ALAMEDA — Stumbling to the finish of a losing season has become an all-too-familiar feeling around the Oakland Raiders.
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.
Allen has lost more games in his first two seasons than any coach in Raiders history. The only coach the team has brought back after losing records in the first two seasons was Tom Cable, who went 9-19 his first two years after replacing the fired Lane Kiffin after four games in 2008.
Cable went 8-8 in his final season in Oakland before being fired after the 2010 season. Hue Jackson then went 8-8 in his only season as Raiders coach before McKenzie brought in Allen to help lead a franchise rebuild.
Allen still has strong support in the locker room, where the players have bought into his approach even if they haven’t always been able to turn that into wins.
“He’s a true leader,” running back Rahsad Jennings said. “He has a high expectation. That’s exactly what you want from a leader. He’s been putting us in good situation to win every single game. That’s all you can ask for from a coach. It always comes down to the players executing. There’s a lot of accountability in this locker room. He’s definitely the man for the job, and we follow his lead.”
NOTES: Matt McGloin will make his fifth straight start at QB but Terrelle Pryor could be mixed in as well after playing one series against the Jets, Allen said. … Jennings said he has been cleared to play after sitting out Sunday’s game with a concussion. … DL Vance Walker and TE Nick Kasa both had concussions in the game, with Walker’s appearing to be more of a concern, Allen said. … LB Sio Moore will be evaluated during the week with a neck injury.