DENVER -- As ugly as 0-2 is compared to 1-1, and as downcast as the Oakland Raiders' locker room was following their heartbreaking 20-19 loss to the Denver Broncos on Sunday, there was no sense of impending doom.
Not yet, anyway. Not with a certain sense of optimism percolating about.
“We’re this close,” said quarterback Derek Carr, holding his thumb millimeters from his pointer finger.
And indeed, there were many positives to glean from the defeat, such as Carr completing 29 of 32 passes for 288 yards, including a 20-yard touchdown pass.
Or Amari Cooper, a week after catching one pass for 9 yards, going for 10 receptions, on 10 targets, for 116 yards.
Alas, the only numbers that really count are the ones on the scoreboard when the clock hits 0:00, right?
"A tough loss," said coach Jon Gruden, who is riding a personal six-game losing streak dating to 2008. "I'm really proud of our team. We had opportunities. ... I look forward to the [better] days ahead. Hopefully, there's several."
And still ...
There were about 10 plays in the game where if a single one of them went the Raiders’ way, they walk away from Broncos Stadium at Mile High with the victory.
“We have to find ways to get better,” said right tackle Donald Penn, who gave up a sack to Von Miller and was also beaten when the Broncos blocked an extra-point attempt that proved to be the difference in the game.
“That’s what makes good teams, or mediocre teams. Right now, we’re a mediocre team.”
From defensive end Bruce Irvin getting called for unsportsmanlike conduct on third down to keep a Broncos touchdown drive alive ...
To fullback Keith Smith dropping a pass that would have been a big gainer on fourth-and-1 ...
To Cooper being called for offensive pass interference on a deep ball down the right sideline, with Broncos cornerback Bradley Roby getting flagged for defensive pass interference, and the penalties offsetting and wiping out Cooper’s 29-yard pickup to the Broncos’ 31-yard line ...
To tight end Jared Cook’s false start on second-and-4 at midfield to help stall a drive ...
And on and on ...
“It’s got to be more about desire and will,” Irvin said. “Guys have to dig deep and try to fight, whether we’re tired or dealing with an injury. We’ve got to just dig deep and finish the game. I think it will get better, though."
You caught that, right? The whole silver (and black) lining for the Raiders?
After all, the Raiders' defense dominated the Broncos in the first half, forcing three-and-outs on four of Denver’s first five possessions, while shutting them out and Oakland holding a 12-0 lead at halftime.
The Raiders led the Los Angeles Rams 13-10 at intermission last Monday.
“The team that’s most prepared is the team that’s going to win the game,” Cooper said. “Luck plays a factor sometimes, but we need to go out there and find a way to win.”
The talent is there -- it just seems like the Raiders have to relearn how to win again, two years after going 12-4, a year after last season’s 6-10 fall from grace.
These things happen when the roster is overhauled to the tune of only 10 of 50 draft picks from 2012 through 2017 still being on the team, and 33 of the players on the current 53-man roster having not spent a single day on the 53-man last season.
It gets no easier for the Raiders, with a cross-country trip to Miami up next to face a 2-0 Dolphins team with a defense almost as stifling as the South Florida humidity.
“We’re going to have days where I’m going to throw three picks or I’m going to throw five touchdowns; I’ve done both,” Carr said. “We have to play level-headed and, as a team, stay together, push forward and grind this week in practice. There’s no other recipe for getting better.
“We don’t have a team that is lacking in effort or lacking in talent. We have great guys, veteran guys that work and grind through tough times, and the good times are coming. ... I know they are. We have a good group and we are working too hard for it not to happen.”