Raiders hoping for late-season push reminiscent of 2021

HENDERSON, Nev -- Hunter Renfrow has seen this script before.

A team, seemingly torn apart from within and taking on water, nevertheless gets hot and goes on a run as unlikely as it was rewarding.

Yes, the Las Vegas Raiders' slot receiver was a key part of a 2021 Raiders team which had just been blown out by the Kansas City Chiefs to fall to 6-7 and seemingly out of playoff contention. That team ran off four straight wins to force their way into the playoffs under an interim coach.

Now? The current Raiders are riding a two-game losing streak after falling by two scores to the Chiefs, are 5-7 overall and licking their wounds, both physical and mental, as they head into their bye week under an interim coach. Yeah, this should feel familiar to Renfrow.

"There's nothing against us winning five in a row and sneaking into the playoffs," Renfrow said. "That's kind of the goal, and I'm hoping everyone in this locker room kind of has that at the back of their mind this whole bye week.

"New team, same dream."

Indeed, because while Renfrow is a holdover from 2021 who caught 103 passes and went to the Pro Bowl after that season, many faces have changed in two years.

There are too many to list, but consider: since the start of 2021, the Raiders have had four full-time and interim head coaches (Jon Gruden, Rich Bisaccia, Josh McDaniels and Antonio Pierce) and five starting quarterbacks (Derek Carr, Jarrett Stidham, Jimmy Garoppolo, Brian Hoyer and Aidan O'Connell).

And just six of the 22 starting position players from the Raiders' playoff game at the Cincinnati Bengals on Jan. 15, 2022, are still on the team. That includes All-Pro running back Josh Jacobs, Pro Bowl edge rusher Maxx Crosby and safety Tre'von Moehrig.

So how can the Raiders replicate their late-season success of two years ago, and how might such a late bye week play a part?

"Get healthy, get healthy," Pierce said. "Twelve straight weeks [of games] in the National Football League, that's tough, that's tough. That's hard on the body."

Crosby, who spent Thanksgiving in the hospital due to an infection, played through extreme knee pain against the Chiefs, and while he had a sack, it was his lone tackle. Left tackle Kolton Miller, meanwhile, had to leave the game with the injured right shoulder that kept him out of the previous two games.

"For those guys to come back, and now to have an extra seven or so days to get ready before our next game before we play the Vikings, is huge for our team," Pierce added. "Also, I think it's an opportunity for us to reset mentally.

"It's been a lot of trying times this year. A lot of ups and downs, and you sit back, you reset, you think about it, spend some time with your family and coming towards end of the week you start missing football again, that Friday, Saturday, Sunday you're not playing. Get these guys back in the building on Monday and we're ready to roll."

The talent is there.

The consistency? Well ...

Through Week 12, the Raiders have the No. 21-ranked total defense after spending the first half of the season flirting with being a top-half-of-the-league unit. On the other side, the Raiders are only No. 29 in total offense.

Las Vegas has scored only 16.9 points per game, which ranks 26th in the league. They've scored more than 20 points in a game twice ... and it took a late safety from the defense to accomplish one of those.

The offense seemed to break through early against Kansas City on Sunday, jumping out to a 14-0 lead, which could have been greater if they hadn't missed a chip-shot field goal.

But perhaps no player's fortunes (misfortunes?) represented the Raiders' offense stalling more than All-Pro receiver Davante Adams. He had five catches for 73 yards in the game's first 16-plus minutes. He finished the game with ... five catches for 73 yards.

"It is frustrating," Adams said. "It's confusing, too, and yeah, I don't really know what to say or exactly why it went the way it did, but we just couldn't figure it out in the second half."

Getting Adams going and keeping him going will go a long way toward helping the Raiders keep Renfrow's dream alive.

"Just got to get everybody healthy and get ready to finish the season as good as what we can," said Adams, who has 69 catches for 814 yards, but his 11.8 yards per catch average is the lowest since his second season. And, with just four touchdown catches, he is in danger of not getting double-digit TDs for the first time since 2019, when he had five TDs in 12 games.

"We've still got everything in front of us, we're just making it harder each week by not winning," Adams said. "So, we've got to rally, get our minds right, get our bodies right and get ready to play whoever we got after the bye."

That would be the Minnesota Vikings (6-6) on Dec. 10 at Allegiant Stadium. Following that are the AFC West rival Los Angeles Chargers (4-7) on a short week for a Thursday night affair, before roadies at the Chiefs (8-3) on Christmas Day and the Indianapolis Colts (6-5) on New Year's Eve before returning home for the season finale against the Denver Broncos (6-5) on Jan. 7.

"We have a special group, and we believe in each other," Renfrow said. "And I'd go to war with any of these guys any day."