The Oakland Raiders went 13 years without making the playoffs. In fact, from 2003 to 2015, the Raiders were one of the worst teams in the NFL.
This year, however, they are 10-2 and in the mix for the No. 1 seed in the AFC.
Jack Del Rio has been a big reason why.
“I (told him in New Orleans), ‘There’s a lot of people that know how to play; few know how to win,’” Hall of Fame running back Marcus Allen said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “He says, ‘We’re going to learn how to win this year.’ And you know what? He’s putting them in position to respond, and they’ve come (through). Going for two in New Orleans, that was huge on the road.”
Indeed, the Raiders have gone for two, they’ve gone for it on fourth down – they’ve gone for just about everything.
But what if that two-point conversion against the Saints – which gave Oakland a 35-34 road win in Week 1 – didn’t work? What if the Raiders didn’t get it?
“But they did,” said Allen, who played for the Raiders from 1982-92. “It set a tone and a belief. When your coach has your back like that, you’re willing to do everything for him. What I always hated was when coaches projected their fear onto us. Tiki knows what I’m talking about. (Coaches say), ‘Well, you don’t want to go at this guy.’ No, coach, listen, I don’t want to play this game with one hand tied behind my back. Let’s go at this guy. We can beat this guy. Have faith in me. They get scared and so they don’t call plays because LT (Lawrence Taylor) is over there. I can block LT. Come on.
“But I think the league is better when the Raiders are at the top,” Allen continued. “It makes the league better. Raider Nation is huge. Theres a huge following. They’re great. For so long, they’ve been mired in mediocrity, and now they’re playing well.”
So are the Chiefs (9-3), who host the Raiders on Thursday Night Football at 8:25 p.m. ET. This game may very well determine which team gets a first-round bye in the playoffs, and Allen, who played for the Chiefs from 1903-97, couldn’t be happier.
“It’s either been the Chiefs have been great and the Raiders have been down, or the Raiders have been great or the Chiefs have been down,” Allen said. “But now both are playing well, and to me, it only makes the league better and it heightens the excitement for tonight’s game, which is a playoff game.”
The Chiefs beat the Raiders in Oakland, 26-10, in October in Week 6. The Raiders have since won six straight.
“It’s going to be interesting to see how they respond to the first adversity,” Allen said of the Raiders, who have had to overcome various deficits during their six-game winning streak. “So far, they’ve been excellent, at least offensively they’ve responded. My biggest concern has been defense. On the back end, they’ve given up a lot of big plays. That is what I’m a little nervous about, but I think they’ll be ready to play. I’m looking forward to a great, great game.”