The longest losing streak since an 11-game run in 2006 and 2007 is over, with the Oakland Raiders beating the Kansas City Chiefs 15-0 and having only one thing on their minds.
The Raiders are 4-10, with dreams of their first winning season tossed overboard three games ago. The re-adjusted goal of a third consecutive 8-8 season quickly followed, buried in an avalanche of yardage and points.
The Raiders can do no better than 6-10, their ninth season with double-digit losses since returning to Oakland in 1995 assured.
With their home schedule concluded at 3-5, the Raiders would like nothing better than to close out with road wins over Carolina and San Diego, teams that are both 5-9 and expected to be a lot better.
The Raiders have won two in a row only once this season, winning Oct. 21 in overtime against Jacksonville (26-23) and following with a victory at Arrowhead Stadium against Kansas City (26-16).
Given those teams have a combined record of 4-24, it's not as if the Raiders have been cleaning up against superior opposition.
Coach Dennis Allen believes the Raiders' issues stem from lack of consistency. The shutout win over the Chiefs was Oakland's steadiest performance of the season, despite the fact they didn't score a touchdown.
"It's just like I've been saying since Day 1 -- we've got to be more consistent at it," Allen said this week. "We've proven we can do it at times, but we've got to be more consistent at it. That will be our challenge moving forward." Allen was sensitive to the perception that the Raiders' shutout was less than impressive given that it came against a Kansas City team that had won just two games.
"It's tough to shut out anybody in this league," Allen said. "For us to go out there and do that -- it's the first time it's been done in this organization for 10 years -- I think that was critical for our defense."
The shutout was the first since the Raiders blanked the Chiefs 24-0 in a rainstorm to end the 2002 season with an 11-5 record. Allen also noted the 119 yards was the fewest allowed since 1975, and noted they gave up 10 yards on the ground to a team that came in ranked fifth in the league in rushing.
"I think that was a good confidence-builder," Allen said. "Now we have to build on that."
Linebacker Philip Wheeler felt the win demonstrated that the Raiders haven't packed it in.
"It was definitely one of those team games, showing that we're not quitting on the season, that we're working hard and have pride about ourselves," Wheeler said.
Unlike previous Raiders wins, where the offense bailed out the defense or there were glaring errors, left tackle Jared Veldheer liked the fact that the two units played off each other.
The Raiders had a 40:06 to 19:94 advantage in time of possession, their highest total since 2002, and in so doing kept the defense fresh. The Raiders recorded seven consecutive three-and-outs, and had a pair of four-and-outs late when the Chiefs were forced to go for first downs because of the score.
"It was good synergy, very good synergy," Veldheer said. "The defense was phenomenal. Their first first down came halfway through the third quarter. I don't think I've ever seen that in a football game before."
Veldheer thought the win left him wanting more and left him feeling both relieved and joyful.
"To win is great. Now we're excited to get the next win," Veldheer said. "I think that's the biggest thing, to get in the habit of winning. We ended the losing. I can say that's behind us.
"Now we can start building forward. It's at the point of the season where the playoffs are out of reach, but at the same time, we can start stacking a few wins and get going in the right direction and you're able to build from there."
Allen believes having the entire projected offensive line together for the past five games for full games is paying dividends. During that stretch, the Raiders have averaged 4.5 yards per carry after struggling earlier.
Center Stefen Wisniewski, moving from left guard to center, missed the entire preseason and the season opener with a calf injury.
In Week 2, Khalif Barnes was lost with a groin injury that required surgery.
"I think it's a big deal," Allen said. "Having the continuity of your offensive line, that's where it all starts. You've got to be able to block in the running game and protect in pass protection.
"Those are the guys that are doing it for you, to have those guys multiple weeks in a row, they get a feel for everybody and a better understanding of how they work together."