Raiders: We're not as bad as it looks
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OAKLAND, Calif. -- Their defensive coordinator, Jason Tarver, has a master's degree in biochemistry and molecular biology -- and a penchant for making obscene gestures toward officials. Typical Raiders.
Their quarterback (for this season, at least) was the last man drafted by the late Al Davis, who obviously knew more than those who contended that Terrelle Pryor never would be more than a part-time player.
Their best running back, Darren McFadden, seems to have a permanently pulled hamstring and is out again.
Their rookie defensive back, first-round pick D.J. Hayden, who a year ago at the University of Houston was fighting for his life with a torn blood vessel that leads to the heart, is out with a groin injury.
They haven't had a season above .500 since 2002, and as a frightful reminder before Sunday's game against the Giants at MetLife Stadium, the Oakland Raiders have lost their last 10 games in the Eastern time zone.
They did beat Pittsburgh in Oakland on Oct. 27, although that might not be much of an achievement. Then they had the chance to draw even for the season last Sunday -- "We need to be making some sort of move," coach Dennis Allen said -- but gave up a record-tying seven touchdown passes by backup quarterback Nick Foles and were beaten by Philadelphia, 49-20.
Allen's assessment of his 3-5 team: "We're a better football team than that."
Are they? For the first time in several years, Oakland has a defense -- if not, as indicated by the loss to Philly, a continually effective one.
Tarver and Allen were stuck answering questions about how the Raiders could allow Foles to throw the seven touchdown passes, elevating him into a group that includes Sid Luckman, George Blanda and Peyton Manning.
Two of the touchdown passes were to receivers covered by Hayden, who was so distraught with his performance that he didn't talk until Wednesday, coincidentally the one-year anniversary of the emergency surgery on his vena cava, the main vein to the heart.
"Nothing in football," Allen said, "can compare to the toughness it takes to battle through that injury."
Tarver said that against the Eagles, Hayden and other defensive backs forgot what they had been taught. "There are some basic things we had done pretty well for six, for a part of seven weeks," he said. "Then one week, we just didn't do it.
"That offense, they put you in space. You can't think, 'I'm going to make the play.' You have to do your job."
Pryor, who left Ohio State after a scandal involving free cars, tattoos and team paraphernalia, is in the mold of Robert Griffin III and Colin Kaepernick, a runner and passer.
The thinking was that Matt Flynn, for whom Oakland sent Seattle a fifth-round pick in 2013 and a conditional pick in 2014, would be the quarterback. But he was not much in preseason, and the decision was made to go with Pryor, who barely had played since he was selected in the 2011 supplemental draft.
When Pryor got hurt, Flynn started the Sept. 29 game against Washington. He was sacked seven times, fumbled twice, tossed the game-turning interception -- and was cut the next day. Oakland was stuck with his $6.5-million contract.
The job the Raiders' offense did against the Eagles looked good in the final statistics -- 560 total yards -- if not on the scoreboard. The Raiders had the ball almost 38 minutes. And lost by 29 points.
"You can't spend a long time dwelling on the past," Allen said. "I think we're mentally ready to go. We've got to do our job, and we've got to do it fast."