TAMPA – Here’s the ultimate sign that you’re becoming a good football team.
You can play bad football – no, make that the worst football you’re capable of playing – and still get a win. That’s what the Oakland Raiders did in a 30-24 victory Sunday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who officially qualify as a bad team.
You want more evidence that the Raiders, 6-2, might be better than they’ve been in a long time? Here you go. The National Football League has been in existence since 1920. Until Sunday, the record number of penalties by one team in a single game was 22. It now is 23 (for 200 yards). Oakland’s flag fest set an all-time league record – and the Raiders still won.
Oakland coach Jack Del Rio had a statement that sounded crazy at first but made perfect sense as it set in.
“The way we operated was like a professional football team should operate,’’ Del Rio said.
Think about it a little and it’s ludicrous, given the sheer volume of penalties. Think about it a lot and it makes total sense: Del Rio simply was saying you sometimes have to overcome adversity – lots of it – to win.
The Raiders faced more than their share of adversity. Everything that could go wrong did. Quarterback Derek Carr started off shaky but heated up at the end.
“Our quarterback made a ton of plays today,’’ Del Rio said.
After starting jout 9-of-14 for 134 yards in the first half, Carr had a monster second half and overtime. He finished with 40 completions on 59 attempts for 513 yards and four touchdowns. He saved his best play for the last play of the game. He threw a 41-yard touchdown pass to Seth Roberts to break the tie and give the Raiders the win.
But before that, the Raiders faced adversity in almost every aspect of the game. Their defensive backs made some early mistakes, and cornerback Sean Smith was injured early and did not return to the game. After that, things got really weird. Sebastian Janikowski, one of the most accurate kickers in the league, missed two field goals.
“For us, it’s all about finding a way to win, whatever it takes,’’ Del Rio said. “We want to come out of here with a smile on our face. I thought the way we played all week was really good.’’
The victory was Oakland’s second on a Florida road trip. A week before edging the Bucs, the Raiders beat Jacksonville.
Perhaps the happiest player was Oakland offensive tackle Donald Penn, who spent eight years with Tampa Bay. He caught a touchdown pass on a tackle-eligible play.
“It felt good to come out and win,’’ Penn said. “We just kept fighting. We had a lot of stuff going against us. We just kept fighting, fighting, fighting, and it’s starting to show.’’
Penn also was celebrating the win, but he said he especially enjoyed sending a message to the Bucs with his touchdown.
“I had to let them know they made a big mistake,’’ Penn said. “I had to let them know I’m back. Look at my play.’’
You can make the argument that the Bucs made a mistake letting Penn go. You can also argue that on this day, the Raiders made more mistakes – and still won.