OAKLAND (AP) — There have been a handful of moments over the past two years where it looked as if the Oakland Raiders had finally turned the corner after years of losing.
There have been dramatic comebacks, shocking upsets and streak-busting victories that seemed to portend better times ahead, yet were instead followed with one of the duds that has characterized a seven-year run of losing for a once-proud franchise.
The latest sign of progress comes from one of the most emphatic victories in franchise history, a 59-14 thrashing of rival Denver that was the highest-scoring game in Raiders history.
“It was a big win, but the season doesn’t end after that win,” Pro Bowl cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha said. “So the feeling is there that, ’Look, this is the type of standard that we have set, these are the things that we can do.’ But in order to completely turn the corner we have to put together a string of wins, not get overconfident or complacent in any way and just continue to play at the level that we know we can play at.”
The Raiders (3-4) now look to build on that performance when they return home to face the surprising Seattle Seahawks (4-2), who look like the best team in the NFC West less than halfway into coach Pete Carroll’s first season.
Oakland’s rebuilding job is taking much longer. The Raiders have lost at least 11 games for seven straight seasons — the longest stretch of such futility in NFL history.
But with a win three weeks ago against division rival San Diego and last week’s blowout in Denver, Oakland is showing signs of progress in coach Tom Cable’s second full season at the helm.
“I couldn’t imagine Al Davis liking a regular season win more than that one and the way it happened,” Carroll said. “It was just a fantastic showing by their entire football team. We go into their place with them high-flying and pumped up so we got to really get our game right.”
The Raiders broke out to a 38-0 lead after 22 minutes and didn’t let up. They finished with 328 yards rushing — the third highest total in team history — and held the Broncos potent passing offense in check.
But it was the franchise-record 59 points that caught people’s attention, especially coming one week after being kept out of the end zone in a 17-9 loss at San Francisco.
“Definitely a surprise,” Seattle defensive lineman Colin Cole said. “I was surprised, I know that. I don’t think anybody is expecting to see that kind of number for any game.”
Especially after the debacle in San Francisco when the Raiders were unable to complete a single pass in the second and third quarters and went nearly 35 minutes without a first down.
That’s been a disturbing pattern for the Raiders, who have not won consecutive games since the end of the 2008 season. Oakland is 0-7 following wins the past two years, being outscored by 19 points per game and managing just three touchdowns.
“It’s frustrating because you know you can do it,” defensive lineman Tommy Kelly said. “It’s just going out and doing it week in and week out. That’s kind of been our Achilles’ heel, just doing it week in and week out. Hopefully we can put this week together and get on a little roll.”
The Seahawks are starting to do just that with wins the past two weeks against Chicago and Arizona. Seattle hasn’t won three in a row since 2007 on the way to a fourth straight division title.
They’ve gotten a big boost this season from a surprising source: former Raiders receiver Mike Williams. The former USC star was a draft bust in Detroit before trying to resurrect his career in Oakland.
He was out of shape, with his weight reportedly reaching 271 pounds, and was cut three years ago this weekend. After a brief stint with Tennessee, Williams spent the past two years out of the NFL before getting another chance with his former college coach.
“I wouldn’t say I ever lost the love for the game,” Williams said. “I just kind of lost my way as far as being a pro, and how to be a pro, and things like that. As far as football, football is always going to be important to me.”
Williams leads the Seahawks with 32 catches for 348 yards in just six games, including 21 the past two games. Williams caught only seven passes in six games with the Raiders.
“Things didn’t really work out here,” Raiders cornerback Stanford Routt said. “He was all-world at USC so the dude definitely has talent. You can’t ever overlook that. … He’s bigger, he’s stronger, he’s physical. That’s his M.O. That’s what he brings to the table. I saw it here, and that’s what you see on film in Seattle right now.”
That’s the kind of production the Raiders had hoped to get when they acquired Williams in a trade with Detroit, but it never materialized. Oakland is still looking for a big-play receiver with second-year starters Louis Murphy and Darrius Heyward-Bey offering only inconsistent production.
With Murphy likely sidelined with a bruised chest and lung, the Raiders may need to count on undersized receivers Nick Miller and Jacoby Ford. The 5-foot-9 Miller and 5-10 Ford both got their first career receptions last week when Murphy left early with an injury and Heyward-Bey played only one series because of an illness.
“The coaches call us the Smurfs,” Miller said. “They’re like, ’Oh, the Smurfs are in there.’ They joke around and say that but you guys can call us what you want, I guess.”
(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)