A link to my column on Raiders-Vikes. Full text runs below:
You’re flying a beautiful kite on a beautiful day. Sonoma Coast near Sea Ranch. The wind is strong and forces your kite higher and higher. You love the feel of kite tugging hand. When, suddenly, the wind yanks the string out of your hand. Disaster.
The kite pulls free, flees from you, and you stand there with that helpless feeling, seeing it sail away, sail into the horizon, sail to nowhere. Never will you get that kite back.
The Raiders just lost their kite with that 30-14 loss to the Minnesota Vikings. For them, the kite represented hope, their high-flying hope of beating the Vikings, of establishing themselves as a serious team in the league, of declaring themselves a playoff contender. All that.
But that kite has sailed. And now we know the truth. Forgive me for stating the truth: The Oakland Raiders are a nice little team. There’s lots to be said for a nice little team. The Raiders have guts and they play as hard as can be, and they have a quick-strike offense except when they don’t, and they have a reasonable and punishing defense except when they don’t.
But they are not ready for prime time. That’s what Sunday’s game proved. Not long ago, the Raiders’ record was 4-3 and things looked unbelievably promising. Now, the Raiders are suffering through a two-game losing streak, and they have lost more games than they’ve won this season. And they lost at home to a team they could have beaten.
A true contender beats the Vikings. You can complete that syllogism if you want.
The playoffs for the Raiders are fading like the gone kite. Almost certainly have faded until next season. Gone with the wind.
The Vikings game posed several questions for the Raiders and the Raiders, God love them, answered every question in the negative. No, they could not prosper against an elite defense. The Raiders scored no points in the second half. The Raiders had so many chances to win, but they couldn’t win.
And, no, the Raiders defense could not contain an elite runner. Adrian Peterson ran for 203 yards. He was like an over-eater going nuts at an all-you-can-eat buffet, and the buffet was the Raiders defense.
So much of the game was about Raiders quarterback Derek Carr. He is a pleasure to watch, electric in his throwing. Like the Raiders, he almost has arrived, but isn’t there yet.
He threw two touchdowns, but he also threw two interceptions. The Vikings scored after each interception. Bad Derek. Although he said each pick was an exceptional play. Maybe.
I want to praise Carr. I want to praise him over Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. Carr is someone you want and Bridgewater is someone you tolerate. Carr is a gunslinger — a good quarterback needs a gunslinger in him. A good quarterback has to shoot, let it rip. A good quarterback does not wait until the receiver is open. He throws the ball expecting the receiver to get open and meet the ball in the proper place. A good quarterback has faith. Carr has all those wonderful qualities and will become the consummate QB after he learns prudence.
Bridgewater is a man without faith. He does not believe in his arm. Has no confidence he can put the ball into a small space. He does not believe in his receivers. He needs confirmation before he throws. So many times, he dropped back and got ready to pass. But he pulled down the ball and ran left or right and made a safe throw or a bad throw. He is the ultimate game manager — the second coming of Alex Smith.
Carr understands there are more great catches than great throws. Just throw the ball. Let Amari Cooper catch it. Bridgewater hasn’t grasped the concept.
The Raiders need Carr to throw something like four touchdown passes each game. They are not good enough without him going wild. He has thrown 21 TD passes this season. Bridgewater has thrown seven. The Vikings can win with a timid, safety-first QB. The Raiders cannot.
Carr came to the interview room after he had showered and gulped down a bowl of fruit salad. You never can tell if he won or lost. He is a happy soul. Up for things. Up for life.
He gave his philosophy of football and life. “When you lose,” he said, “it’s hard. You’ve got to rely on what you believe in. I continue to stay the same person. My attitude and how I go about my business day to day, I just stay level-headed and keep working. That’s all I know how to do.”
Asked if the loss would be a downer, he said, “We’re absolutely confident in that locker room that we can go out and play well. We can play good football. It’s not always going to be pretty. It’s not always going to be flashy big plays. We’re learning that as we go. We’re very confident. There’s no lack of confidence from player to player or player to coach, none of that. That’s how I know we’re a good football team.”
Jack Del Rio wasn’t as enthusiastic as Carr. Del Rio never is enthusiastic. It’s like he goes through life sucking on a lemon. He is professional and patient but he reveals almost nothing. He is a polite Jim Harbaugh.
About Carr he said, “Derek’s a good player. I like Derek.”
He likes Derek? It’s what you’d call semi-praise. “A good player” is not a great player. “I like Derek” is not I love Derek. For Del Rio, Carr still has something to prove — he does. And Del Rio, who’s been around, doesn’t want to raise the expectations for Carr — he’s young to handle them.
Del Rio said one interesting thing — one interesting thing in an entire news conference. “Every week unfolds differently. It’s a week-to-week league.”
True, it is a week-to-week league. The Raiders are running out of weeks. Not to mention kites.
For more on the world of sports in general and the Bay Area in particular, go to the Cohn Zohn at cohn.blogs.pressdemocrat.com. You can reach Staff Columnist Lowell Cohn at firstname.lastname@example.org.