With 11 straight years without a winning record or playoff berth and an NFL-worst 120 losses since the start of the 2003 season, the Raiders have had to search for any small positives they can find.
Despite coming off a 37-27 loss to a struggling New York Jets team held to six points the two previous weeks, the Raiders (4-9) see signs of progress in being competitive most weeks and being done in by a few small mistakes rather than being completely overmatched like they were a year ago.
“You have to appreciate where you came from, where we were last year and this year,” receiver Rod Streater said. “Our record might not be different, but as a team we’re right there. We just have to get that one thing to help us get that win at the end.”
That has eluded the Raiders so far as they have lost six games they held leads in or were tied in the second half.
That was not the case against the Jets as Oakland fell into a 20-3 first-half hole after Matt McGloin threw an interception deep in his own territory and Marquette King had a punt blocked for a touchdown.
The Raiders played better in the second half, scoring 17 points on their first three drives, but were unable to come up with key stops and lost their third straight game.
They have three shots left to surpass last season’s win total, starting Sunday at home against Kansas City (10-3) followed by a visit to San Diego (6-7) and the season finale at home against Denver (11-2).
“I think we’re a lot closer,” coach Dennis Allen said. “Obviously the record doesn’t say so. We all recognize that at the end of the day this is a production business. We understand that you are what your record says you are. But I also know there’s a lot of areas where this football team has improved.”
Whether the improvement is enough to bring Allen back for a third season may not be determined until after the final three games. Allen said he and general manager Reggie McKenzie remain in lockstep in their vision for the franchise and said he is worried about beating Kansas City on Sunday, not his own status.