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Jack Del Rio, Oakland Raiders forget last week, look ahead

By The Sports Xchange
Jack Del Rio, Oakland Raiders forget last week, look ahead
Oakland Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio walks the sidelines during the first quarter of the 38-35 Pittsburgh Steeler win at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh on November 8, 2015. Photo by Archie Carpenter/UPI | License Photo

ALAMEDA, Calif. -- Coach Jack Del Rio and the Oakland Raiders insist it's all about looking forward, but heading into their Week 2 against the Atlanta Falcons, it's worth noting the last time the franchise opened with a 2-0 record it played in the Super Bowl.

That was in 2002, when the Raiders won the AFC West with an 11-5 record and won the AFC championship.

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Before that, it was 2000, when the Raiders went 12-4, won the AFC West and advanced to the AFC championship game.

A 35-34 win road win over the New Orleans Saints in Week 1 took the pre-season buzz that already existed with the Raiders and has trebled the volume.

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Not that Del Rio is paying attention, at least not outwardly.

"It's not part of our makeup or part of what we're going to be responding to," Del Rio said. "I think for us on game day we're going to be appreciative of a very loud, supportive crowd, but for us it's really about preparation. That's where all our energy is."

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Still, there is an undeniable confidence coming from the Raiders, particularly with the home opener up next.

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"We have a different kind of confidence, from the top down," quarterback Derek Carr said. "Everyone on this team is so confident in what we can do. It's not arrogant, it's not that we think we're better than anybody.

"At the same time, we respect the work that we've put in. We love what we've done, but I think it's the confidence level that everybody has. If we do the right things and take care of business, then we're going to put ourselves in the end of games with a chance to win."

Analysts, many of whom have had little positive to say about the Raiders in recent years -- and justifiably so -- were giving Del Rio credit for a two-point conversion call with 47 seconds left that sealed the win over New Orleans.

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Had the Raiders failed in the attempt, it would have been a loss.

In the end Del Rio liked his chances of having Carr connect with Michael Crabtree from the 2-yard line better than the possibility of kicking to the Saints in a tie game and seeing Drew Brees take the field for a defense had already torched for 423 yards and four touchdowns.

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"What Jack Del Rio did was galvanize this team," NFL Network analyst Marshall Faulk said in a national conference call. "The culture in Oakland has changed. They expect to win games, not just hoping to win games. That's what we saw against the Saints."

Steve Mariucci, the former 49ers coach and an NFL Network analyst, said he has been impressed since a training camp visit.

"I could just tell the team is becoming very, very confident," Mariucci said. "Not hopeful, but confident. And expectations are high."

Even LaDainian Tomlinson, whose disdain for the Raiders was well-known, was willing to give them the benefit of the doubt as an NFL Network analyst.

"I believe they will compete and be right there at the end to win that division," Tomlinson said. "I don't know if they're ready in terms of experience.

"But in the last couple of years of free agency and the last few drafts, they've built a team to be competitive. When you win games like they did on Sunday, it builds morale, it builds confidence."

--Lost amid the Raiders' comeback was a huge coverage play on the special teams unit that was nearly as big as the two-point conversion pass from Carr to Michael Crabtree.

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Crabtree was called for unsportsmanlike conduct, meaning Sebastian Janikowski had to kick off from the 20-yard line. The Raiders' coverage team then scrambled downfield to stop Marcus Murphy at the 23-yard line on a tackle by Brynden Trawick.

"The amazing thing was, after that penalty, we get that kick coverage that was unbelievable," Del Rio said. "(The penalty) was almost a non-factor. It was a huge play. Very proud of our guys for doing that."

Said Trawick: "We knew we had a penalty. We knew what we had to do. In the huddle, we pretty much said, 'We know we're kicking from backed up, so we've got to do something about it.'"

--Throat slash? Coach Jack Del Rio begged to differ. Wide receiver Michael Crabtree was whistled for unsportsmanlike conduct after what turned out to be a game-winning two-point conversion for what officials perceived to be a throat slash gesture.

Del Rio said Crabtree's celebration was a take on a comic routine in the HBO comedy series, "East Bound and Down."

"That's what he was gesturing," Del Rio said. "It wasn't a throat slash. ... Maybe you can't do that move, either."

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