ALAMEDA (CBS / AP) — The bright lights and national television audience that comes from a prime-time game seems to bring out the worst in the Oakland Raiders.
One constant during a long stretch of losing for the Raiders has been a failure to win on the prime-time stage. There have been a few heartbreakers and more than their share of blowouts, but no prime-time wins for Oakland since 2004.
“You want to go out and, because it’s prime time and everybody gets to see it, you want to play good,” Raiders defensive tackle Tommy Kelly said Monday. “But in the past, I know as long as I’ve been here, we haven’t played good on prime time. So this is another opportunity.”
The Raiders open their season Monday night in Denver against the division rival Broncos, their fifth season-opening prime-time game in the past seven years. Oakland has lost all of them, part of a troubling trend for a franchise that used to thrive on that stage.
The Raiders once won 14 straight Monday night games back when the series was at the height of its popularity starting in the mid-1970s. But Oakland has lost its last 11 appearances in prime time, dating to the start of the 2005 season, being outscored 175-53 over the last six games.
“This is what I know. This is 2011,” coach Hue Jackson said. “The Raiders and the Denver Broncos on Monday night in their stadium. That’s all I know. What’s gone on here in the past, I can’t speak about it, worry about. I’m just worried about this upcoming Monday night.”
Their last prime-time win came on Nov. 28, 2004, when they beat the Broncos 25-24 on a snowy Sunday night in Denver that featured a spectacular one-handed touchdown catch by Ronald Curry. Their last Monday night win came in their Super Bowl season in 2002, when they beat the Jets 26-20 on Dec. 2.
The Raiders have often been at their worst in season openers under the bright lights of a nationally televised game. They lost a Thursday night opener in New England 30-20 in 2005 against the defending-champion Patriots.
The following year, the Art Shell coaching era got started with a 27-0 loss to the Chargers that was indicative of what was to come in a 2-14 season. The Raiders allowed nine sacks and gained just 129 yards as they were completely overmatched by San Diego’s pressure.
The problems came on the other side of the ball in the opener two years later in a 41-14 home loss to Denver. Jay Cutler threw for 300 yards and the Broncos gained 441 in all. Coach Lane Kiffin washed his hands of that performance, saying coordinator Rob Ryan and owner Al Davis run the defense, contributing to his firing a few weeks later.
Oakland fared a little better the following year before losing a 24-20 heartbreaker at home to San Diego. JaMarcus Russell had given the Raiders a 20-17 lead with a 57-yard touchdown pass to rookie Louis Murphy with 2:34 left, before Philip Rivers drove the Chargers down for the winning score with 18 seconds left.
The Raiders haven’t played a prime-time game since then, being denied the showcase last year based on a run of seven straight seasons with at least 11 losses.
Jackson is moving practice to night time later this week, starting at 7:15 p.m. on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday night under temporary lights to acclimate the players to the same starting time for the opener.
“I don’t know if it’s going to light up like Christmas, but I know one thing, we’re going to be able to see each other, I promise you that,” Jackson said. “Our organization is willing to do whatever we need to, whatever I think we need to do, to help us win a football game. And thanks to them, that’s what we’re going to do this week.”
Former coach Tom Cable tried that tactic for the opener two years ago without success. The players mostly shrugged off the change, saying they just follow orders.
“That’s what they got us scheduled for, so we just got to go out there and do it, no matter what,” cornerback Stanford Routt said. “Whatever helps us win. If that helps us win, there you go.”
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