ALAMEDA, Calif. -- As poor as the Oakland Raiders looked in Mexico City on Sunday in getting embarrassed by the New England Patriots, and as uneven as they have been in going 4-6 through 10 games, they are still in the playoff race.
Raiders coach Jack Del Rio harkened Jesse Jackson when he said he was going to keep hope alive in Mexico City on Sunday night. After all, they are two games behind the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC West, having already defeated them and with another meeting in three weeks, and Oakland is one game off the pace for the second AFC wild-card spot.
"I think it's close and I think we're capable," Del Rio said Monday in his weekly media conference. "We just have to find that spark where it happens."
Yeah, there is more than a smidgen of wishful thinking going on in Silver and Blackdom.
Because, what, exactly, have the Raiders shown of late to give anyone a sense that they can and will pull out of this nosedive as one of the most disappointing and underachieving teams in the NFL?
Del Rio pointed to two specific plays in the first half of an eventual 33-8 loss to the Patriots that -- had they not occurred or gone the other way -- might have led to a different game.
First was a "highly questionable" defensive holding call on rookie inside linebacker Nicholas Morrow away from an incomplete pass on third-and-6 from the Raiders 24-yard line on New England's first possession. The flag gave the Patriots a fresh set of downs, rather than New England attempting a 42-yard field goal. Two plays later, Tom Brady threw a TD pass.
Second was Seth Roberts trying to extend a play inside the Patriots' 5-yard line with 33 seconds to play in the first half and, instead of going down, wildly spun around with the ball extended. His lost fumble was a potential 10-point swing as -- instead of the Raiders potentially closing to within 14-7 at halftime -- they saw Stephen Gostkowski boot a 62-yard field goal at 7,200 feet to give New England a 17-0 halftime lead.
"So those two plays right there," Del Rio said, "if you can just change those two, completely different feel at halftime."
The Patriots then took the kickoff to start the second half and scored a touchdown.
"That's about a 17-point swing, and that's what occurred," Del Rio said. "What you can't do is lose your mind over things. You have to keep your wits about yourself and we’re going to do that. I think would've, could've and should'ves, you don't get those.
"But I will say that it's a completely different ball game if the third-down conversion they got by penalty on the hold on [Morrow], which is highly questionable in my opinion, (is not called)."
Said Raiders quarterback Derek Carr: "Any time you turn the ball over and then they can get the ball right before the half and go score, then get the ball back again in the second half, it's a good thing for that team."
The turnover margin is also huge. Last year, the Raiders finished tied for the league lead at plus-16. Through 10 games, they are at minus-9.
Or, in a clearly unscientific way of explaining how a 12-4 team is now 4-6, nearly every single break went their way last season while this seaspn, not a single one has.
"Those are things that when you're making them and you're clicking, the entire game changes -- the way it looks, the way it feels," Del Rio said. "We weren't good enough yesterday, clearly, but ... you look up, where are we?
"There's six games left, so there's a lot of hope. For me it's about going forward with today's opportunity to get better and just take it one day at a time. Look to get better. Keep our wits about us. Stay strong. Be men of character and show up and do the right things every day and keep believing that it’s possible."