DENVER (AP) — Their veteran quarterback is unexpectedly struggling under a new coach who came in with plenty of fanfare but has already prompted ownership to weigh in with a vote of confidence. They've shown a knack for losing close games and star players alike.
That describes both the Las Vegas Raiders (2-7) and the Denver Broncos (3-6), who square off Sunday in Denver in a tussle to stay out of the AFC West basement.
The Derek Carr-Josh McDaniels pairing in Las Vegas has been a bust so far, as has the Russell Wilson-Nathaniel Hackett coupling in Denver.
The Broncos have lost five one-score games and their other defeat was a 32-23 loss at Las Vegas last month in which they trailed by two points until Josh Jacobs' TD run with 2:02 remaining.
That's the only close game the Raiders have prevailed in so far. They've lost six one-score games to go with an ugly 24-0 shutout by the Saints.
Carr is without Darren Waller and Hunter Renfrow as he tries to stop the Raiders' slide and Wilson doesn't have Garett Bolles, Javonte Williams, KJ Hamler or Jerry Jeudy as he tries to break the Broncos out of their funk.
Raiders owner Mark Davis said earlier in the week that he’s in it for the long haul with McDaniels, who has won seven of his last 31 games as a head coach, including a 5-17 mark that closed his time in Denver in 2010.
“I think that we can all be better in certain instances, but some of the greatest coaches this league have seen had some tough times,” Raiders wide receiver Davante Adams said. “I’m sure they didn’t all come out the blocks sprinting like Usain Bolt.”
The vote of confidence, similar to the one Hackett received from new Broncos owner/CEO Greg Penner in London two weeks ago, helped the Raiders relax, Carr said.
“It kind of just let us know, trust that process,” Carr said. “Well, there is a process, and we do have time during the season right now that we know who our leader is and we know that we’re rolling, and that gives us confidence as a football team.”
Noting the similarities between the teams, Hackett cracked, “SOMEBODY'S got to win this game.”
The last time these old AFL rivals met when their combined records were worse than this year's 5-13 mark was on Nov. 29, 1964, when the Raiders were 3-7-1 and the Broncos were 2-9.
They fought to a 20-20 tie at old Bears Stadium in Denver that day, one of just two deadlocks in 126 games between the teams.
SURTAIN VS. ADAMS
The game between two of the league's worst teams does feature one of the best matchups in the NFL between Adams and Broncos cornerback Pat Surtain II.
“Everybody's going to be excited to see those two guys go at it,” Hackett said. “I don't think they're afraid to test him and I don't think Pat's afraid to be tested.”
Adams has eight touchdown catches — one more than Wilson has thrown all season — and Surtain is hardly ever challenged, effectively taking away half the field from opponents much like Hall of Famer Deion Sanders used to do.
Adams is averaging 13.8 yards a catch and 87 yards a game and Surtain has surrendered just four catches for 18 yards over his last four games.
“It's going to be a matchup,” Surtain said. “It's going to be a showdown.”
AIRING IT OUT
Carr was emotional after Sunday’s 25-20 loss to the Indianapolis Colts, saying not everyone on the team was as fully committed as he is, and that sparked an open conversation in the Raiders' locker room.
“I’m proud of the way we handled it, and what you saw from me was just frustration from some of the things that had to be addressed,” Carr said.
NO PLACE FOR HATE
Hackett isn’t into the whole “hate your rival” thing. For the second time this season, he dismissed the notion that he has any animosity for his team’s chief rival.
Last month, Hackett said it took too much energy to hate the Raiders. On Wednesday, he said he still has no competitive hatred for them, noting that his father once worked for the Raiders.
A day later, after some blowback from fans wondering if he appreciated the heated nature of the rivalry, Hackett said it's long been one of the best clashes in the NFL and “I know how much it means to the fans and to the players.”
“It's great for our game to have these kinds of rivalries," Hackett said. “So it’s great to see that. Doesn’t matter what your record is, it’s going to be a great game.”
AP Sports Writer Mark Anderson contributed to this report.
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