For the 2019 Oakland Raiders to be the kind of team that they ultimately want to be – a group that plays meaningful football in December, January, and hopefully a little longer – they have to win games like Sunday's 17-10 clash against the Cincinnati Bengals.
Zac Taylor's group flew into Oakland without a win to their name – they left the same way Sunday evening – and while the Raiders' Week 11 win wasn't their prettiest of 2019, it was one just as meaningful as the previous five.
"You'd love to be as precise as possible, but we're human beings at the end of the day," said Darren Waller postgame. "Things aren't going to go as scripted always, and you can't just shut down or start panicking when it doesn't go that way, you just have to lock in, and not worry about what people may say…You can't just count a win in the NFL. That's dead serious."
As Waller alluded, things weren't perfect for the Silver and Black at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum; they gave up 173 rushing yards, and didn't capitalize on all their chances offensively, but nevertheless, with the seven-point win, Head Coach Jon Gruden's team improved to 6-4, and remained squarely in the AFC playoff picture headed into Week 12.
Perhaps most importantly though, they held serve at the OACC, and finished their three-game homestand – following an unprecedented road trip around the world – undefeated.
"We came off one of the most incredible road trips ever, in the history of the NFL, and we played not only on the road, we played in foreign countries, and across the world, it seemed like every week," Head Coach Jon Gruden said. "We came back, and we did what we had to do, if we wanted to try to get in this thing. We still have a long way to go. We're building our team. I want to keep emphasizing that. We're not a finished product by any stretch, but we're competing hard, and we're finding ways to win, and our fans are super. They really help us out."
"A schedule like that, it's set up for you to fail," Waller added, "But we came out and we fought through it, and we're still here. We're still standing, so it's like, alright, we can do anything now."
That belief has been contagious, as all three phases of the game for the Silver and Black have played an improved brand of football since arriving back in the Bay Area.
So, what has been the difference that has assisted in propelling the Raiders from a team two games under .500 to one that's 6-4 and squarely in the mix of the postseason picture?
"I do believe it's something different that I noticed; a lot of guys are starting to bond together, start talking to each other a lot more, get familiar with each other," Trayvon Mullen explained. "We got guys that roll in each week we got new faces, and you just have to keep everybody on the same page, keep the family organization together, and just continue to move from there."
While the chance for some home cooking was exactly what the Raiders needed at the time, they'll now head back out on the road for two games; next week's matchup against the New York Jets followed by a Week 13 tilt against the Kansas City Chiefs that will likely have major implications for the AFC West.
But, right now, the Silver and Black will enjoy their hard-fought win, and enjoy their spoils from a Sunday that wasn't always pretty, but one they needed to have result in a tally in the win column.
"It's been awesome." Mullen said. "We've been having guys go down, having guys step up and play a big role. The guys that we have are so passionate. They love the game. We love each other. We just play with passion, and we just play hard and physical, communicate with each other. I think that's the best thing that got us to this point."
The final destination for the 2019 Raiders remains to be seen, but with a three-game winning streak in tow, the group is exactly where it wants to be.
Check out photos from the Raiders' Week 11 home game against the Cincinnati Bengals at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum.