Senior NFL Columnist

Flat loss raises questions about fate of inconsistent Raiders


MIAMI -- Take a deep breath, one of those aroma-smelling breaths, and then imagine you smell a crate of dead fish washed up on South Beach.

Now you know how it felt watching the Oakland Raiders Sunday.

Man, was that putrid.

The Raiders' motto is Commitment to Excellence? This was more like Commitment to Excrement.

The Raiders fell behind the Miami Dolphins 34-0, scored two late garbage touchdowns to make it 34-14 and then left Sun Life Stadium for a cross-country trip that has to have them wondering who they are as a football team.

Do you know who they are? Trying to figure out who they are as a team is harder than figuring out who owns them now that Al Davis has passed.

"Bad day at the office all the way around," Raiders coach Hue Jackson said after the game.

This was a Raiders team that came in off back-to-back impressive victories, was in first place in the AFC West, and had those wondering about the trade to get Carson Palmer suddenly re-visit the idea that it wasn't a good move.

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After Sunday, they might be questioning it again.

Palmer spent the first three quarters doing nothing, was picked for a touchdown, and the Raiders were dominated. He did throw two meaningless touchdown passes, which Jackson said were to help get Palmer some more needed work.

Asked about what those two scores meant, Palmer replied honestly.

"Nothing," he said.

Palmer finished with 273 yards passing, but he was off target most of the day, at least until the game got out of reach. The throw that Kevin Burnett picked off for a 34-yard touchdown return to make it 34-0 was about as elementary a read as you can make.

The Dolphins came in 3-8, but had won three of four and played well for the past six weeks. And this was a long trip for the Raiders. And they did have linebacker Rolando McClain get arrested this week in Alabama on misdemeanor assault, firearms and other charges.

McClain was in Alabama for the funeral of his grandfather, and did have an ankle injury, but he was active Sunday. He didn't start because of what Jackson said was the team's package on the first two downs, but he did play a lot and finished with a team-high eight tackles.

When asked if the long trip or McClain's arrest had anything to do with the game, Jackson said it didn't factor.

"That has nothing to do with getting beat like we just go beat," Jackson said. "We just got beat."

The Raiders were playing without three players who would be competitive on 4X100-meter relay team. They were without star runner Darren McFadden and starting receivers Denarius Moore and Jacob Ford. All three can fly.

That led to Miami squatting on a lot of routes, but also concentrating on stopping running back Michael Bush. He was held 18 yards on 10 carries.

"We just got physically beat today, which is discouraging," Palmer said.

Miami ran for 209 yards with Reggie Bush leading the way with 100 and rookie Daniel Thomas chipping in with 73 yards.

"Let's just say it was embarrassing," Raiders linebacker Aaron Curry said.

The Raiders are now tied for first in the AFC West with the Denver Broncos at 7-5. The Broncos have won six of seven with Tim Tebow at quarterback and have made for what should be an interesting race the rest of the way.

What has to be perplexing for the Raider Nation is trying to figure what Raiders team will show up. They're 4-2 on the road, so this loss wasn't the norm. Yet they have a reputation for inconsistency.

Who are they?

I asked several players that question, and they all shook their heads, paused for a second, and really had no answer.

"I just know we have to get back to work Monday to fix it," Raiders tackle Khalif Barnes said.

It won't be easy. They have the Green Bay Packers next week at Lambeau Field. That's a much tougher road game than the one they played Sunday.

"There's no excuses," Jackson said. "It'd be easy for me to say a lot of things. I'm not going to. This is the National Football League. We have good players in that room and our good players have to play good every week. And we didn't do that today. So at the end of the day, it starts with me and filters down to them."

Just stink, baby. You can probably smell the Raiders from where you are if you try hard enough.

Pete Prisco has covered the NFL for three decades, including working as a beat reporter in Jacksonville for the Jaguars. He hosted his own radio show for seven years, and is the self-anointed star of CBS Sports' show, Eye on Football. When he's not watching game tape, you can find Pete on Twitter or dreaming of an Arizona State national title in football.

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