahead, with a game at San Diego, home against Indianapolis and at Denver to end the year. That trio has an identical record to K.C.’s slate, with two common opponents.

So, with that in mind, the Raiders-Chiefs competition will continue through season’s end. How each team fares will determine the AFC West, although Denver shouldn’t be counted out quite yet.

That should make for a fantastic finish in a talented division that should qualify at least two teams for the postseason.

That also means the Raiders and Chiefs might meet again in the rivalry that will define the season for both teams.

“I feel pretty confident that both of our teams will end up in the playoffs,” head coach Jack Del Rio said. “There are still three games to be played. We’ll see how it ends up. They have the leg up right now, and did enough to win both games this year. For now, that’s all there is to the story. They’ve earned that. We’ll just have to get back on the right track next week.”

The Raiders may be down, but they definitely aren’t out of the division race. Thursday’s game was heavily hyped and rightfully so, but losing wasn’t a death sentence. A strong response could claim the division title or, at the very least, provide positive momentum heading into the playoffs.

The Raiders and Chiefs could meet again in January, when it truly matters most.

“There is a potential to play again,” quarterback Derek Carr said, “which is awesome.”

Oakland takes stage in latest act of Empty Gesture Theatre

Oakland takes stage in latest act of Empty Gesture Theatre

Editor's Note: The above video is from Nov. 6, 2016.

As we consider with the distance and clarity of the new day the latest developments from the City of Oakland in the attempt to attract the Raiders to stay where they are, we are reminded of one very important thing.

The Raiders STILL aren’t a part of these talks. Haven’t been, don’t want to be, and unless put in a bind won’t consider it.

In other words, what we have here is a deal between a city and a developer to buy land and build something FOR NO INTERESTED TENANT. Why this has escaped most people is an amazement, but there we are.

So I am now willing to predict a third potential outcome for this slow-motion train to nowhere: The league kicks the can down the road, putting off making a decision on the fate of the Raiders until one of these deals gets sweetened to its liking.

Now, back to the hilarious present.

The only intriguing thing about this new term sheet between the City of Oakland (throw-weight, $200 million) and the Ronnie Lott-fronted Fortress group (throw-weight: $175 million for the land as a starter) is that it exists at all.

But it isn’t a deal that seems to be attracting much notice from the NFL, the Raiders, or really anyone else. It is Empty Gesture Theatre, and frankly, it probably shouldn’t be anything more than that. Cities have been screwed into near-bankruptcy pandering to sports teams for decades, and both Oakland and Nevada deserve better -- though people don't often recognize what they deserve.

Now let’s reiterate the problems here:

The Raiders desperately want to leave. Mark Davis believes his best chance at future glory is in Nevada, and nobody has been able to shift him off that position, even though he has apparently been told as recently as two weeks ago that he does not yet have the 24 votes from his fellow owners at present.

Oakland has neither the money nor the political will to make a proposal that will dazzle the Raiders into staying. Mayor Libby Schaaf has committed the city to $200 million in infrastructure costs and no more, and part of the time-honored stadium soak is that a city throws in a lot more money, either through bond issues, tax increases, free land or a deal with the concrete guy. That cities shouldn’t even be in this business has dawned on Schaaf, and she really wants out of this deal is a regular tenant who will see to it that the taxes are paid in regular installments.

The NFL is frustrated that Oakland isn’t playing the city’s traditional role as a sucker. It doesn’t much like the Fortress people, either, which is still slightly more benign than its view of Las Vegas Casino owner Sheldon Adelson, who is still a linchpin of the Vegas deal even though he threatens to leave.

In short, Oakland provided no particular reason to have the owners look more kindly upon it, at a time when they want a reason to reject Vegas on market-size grounds. It is in many ways the Carson-v.-Inglewood fight of 11 months ago, in which the league’s owners had to decide on the site they liked (Inglewood and Rams owner Stan Kroenke) against the guy they liked (San Diego Changers owner Dean Spanos).

They voted the money, as you knew they would. The Rams are building in Inglewood, and apparently will joined, albeit with great reluctance, by the Chargers, who were rejected with great vigor by the voting citizens of San Diego last month.

Now in this scenario, the Vegas deal is the one with the short-term money but the long-term danger signs, while the Oakland deal has the market size but not the money or the will. And in the Oakland deal, the league doesn’t have direct leverage over Davis to modify his level of franchise control, which it very much wants to happen sooner rather than later.

So the other 31 owners can either accept one deal they don't like, another deal they don’t like, or give it another year in hopes that some deus ex machina will appear and make the decision for them. Typically the NFL at its most powerful had the outcome cemented ahead of time and just acted, but this is not the NFL of 20 years ago. It has been reactive throughout, letting events come to it, in exchange for which it now has two unappealing options with which to deal.

So I would expect the NFL to consider its options and delay a decision yet again. It wants neither Adelson, Fortress, the Oakland plan or the Vegas market, so it is most likely, barring some radical change in the current equation, to wait for a more clement time to strong-arm its desired conclusion upon everyone.

In the true spirit of NFL Christmas: Ho ho ho, and hands up, suckers.