“Stats are for losers. You can make them say whatever you want” – Hall of Fame defensive lineman Warren Sapp, Oakland Raiders, 2007.
That’s how many points the Oakland Raiders have allowed in the final three minutes of the fourth quarter through 14 games this season.
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That’s how many winning fourth-quarter comebacks the Raiders’ defense has given up during an 11-3 season heading into Saturday’s stay-at-home workday against the Colts.
That’s the tangible meaning of the 375.9 yards per game the Raiders are allowing, the third-most allowed in the NFL behind current D-League programs in San Francisco and Cleveland (a combined 27 straight losses, in case you 49ers fans are still reading).
Zero points in the last three minutes is greater than 375.9 yards per week, forever and a day.
Oakland is a bottom-five defense in yards per rush and yards per pass. Sacks per pass? Twenty-seventh. Points granted? Twenty-sixth.
What does that buy you in today’s market? Seven wins in the past eight games – along with the first playoff berth since former Raider Barret Robbins wandered into the Tijuana forest before Super Bowl XXXVII after the 2002 season.
Oh, you want to give all the credit to Pro Bowl quarterback Derek Carr and his three Pro Bowl offensive linemen?
Give them credit, absolutely. Just make sure there’s enough to go around.
Here’s why: Carr does not have a record-tying eight fourth-quarter comeback victories this year if the defense allows the other team to come back after Carr’s done coming back.
Carr’s comebacks aren’t comeback victories without his defense, and he’d be the first to tell you as much. This is what Oakland’s defense has permitted in the final five minutes of games when the Raiders have taken the lead: four punts, two fumble recoveries, one interception, one missed field goal and three stops on downs.
Yeah. That’s one lousy defense, said nobody who is into winning football games.
You can focus on the yards allowed in the first three quarters all you want. In doing so, don’t forget to mention the offense saves its fewest points scored for the first quarter (59), so who are you calling a slow starter?
The Raiders’ defense has gone from questionable to the point of troubling, to having no trouble providing the game’s final answer.
They’re doing it with defensive end Khalil Mack being a devilish Tasmanian up front, and with safety Reggie Nelson doing his best Charles Woodson in the back. Oakland is doing it with a combined 30 forced fumbles and interceptions, third-best in the league.
With the AFC West waiting to be won, the Raiders’ defense has allowed 30 points in its past nine quarters of work.
Know why this is so important?
Insistent defense travels well in the postseason. More so than vertical passes off broken pinky fingers.
Shutdown football acclimates quite nicely in potential winter excursions to the snow globe that is New England, where quarterback Tom Brady saves his best touchdown engineering for the final moments.
The defense is the Raiders’ best chance at winning their first Super Bowl in 24 seasons. Who cares how the numbers work out?
Stats are for losers. Wins are for winners.
1. The 49ers’ problem isn’t ownership, coaching or talent. It’s that they don’t play the Rams enough. The 49ers are 2-0 against the Rams since Dec. 13, 2015. They are 0-16 against all others. We knew the schedule makers were hosing them all along.
2. Fresno State radio announcer Paul Loeffler went to call the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl for ESPN the other day, when a basketball game broke out (Idaho 61, Colorado State 50). Forgive Loeffler for hyperventilating: that’s more points combined than the Bulldogs scored in their final eight games.
3. Fresno State just gave men’s basketball coach Rodney Terry a contract extension through the 2020-21 season. It’s a nice gesture, but can we trust the guy to win without Derek Carr and Pat Hill recruits?