ALAMEDA, Calif. (AP) - The Oakland Raiders salvaged a little something from this season by winning their final three home games.
Yet they’ve remained one of the NFL’s worst road teams since 2011 and are down to their final shot at rectifying that problem this year.
It’s something interim coach Tony Sparano has wrestled with all season.
The Raiders have tried altering when they practice to accommodate the different starting times for away games.
Players have woken up extra early and the team has shuffled its daily routine, all in an effort to snap Oakland out of its road funk.
So far, nothing has worked.
Heading into Sunday’s regular-season finale at Denver, the Raiders are 0-7 on the road this season and only 2-21 since beating the Kansas City Chiefs 23-20 on a 36-yard field goal by Sebastian Janikowski in overtime at Arrowhead Stadium on Dec. 24, 2011.
“That’s really the next step,” Sparano said Monday, one day after Oakland beat Buffalo 26-24. “We have to be able to turn the tide when we’re in those situations.
“Take some of that energy, confidence and swagger that we have from home, and bring it with us on the road. That’s the next step for our football team.”
Sunday’s win over Buffalo eliminated the Bills from playoff contention. Oakland also hurt San Francisco’s postseason hopes by beating the 49ers 24-13 in Week 14.
The Raiders threw a similar curve into the Chiefs’ plans and ended their 0-10 start when they beat Kansas City 24-20 in Week 12.
The problem is that the Raiders have been unable to parlay that success on the road.
One week after stunning the Chiefs on national television, Oakland suffered a 52-0 loss to St. Louis that was the second-worst in franchise history. Two weeks later, after beating the 49ers, the Raiders collapsed in the fourth quarter and lost to Kansas City 31-13.
Rookie quarterback Derek Carr has been at a loss to explain why Oakland has played well at home, but has struggled on the road.
Even veterans such as defensive lineman Antonio Smith and safety Charles Woodson have been stymied for answers.
“That’s our biggest challenge right now,” Smith said. “That’s kind of our Achilles’ heel, to find that motivation that the Raiders fans give us here on away games, to take the energy out of the crowd of the home team and use it to our advantage.”
Oakland has struggled to win road games for more than a decade.
Since winning the AFC championship in 2002 and playing in the Super Bowl, the Raiders have gone 22-74 when not at home.
That includes a Week 4 game this year against Miami - a home game for Oakland on the schedule that was played in London.
They’ve had only one season in which they’ve finished .500 or better on the road, in 2011 when they went 5-3 and finished 8-8 overall.
Beyond that, Oakland hasn’t had much good fortune at all.
“We’ve got to learn how to take what we do here and go on the road and do it,” Carr said. “We have to take that, the way we can play here against some really good football teams, and do that on the road.
“We need to learn how to do that and it’s something that we are learning to do. But it just hasn’t happened yet. Eventually we’ll get it right.”
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