After practically living in hotels and airplanes since mid-September, the Oakland Raiders are finally coming home.
With trips to Minnesota, Indianapolis, Green Bay, and Houston – oh, and an international jaunt to London thrown in for good measure – now in the rearview mirror, Head Coach Jon's Gruden is returning to the Bay Area, and they'll be sticking around for a while.
Well, three weeks, anyway.
And While Gruden wasn't shy about vocalizing his feelings regarding the never-ending road trip over the past month-and-a-half, the fact remains that the Raiders' head coach is pleased with what he's seen from his young team, even on the heels of a 27-24 loss to the Houston Texans.
"I feel pretty good," said Gruden postgame when asked about the state of his team. "I feel pretty good about the progress we're making, and I'm going to continue to beat that drum. We're building our team around a lot of young players who are playing critical roles. Really proud of our young players. That doesn't mean we're a finished product. We want to win some of these tight games, so we'll continue to work hard. We know the Lions are another team coming off a big win today. They'll be a handful. We have to get better in tall three phases, and it starts with me."
The Silver and Black went 2-3 on their early-season journey, and with an overall record of 3-4, there's far from a sense of panic inside the Raiders' locker room.
"The league did what they did with the schedule, and for the most part we did really well sticking it out and hanging in there," Lamarcus Joyner explained. "Nobody expected for us to be 3-4 right now, I mean, I'm pretty sure everybody laughed at us, and thought we would win zero games, but we're going to keep going. Ain't no love lost. We still believe, we still [have] hope. We're going to be good."
"It hurts a lot because we could have won – I think we could have won every single game [on the road trip]," Maxx Crosby added. "That's the tough part about it, but it's one week at a time. We have to get refocused. We have a huge game coming up at home. We have to get a win, so looking back, I feel like we did some good things, but there's definitely some things we can correct, and get better on. The second half of the season is about to start."
As Crosby said, there are certainly things the Raiders can get better at as they approach the midway point of the 2019 campaign – cutting down on penalties and consistently getting after the quarterback are two areas that come to mind – but the fact remains that the group battled through an insane portion of their schedule, and on paper anyway, there appears to be some relief on the horizon.
The team's next three games are back inside the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum – all against teams currently at or below .500 – and the Raiders won't get on another airplane again until late-November in advance of their Week 12 game against the now 1-6 New York Jets.
That said, the Silver and Black will have to take advantage of the time at home and put together some wins if they want to play meaningful football in December, and while games like Sunday's three-point loss sting, they aren't lost as teaching opportunities.
"You learn from games like this," Hunter Renfrow said. "There's going to be a winner, and there's going to be a loser, and we're going to have a chance to go make those plays that it takes to win later in the season. There's going to be a game just like this, Week 12, 13, 14, and it's going to be another one, there's going to be another opportunity to go finish a game, and so we have to learn from it, and we have to get in and see what we did wrong."
Check into NRG Stadium to see an exclusive look at photos from the Raiders' Week 8 game against the Houston Texans.
Although the Raiders currently sit a game under .500, in a league that has been far from predictable in 2019, the group still has everything they want to achieve in front of them, but the key to keeping those aspirations alive will be handling business back at home.
"It's a good feeling. We've been traveling all over the place," Crosby said when asked about the upcoming slate of home games. "We need to go home and give our fans what they deserve."
And for Crosby and the rest of the Raiders, that opportunity will come in the form of a Week 9 matchup against Matthew Stafford and the Detroit Lions.
Kickoff is scheduled for 1:05 pm PT.