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Graney: Raiders need to play desperate against Cowboys

DALLAS — The Raiders have come to AT&T Stadium — as much entertainment venue as NFL facility — to engage the Cowboys on Thanksgiving Day.

And they better be desperate.

Dallas is used to sharing such a universal spotlight. This will be the 54th time it has been featured on a turkey day game. It’s the eighth such moment for the Raiders, who need to compete and coach as if their season depends on the outcome. It might very well.

The Raiders have lost three straight and looked at times incompetent in doing so. The offense especially has struggled to create any sort of sustained success.

So to suggest there should be an enhanced sense of urgency for the Raiders is to say Cowboys owner Jerry Jones does things in big ways.

“Well, we’ve been fighting,” said Raiders interim head coach Rich Bisaccia. “Fighting to me comes from the soul. It’s the heart of a man. … I feel like we’ve done a good job of battling.

“I don’t see an issue in our effort or our ability to compete until the bitter end. But everyone has their take on it.”

Start fast

Here’s mine:

There are a few schools of thought. First, that no matter how poorly the Raiders have played since beginning the season 5-2, they still remain just 1½ games back of Kansas City in the AFC West. That they still have everything and then some for which to play. That a simple glance at weekly NFL scores proves how fast things can turn in both a positive and negative direction.

Second, that what we witnessed in losses to the Giants, Chiefs and Bengals is the real version of the Raiders. Perhaps not willing, but certainly able to produce another midseason slide and fall out of any playoff contention.

So how do they play like that team that has everything to play for on Thursday?

Be aggressive. Bisaccia needs to be so on fourth down. Greg Olson needs to be so when calling offensive plays. Act as if the hair under those helmets is on fire. Take more than a handful of shots downfield. Air the dang ball out.

Maybe even defensive coordinator Gus Bradley loses his mind and actually blitzes a few times. The horror!

It’s easy. Attack the Cowboys like you might that second helping of mashed potatoes.

“We’d like to think we’re always playing with an edge and a sense of urgency,” Olson said. “I don’t think in pro football — there are so few games and each is equally important — that you can’t. I would hope all of our players have a real sense of urgency every game they suit up.”

But they haven’t. Slow starts have been as common for the Raiders as empty sections of seats at Allegiant Stadium.

Same old story

It’s nothing new. It has been occurring for several years now. They just can’t get untracked following the opening kickoff. In the last eight seasons, they’re 20-40 when the opposing team scores first.

On Sunday, the Raiders were averaging under 4 yards per play until a touchdown drive in the final quarter.

Brutal with a capital B.

“I don’t know the right wording for it, but there is definitely a feeling of ‘enough is enough,’” quarterback Derek Carr said. “We have to win. We’re in the business of winning. You want to make sure you come in and get better. For us, this is a big game because it’s the next game.

“What an opportunity to get back on track, on the road in a hostile environment against a really good football team.”

Show up and be Desperate in Dallas.

That’s the storyline. That’s it.

Ed Graney is a Sigma Delta Chi Award winner for sports column writing and can be reached at egraney@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4618. He can be heard on “The Press Box,” ESPN Radio 100.9 FM and 1100 AM, from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. Monday through Friday. Follow @edgraney on Twitter.

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