What a game.
There simply isn't a better way to describe the Oakland Raiders one-point victory over the New Orleans Saints Sunday at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Heading into the Week 1 matchup, there was a lot of buzz surrounding the Silver and Black. The free agency acquisitions in the offseason, solid draft picks, combined with the guidance of Head Coach Jack Del Rio have conjured high expectations for the group.
Through training camp and the offseason, Del Rio has preached the mantra "return to greatness." In his second year as head coach of the Raiders, he has instilled a grinder mentality within the team, and it showed Sunday.
After trailing by 14 points in the second half, the Raiders got the wheels back on track with some big plays, one of which would be the game-winner. They battled their way back to tighten the score to 34-33, and with 47 seconds left in the game, the Raiders found the end zone on a touchdown pass to wide receiver Seth Roberts. The big decision came when Del Rio opted to go for the two-point conversion following the score. The decision to go for two, and attempt to win the game, said a lot about the trust he has in the team.
It might be easy to sit back and think that this was a gutsy call, but wide receiver Michael Crabtree disagreed.
"It wasn't a gutsy call at all, not at all. He [Coach Del Rio] has a lot of trust in us, and we have a lot of trust in him," said Crabtree. "I mean when you put in so much work in camp and in the preseason, I feel like all we have to do as players is execute."
Execute they did, and in the closing moments of the game, quarterback Derek Carr threw a well-placed pass on a fade route to Crabtree who was able to bring down the highly-contested pass for the two-point conversion.
What would become the game-winning play conveyed a lot about the trust and belief the players and coaches have in each other.
"This year, we are talking about learning how to win, learning how to close these games, sticking together and making plays at the end," said Del Rio. "I am really proud of our guys, really happy for them."
The last time the Silver and Black came back to win a game after a 14-point deficit was September 10, 2000, against the Indianapolis Colts. In order to succeed, teams must have chemistry, and a desire to buy in to one another, along with the coach's vision.
"Coach Del Rio came up to me and told me, 'we are doing to go for two.' And I just said, 'OK, no problem'," said Carr. "It is just that kind of belief and that kind of trust, for a coach to believe in us like that."
The Raiders have put in the work through the offseason, they have studied relentlessly, and are hungry to win. The team is young, but under Del Rio and the coaching staff, they are growing as a unit, with trust and belief in one another.