ALAMEDA — Coach Jack Del Rio spent the week in Florida talking about the need for his Oakland Raiders to get their “mojo” back.
His team responded with a tight win against the struggling Miami Dolphins to send Oakland into the bye week on a good note. Whether that provided enough to build on for a resurgence down the stretch that could get the Raiders (4-5) back into the playoffs remains to be seen.
“I think we had a couple really good practices during the week,” Del Rio said Monday. “There are still things we need to clean up and be better at, really in all three phases. I think what I saw was I saw glimpses of what I know we can be as a football team when we put all three phases together, and that’s really what we’re looking for.”
There were a few good signs for Oakland in the 27-24 win. Marshawn Lynch returned from a suspension for making contact with an official and provided a boost to the running game by carrying 14 times for 57 yards and two touchdowns. Derek Carr once again hit on a couple of deep balls with a 44-yard touchdown to Johnny Holton and a big night with tight end Jared Cook, who had eight catches for 126 yards.
The defense had its struggles, allowing Jay Cutler to complete 81 percent of his passes and throw for 311 yards, while taking only one sack. But Oakland limited the big plays and came up with two key stops following a successful surprise onside kick in the first half and a lost fumble in the second half that gave Miami the ball near midfield.
It added up to Oakland’s second win in three games following a four-game skid that had dealt a major blow to the team’s playoff hopes.
“You want to get hot at the right time,” Del Rio said. “For us, there’s no time like the present.”
The Raiders have a difficult closing stretch that starts with a “home” game in Mexico City on Nov. 19 against the defending champion New England Patriots. Oakland also has a trip to the team with the NFL’s top record, Philadelphia, on Christmas night, and a road game at first-place Kansas City. It also has home games against Dallas, Denver and the New York Giants, along with a season-ending road game against the Chargers.
But this was a good weekend overall for the Raiders, who cut Kansas City’s lead in the AFC West to two games and made up ground on Baltimore and Buffalo, two teams in playoff contention who already had beaten Oakland.
“I’m looking all the time,” Del Rio said. “That’s just the fan aspect, but the professional aspect, we have to just focus on the process of what goes into playing really well, understanding your assignment, being accountable, doing your job, basic stuff. And that’s what we want to keep the focus of our attention.”
The Raiders will hold a couple of practices during the bye week with hopes of developing some of the young players and to begin preparing for the game Nov. 19 in Mexico City against New England.
Oakland will also determine this week whether first-round pick CB Gareon Conley, who has played only two games because of a shin injury, will be able to return or will be shut down for the year.