Raiders simply not ready for big stage

"I think they've got some guys in here they can build with going forward," Charles Woodson said. AP Photo/Tim Sharp

ARLINGTON, Texas -- At least four times following the Oakland Raiders' gut-punch 31-24 loss to the Dallas Cowboys, Charles Woodson referenced the future and spoke of the Raiders as “they” in said tense.

As in, “they” will be without his services in the future.

Shocking? It should not be. Woodson is a 16-year veteran on a one-year contract in his second tour of duty with the Raiders. A future Hall of Famer who has to be just torn apart by Oakland's weekly meltdowns.

The Raiders (4-8) have dropped no fewer than five shockingly winnable games thus far -- the season opener at Indianapolis, the Matt Flynn game against Washington, the Terrelle Pryor knee-gate collapse at the New York Giants, the home pratfall against Tennessee last week and this Turkey Day flop against the Cowboys.

The rebuild continues in Oakland, and the Raiders, to be blunt, are just not ready for the bright lights and the big stage.

Paging Woodson ...

“I just don't think we're quite there yet, as a team, but we've got some guys that will fight,” he said. “That's great to see. Going forward they've got a lot to be happy about, as far as guys that they have, that they can build on, as far as the upcoming seasons to get this thing turned around.”

Did you catch it? Here's another ...

“Offensively, we feel like they gave us enough to win, early on,” Woodson said of the 21-7 lead the Raiders held with 1:56 to play in the first half.

“When you get leads, you've got to hold on to those leads to come out with victories. We haven't learned how to do that yet. Like I said, I think they've got a great group of guys, some guys here that they can build on and get better.”

OK, you had to see that one, right?

“We just ain't quite there yet, ain't figured out how to finish it off yet, you know?” Woodson added. “But like I said, we've got guys here, I feel like, they can build on, build with going into the future. I know what these guys go through every day to get out on that field before the game, just the pain that they've got to get through. It's fun to go out there and fight with guys like that.”

Alas, it was not simply a matter of the Raiders getting worn down by the Cowboys; it was also Oakland's lack of quality depth getting exposed.

Look, Woodson is no fool. The free safety chooses his words carefully, and if he has a point to make, he makes sure you get it.

And, really, the way coach Dennis Allen put it, the Cowboys simply beat the Raiders. No ifs, ands or buts about it, and the seeming lack of adjustments by Oakland's coaching staff after halftime was exacerbated by injuries.

“It's a challenge,” Allen said. “Listen, we made a lot of adjustments. We called everything we had in the [defensive] playbook. They were able to block us, and we weren't able to tackle as well as we needed to. So therefore, they were able to keep the ball.”

Consider: After the Raiders took that ill-fated 21-7 lead, they allowed touchdown-scoring drives of 73, 87 and 65 yards on the Cowboys' next three possessions. And in that time frame, Oakland's offense mustered but one first down.

Of course, the critics fillet Allen and defensive coordinator Jason Tarver for going into a passive zone defense after going up 21-7, the approach seemingly energizing the Cowboys while softening up the Raiders.

But Allen insisted they did not change, and if there was a switch, it was “nothing spectacular,” defensive end Lamarr Houston said.

Yet Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo, who started out just 6-for-13 before that last drive of the first half, finished 17-for-19, including 12-of-12 after halftime.

He carved up the Raiders with passes underneath. None of his second-half throws traveled more than 14 yards past the line of scrimmage, according to ESPN Stats & Info. Romo also diced Oakland up when the Raiders brought pressure, completing all seven passes when there were at least five pass-rushers in the second half.

“The excuses are everywhere; you don't have to look hard to find them,” said linebacker Kevin Burnett, a former Cowboy who nonetheless said he would not use an excuse and pointed to himself for missing a third-down tackle on Jason Witten during the Cowboys' game-winning drive.

Then maybe just take a look at Oakland's offense in the second half, or lack thereof.

The Raiders were 7-of-9 in converting third downs in the first half; 0-for-4 in the second half. Matt McGloin was 11-of-15 passing before halftime, 7-of-15 after the half.

“That was only one half of football,” Burnett said. “Great teams adjust. We didn't adjust when we had to. It's nothing that can be coached. The coaches put us in perfect plays and we didn't tackle. That's what it boils down to.

“We'll hit them in the backfield and we'll have six guys around him and we'll let him go. That starts with myself ... everybody has to be accountable.”

Burnett is one of just five current starters on defense who are under contract for next season, along with rookie defensive tackle Stacy McGee, rookie linebacker Sio Moore, linebacker Nick Roach and safety Brandian Ross.

Time for some more Woodson knowledge then, right?

“We don't want to sit and make excuses about anything,” Woodson concluded. “The opportunity was there ... trust is one thing you've got to figure out as a team, but like I said, I think they've got some guys in here they can build with going forward, and get this thing turned around.”

Just not at the moment.