With Raider prospects dwindling to a precious few, Coach Tom Flores sat by himself at 6 a.m. Monday in El Segundo, running Sunday's game film and watching his team drop to 3-4 again. And again. And again.
"All by myself, just sitting there watching it," Flores said later Monday. "Everything comes alive again. All the heartaches and things that make the game sort of a roller coaster sometimes.
"When we tied it, I was really excited about it. I thought, 'This is great. We're in great shape. The game will go into overtime and we're going to win it. This will be a good win for us, coming from behind on the road.'
"Then all of a sudden, the very first play, they click off 40 yards."
Flores said he just can't pinpoint why his team seems to play in spurts, but let's assume he's just being diplomatic.
Problem 1--The offense is moribund. Two years ago, the Raiders punched their way out of a similar hole by going to what was, for them, an arch-conservative running game, springing Marcus Allen for 1,759 yards. When they have tried it this time, it hasn't worked.
Allen's totals in his four games are 136 yards, 89, 29 and 41. Note the drop, once the Raiders got away from the Green Bay-Detroit phase of the schedule, and into the Seattle-New England real world.
Assuming that Allen remains the back he always has been, the problem is either that the new offensive line is wanting, or that better quarterbacking would get this unit off its heels and on its toes.
Problem 2--The defensive secondary is beginning to leak big passing plays as a matter of course.
Two games ago, the Raiders let the Seahawks convert on third and 18 and then on third and 17. Dave Krieg threw touchdown passes twice on third and six. The Seahawks converted 14 of 19 third downs--including 11 of their first 12--into first downs.
Sunday in Foxboro, Mass., the Raiders let the Patriots and Steve Grogan pile up another impressive list:
--Third and 18, a 22-yard pass to Stanley Morgan, while Al Davis moaned in the press box about the Raiders' having gone into a zone defense. The play went to the Raider 10 and resulted in a New England field goal and a 13-6 lead.
--Third and seven on the very next series. Grogan dropped the snap from center, picked it up on the bounce, rolled out and still completed a 32-yard pass to Irving Fryar. The play led to another field goal and a 16-6 lead.
--Third and seven again on the series after that. Grogan threw a 25-yard touchdown pass to Fryar behind extra cornerback Ron Fellows. The Raider third and fourth corners, who play when the opposition brings in third and fourth wide receivers, have been taking a beating, too. Ray Butler beat Sam Seale for a touchdown in the Seattle game.
--Third and 14 at their 10 on the next-to-last Patriot possession, a 15-yard pass to Cedric Jones against another zone, to more Davis moans.
The Raiders got the ball back again, anyway, and tied the game.
And then, on first down, Grogan threw that 40-yard bomb to Stanley Morgan, behind Mike Haynes in man-to-man coverage, leading to the winning field goal.
Morgan finished the day with 146 yards. Fryar had 107.
For the Raiders, there could be few more ominous developments. No team places more reliance on their cornerbacks covering one-on-one than they do.
Haynes was off to a fine start until Sunday but if he's in terrific shape, he's also 34, which is old even for corners playing in zones. Lionel Washington, who replaced Lester Hayes on the other side, has yet to prove he's the answer there.
The trading deadline is today. Flores said: "I don't know that anything is real hot right now."
The Raiders were reportedly keeping themselves apprised of the stalemated Kelly Stouffer-St. Louis Cardinal negotiations before the strike, but are said to have lost interest, and to have stopped inquiring, since they signed Vince Evans.