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Reggie Nelson on Tom Brady: 'He's the best'

ALAMEDA, Calif. -- How do you miss something you never really had in the first place?

Of course, we're referencing the Oakland Raiders' first-round draft pick, cornerback Gareon Conley, and how he was put on season-ending injured reserve Monday after appearing in only two games this season, none since Week 3.

And yet the Raiders' spent the bye week wondering -- hoping even -- whether Conley's troublesome right shin would heal enough that he would be ready to contribute for a potential late-season run.

Yes, even free safety Reggie Nelson was unaware Conley was on IR when told by reporters in the locker room Tuesday.

Now, Oakland's depleted secondary trudges on for Sunday's meeting in Mexico City with the defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots and quarterback Tom Brady.

"He's the best," Nelson said of Brady. "He's the best at what he do. I mean, who's going to argue that?"

And how did you spend your bye week?

Surely not looking at these stats ... because while Conley leaves tied for the team lead in interceptions with zero (that is not a typo), three Raiders cornerbacks entered last weekend with the three worst Pro Football Focus passer ratings allowed when targeted among the 115 cornerbacks with at least 100 pass snaps in coverage: No. 113 Dexter McDonald (128.0), No. 114 Sean Smith (133.6) and No. 115 David Amerson (156.3).

But not all is negative for the Raiders' secondary. At least, you would have to think the bye gave the DBs time to rest up and heal, from Amerson, who sat out the past two games because of a foot injury, to strong safety Karl Joseph, who played in Miami banged up after sitting out the previous game because of a groin issue. Plus, TJ Carrie has been a pleasant surprise at cornerback, his four passes defensed and 82.0 coverage grade leading Oakland.

Intimidated by Brady and the Patriots' No. 1 offense (409.4 yards per game) and No. 1 passing offense (301.6 yards per game)? Not Carrie, who was all of 11 years old when the Tuck Rule game happened.

"I just think that we'll put on our shoes the same way," Carrie said. "And I think that if you put somebody on a bigger pedestal than what it may seem, then you're already losing that battle.

"Of course we respect the Patriots. But at the same time, they suit up just like we suit up."

Yes, the raw talent on the 4-5 Raiders roster gives Carrie confidence, and coach Jack Del Rio has said he thought it would take a 10-6 record to sniff the postseason. That means going 6-1 the rest of the way.

"This is a game," Carrie said of facing the Patriots in Mexico City, "where few mistakes can be made in order to really be able to go out there and execute."

Added Nelson: "We know what position we're in. We're well aware of what's been going on. Playoffs [have] been started."