Oakland Raiders

Is this a must-win game already for Raiders?

Latavius Murray (28) finds little room to run last week against the Bengals, who held the Raiders to 61 rushing yards on 16 attempts. Murray rushed for 44 yards on 11 carries.
Latavius Murray (28) finds little room to run last week against the Bengals, who held the Raiders to 61 rushing yards on 16 attempts. Murray rushed for 44 yards on 11 carries. The Associated Press

League schedule-makers gave the Raiders an unexpected gift in 2015 with two home games to start the season for the first time since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970.

After a 45-year wait, it would seem a shame to waste that unprecedented bestowal, particularly since Oakland has lost 11 consecutive road games and 19 of 20 dating to 2012. Also, after hosting the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday at O.co Coliseum, the Raiders play three of their next four on the road.

So have the Raiders already reached a “must-win” situation if they expect to make any headway in Jack Del Rio’s much-anticipated first season as head coach? Might they be buried from the start if they follow up last week’s season-opening 33-13 stinker against Cincinnati with another dud against the Ravens?

Even if he holds private thoughts to that end, Del Rio has coached long enough to understand a franchise trying to find its way can’t push all of its chips to the middle of the table for a mere 60 minutes of football.

“I think every week is important,” Del Rio said. “I know the media cycle builds up one game as more important than another. But really, they’re all important. At the end of the year, you look back and say, ‘Gee, this game was really important’ and it wasn’t built up that way. You get 16 opportunities to go compete, and if you do enough in those opportunities, then you get more.

To a man, the Raiders players feel the season opener was an aberration, that they’ve identified and corrected the many mistakes they made in Week 1. They also understand it’s probably not wise to totally squander their rare home-field opportunity.

“We know how important it is playing at home, especially at this level and how much of an advantage it can be,” “said tailback Latavius Murray. “You want to take advantage of that. Obviously we missed our first shot at it, so this week we’re preparing to give the home fans and the home team a win and do this thing right.

It’ll be a tough chore against a Ravens team that also lost its season opener, albeit in much different circumstances. Baltimore dropped a tough 19-13 decision at Denver that Del Rio said could have gone either way and had playoff game intensity.

Even though the Ravens lost veteran Pro Bowl linebacker Terrell Suggs to an Achilles’ tendon injury in that defeat, they still figure to be an even sterner defensive test for the Raiders than the Bengals, who shut out Oakland for the first 52 minutes while building a 33-0 lead.

The Raiders failed to run the ball effectively, gaining just 61 yards on 16 tries and managing just one rushing first down. They also didn’t do much to exploit Cincinnati downfield – starting quarterback Derek Carr picked up just 61 yards on seven completions before exiting the game in the second quarter with a hand injury. The only time the Raiders crossed midfield in the first half, on a 24-yard completion from Carr to rookie Amari Cooper, it was negated by a penalty.

Carr asserted he was just starting to find his rhythm when he was injured in the second quarter with the Raiders down 10-0. He believes the game might have been different if he could have generated some early offensive momentum.

Note – The Raiders signed safety Tevin McDonald to the active roster, the club announced. McDonald was on Oakland’s practice squad and played in all four preseason games. The move was made because of injuries to Nate Allen and Charles Woodson.