"A win is a win is a win."
The win evens the Raiders record at 1-1 heading into next Monday night's showdown at AFC West rival Denver. Granted, that scenario is better than 0-2. The win, however, does not change the fact that Oakland has issues to address if it aspires to make a return trip to the Super Bowl.
The Bengals, who have set several marks for NFL futility the past decade, appear to be a better team under first-year head coach Marvin Lewis. In addition, the Raiders were without three key players (wide receiver Jerry Porter along with safeties Rod Woodson and Anthony Dorsett). Oakland, however, is superior enough in talent to where it should have handled Cincinnati with more ease.
"I didn't come back for this," said Raiders wide receiver Jerry Rice, who is in his 19th NFL season. "We're at home. We won the game, but we didn't play well. I have a problem with that. We have to live with it, but we expect to play better. I expect to get the job done and I expect my teammates to get the job done. This is like two weeks in a row."
Oakland's offense does not look like the juggernaut that mowed through opponents last season. Granted, the Raiders offense is missing wide receiver Jerry Porter. His absence, however, does not explain why quarterback Rich Gannon missed open receivers at various times. Gannon completed less than half of his passes (13-of-28) for 128 yards.
"I was struggling physically," Gannon said. "I had spasms in my back all day, but that's not the reason we struggled today. I'm sure everybody's got an opinion. I'll just keep my opinions to myself right now. We need to be more cohesive."
Cincinnati's offense, meanwhile, controlled the tempo by nearly doubling Oakland in time of possession (39:24-to-20:36). Again, Oakland was without starting free safety Rod Woodson and backup strong safety Anthony Dorsett. Oakland, however, seldom put pressure on quarterback Jon Kitna, who completed 25-of-41, passes for 303 yards.
He constantly attacked right cornerback Phillip Buchanon. Fortunately for Oakland, Buchanon stole the momentum by returning a Kitna pass intended for Chad Johnson 83-yards to paydirt to give the Raiders a 20-13 lead late in the fourth quarter.
"We expect everyone's best game," Raiders head coach Bill Callahan said. "When you are the defending conference champ, your head is on a block."
And the Raiders were fortunate to avoid the axe Sunday.
Vince D'Adamo can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org