When my friend Mark Berenberg picked me up from the airport when I returned from my week at the AFL, I warned him ahead that the Raiders were playing a home game against the Chiefs. Mark lives up in the Oakland hills, and I stashed my car in front of his house while I was gone, but the Oakland airport is also across the street from the McAfee Coliseum where the Raiders toil.
I have noted before that as a youngster I was a major Raiders fan starting in 1961, their first year, and that loyalty pretty much held for a good 25 years when the team was indeed among the most successful, and winningest, in pro sports. But, after that, the team has simply been awful, evening out those 25 great years with 25 more than mediocre ones.
For the most part you can track how bad the Raiders have been by their quarterbacks, like Jeff Hostetler, Jay Schroeder, and most recently Jamarcus Russell. In fact when the Raiders added Jason Campbell this year I figured more of same, although Campbell was clearly an improvement over the overweight, overpaid, and under talented Russell.
Surprisingly the Raiders were 4-4 going into yesterday's game and to tell the truth, I am not really sure how the team did this. Although for sure this season the NFL is more uncertain than ever. After all just yesterday the Browns somehow destroyed the Patriots, while the Jets barely sneaked passed the Lions. In fact three games, that should have been lopsided wins went into overtime just yesterday: the Jets and the Lions; the Vikings and the Cardinals; and, the Raiders and the Chiefs.
Of those three, only one wound up an upset. Additionally, every NFL team now has two losses, and I spent a fair amount of time with our friend Google trying to identify the last time every NFL team had two losses through Week 8. The research was prompted by my friend Doug Greenwald's daily trivia questions (and his questions are hard) but press time came, so I still don't know (I will tomorrow, so we will post on the blog then).
Certainly, though I expected the Chiefs, who at 5-2, had reinvented themselves into a contender thanks to some nice drafting and a coaching staff of former Patriot staff members.
I got into Mark's car and with a couple of minutes left in the game, the Chiefs were leading a seesaw game 20-17, and the Raiders were out of timeouts. And, somehow, mostly thanks to some remarkable play by rookie Jacoby Ford. Ford caught six passes for 148 yards, and also ran a kick-off back for a score.
It was Ford's catch with a handful of seconds remaining, though, that set up a Sebastian Janikowski field goal that amazingly sent the game into overtime. Once the fifth period began, Oakland beat back the Chiefs, and again Ford made a great catch that set up another Janikowski kick and sent the Chiefs packing, 23-20.
The result also tightened up the AFC West, putting the Raiders at 5-4, and the Chiefs at 5-3 in this topsy turvey year.
Now, I am not a Raiders fan again, but, yesterday the team held a memorial for their late QB and kicker, George Blanda, arguably the greatest clutch player in Raider history, and quite possibly the greatest in the history of the NFL.
So more than a few references to the memorial, and the spirit of Blanda shining down on Oakland, who had dropped six straight tough losses to the Chiefs over the previous three seasons prior to throwing the shackles off with yesterday's win.
The Chiefs and Raiders match up one more time at Arrowhead early next year, and it surely could be the winner is the team to advance to the playoffs. And, I for one, don't really think the Raiders have the pieces to stay in the hunt this longs.
But, I did not think they had the horses to get this far and yet, here they are in this crazy league and year. And, with the spirit of Blanda holding court, well, Al Davis or not, I simply would not bet against them.