During the night telecast of the Monday night opening double-header between two bitter AFC West rivals, something ESPN analyst Trent Dilfer said caught not only my attention, but I’m sure a lot of other residents of Raider Nation as well.
Dilfer assumed that of the Raiders’ penalty-filled night, scuffles and aggressive nature meant that the team lacked discipline. Granted the 15 penalties for 131 yards were deserved, I argued that it was exactly what this team needed.
Many forget that there was actually no NFL preseason this year. For Dilfer to assume that a clean-fought game was to be expected in week one was ludicrous.
While there was no overwhelming evidence of penalties in the other week one games, the talk of the NFL after one week centered around ballooned passing yards. Tom Brady passed for over 500 yards and Chad Henne, the other quarterback in the game passed for over 400 yards (Chad Henne everybody! Who saw that coming?). This further explains that not only are the players still adjusting to the shortened off-season, but the coaches are still making the correct adjustments needed to become successful this season.
In Dilfer’s defense, he stated that the Raiders are a talented bunch and that after addressing these correctable behaviors, the team will be well on their way to a division crown and deep into the playoffs. But what if this behavior is inherently born out of the mystique that we have come to know as the Raiders? Can you take the bite out of the dog? That’s like telling Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryant to pass the ball with time winding down in the game.
Brashness defines the Raiders not only as a team, but as an organization as well.
I argue that it was this same brashness that the Raiders played with against the Broncos that propelled them to win the game. It’s the same confidence and self-assurance that enabled Sebastian Janikowski tie the record for the longest field goal in league history.. It’s the same swagger that Shane Lechler displayed when he pinned the Broncos deep into their territory (Raiders have the best special teams in the league, no question). And it’s the same punishing attitude that Darren McFadden displayed at the end of his runs Monday night. On this night, the Raiders weren’t intimated by the Broncos heavy hitters of Brian Dawkins, Von Miller, Elvis Dumervil and whoever else got in the way. Attitude is more than just the pregame actions and chest bumps, its born out of purpose and this team bled that sense of purpose, as evident from the head coach on down.
Dilfer and other analysts will tell you that the Raiders need to correct their attitude, but we, Raider fans know that they won because of this attitude. It was a tough and sloppy game, from both sides, but attitude won outright that night. And attitude will continue to carry this team in 2011.