Challenge to Oakland Raiders. Get tough. For once, get tough. Get tough against the Indianapolis Colts, who are no big deal. Just get tough.
Seems like an insulting challenge, right? You think you’re tough. You’ve proven that. You’re a spectacular 11-3. You are the surprise of the NFL. The darlings of the NFL. And you already have qualified for the postseason, so what’s the complaint?
Just this — you’re not tough.
Sure, you have 11 wins, but you almost never put away a team. You let teams hang around, give teams extra chances to beat you. With you guys it almost always comes down to the fourth quarter. You’ve won most of those close, heart-thumping games, but when it counts — say, in the playoffs — you might lose a close game. Bad things happen in the playoffs. You need to take charge. Until now, you’ve been leading a charmed life.
Raiders, you’ve got to start putting teams away. Sorry for the nasty image here — but you have to step on opponents’ throats and refuse to let them up. Step on their throats early. That’s football. That’s winning football.
Last Sunday against the Chargers, you allowed that ordinary team to hang around, that team with nothing to play for. And the Chargers did hang around and you had to pull out the win at the end — a field goal with 2:40 left in the fourth quarter. Sure, a win is a win, but that win was not impressive. You can’t play like that in the postseason. If you do, you could lose.
Hey, Raiders, congrats on your 11-3 record, but you aren’t as good as that record. Some of your games could have gone the other way. You live too dangerously. You put yourselves in danger. Needless danger. Get tough. Especially on offense.
Your running game is a finesse running game. Spare us the finesse. It’s all fancy cuts by the backs and zone blocks by the linemen. Not how you put away a team, not how you wear down an opponent.
You need to dominate physically — a cliché way to put it. Call it football-speak. It means you need to knock the snot out of the opposing defense. OK? It means your offensive linemen take the will to fight away from the opponent’s defensive linemen. Your line knocks them back and makes them cry uncle. Or just plain cry.
Do this to the Colts. Let’s see you do it.
The Colts are ready for a fall. Ready to quit in the first quarter if you give them the incentive, if you beat them up at the line. Their playoff chances are hanging by a thread. They may be phoning it in. Cut their phone line.
Can you do that?
Can you sustain long, time-consuming, powerful, painful drives? Can you keep their offense off the field? You don’t want Colts quarterback Andrew Luck to get into his groove. Risky, that. You don’t want receiver T.Y. Hilton to go crazy — he can. And you sure don’t want Frank Gore — an old favorite around here — to stick it to you. He can.