Raiders are lost cause

Once-proud team lacking direction

By Art Spander
Globe Correspondent / December 15, 2008
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OAKLAND, Calif. - It was an afternoon stolen from the scenes of Alfred Hitchcock, all gloom and doom for a team that laughingly still bills itself as "The Team of the Decades," with plenty of seagulls swooping low as if to peck apart what remnants were left of the Oakland Raiders.

The Patriots yesterday became the latest opponent to prove what Al Davis calls "dah greatness of dah Raidahs," is only a painful memory.

New England took apart early an Oakland defense coach Tom Cable said couldn't communicate - and he should have added, couldn't tackle either - going up, 21-0, en route to a 49-26 win at the Coliseum.

It was the most points the Raiders allowed since they were beaten by the Tennessee Titans, 52-25, in 2002, a season in which Oakland somehow made it to the Super Bowl.

Since that Super Bowl in January 2003 the Raiders have lost 72 of 94 games, yesterday's included.

Cable is the interim coach, having been named by Davis to take over for Lane Kiffin. Cable is pleasant enough, but the Raiders are 2-8 on his watch and 3-11 overall, so the length of his stay is very much in question.

Ever the optimist, Cable pointed out after their awful start against the Patriots, the Raiders had "some productivity," not that it was apparent after giving up 487 yards of offense, 277 on the ground.

"Obviously we got ourselves in a huge hole," Cable conceded.

To the question, "What happened?" Cable responded, "It was a communication problem. We couldn't get matched in the first half. We were not on the same page."

In the 14th game?

"It's difficult to accept," Cable said. "In terms of the spread, the things they were doing, it was difficult to get everybody on the right page. You feel you should have that down." The Raiders implied they knew what was coming but couldn't do anything about it.

"We studied them all week," linebacker Thomas Howard said. "Their game plan isn't the most difficult, but they execute with the best of them. We had different people seeing different things and saying different things.

"We knew they throw screens. They ran well. I was very surprised by that."

Nothing the Raiders do should surprise anyone. They are the first team in NFL history to have at least 11 losses six straight seasons. They were averaging only 13.8 points a game before yesterday, although that figure will rise after their second-highest point total of the year.

"We were playing at the end," said Cable. "It was a great effort. For the first time all season we had some balance and rhythm on offense."

Quarterback JaMarcus Russell, the league's No. 1 draft pick in '07, was, to be kind, ineffective most of the first half, overthrowing receivers, often by a great deal. But Russell finished 17 of 31 for 242 yards and a couple of touchdowns.

"The first three times we had the ball he was out of whack," said Cable. "He was throwing them all over the place. Then he made some good decisions. There were some positives. You've got to feel good about them. This was a good game for his development."

Nnamdi Asomugha, considered Oakland's best defensive back, often took on former teammate Randy Moss one-on-one, not always successfully. He drew three holding penalties and Moss caught a couple of touchdown passes.

"They knew we were going to be in man-to-man," said Asomugha, "and they were able to pick their routes. That will make it difficult any day. And then we didn't make the proper adjustments."

The result was another one-sided loss to a better team.

Correction: Because of a reporting error, the outcome of a 2002 NFL game between the Oakland Raiders and Tennessee Titans was incorrect in a story about the Raiders in Monday's Sports section. The Raiders beat the Titans, 52-25, in 2002.

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