The Oakland Raiders last visit into QualComm Stadium was briefly memorable but mostly forgettable.
The former was reaching its first Super Bowl in 19 years. The good news stopped there. First came center Barret Robbins going AWOL the night before the game. Then came the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, led by former Oakland head coach Jon Gruden, thumping the Raiders 48-21.
The Raiders, who were thoroughly embarrassed in a 41-7 loss against the Green Bay Packers, Monday night at home, against the Green Bay Packers, have not been the same since that day.
Oakland has struggled through a horrendous 4-11 season filled with turmoil and injuries. The Raiders return to the scene of the crime Sunday under much different circumstances. Oakland finishes its season against the San Diego Chargers (3-12) in a game that will be the season finale for both clubs.
"I think that thought (of the Super Bowl loss) will cross our mind at some point but I just hope we're not staying in the same hotel," Raiders head coach Bill Callahan said.
Interestingly enough, QualComm Stadium was the venue in which the Raiders last won a game away from the Bay Area.
Oakland has gone winless on the road this season. The Raiders last posted a road victory on Dec. 8, when they defeated the Chargers 27-7 at QualComm. That game seems like eons ago but the two teams met earlier this year with the Raiders rallying for a 34-31 overtime win in late September in Oakland.
"You just have to suck it up," Raiders linebacker Eric Barton said. "We've got one game left. You've just got to out and play your hardest."
The only thing at stake in this contest is each team's position for the NFL draft. San Diego and Arizona are the only teams with three victories while Oakland, Cleveland, the New York Giants, Detroit and Atlanta have four wins.
Some cynics might question putting forth a great effort when draft position is all that is at stake. Those same people, however, need a reminder that for every Tim Brown, there's John Clay. Therefore, draft position comes with no guarantee.
"I don't know why people say that," Callahan said. "That's from a fan perspective and fantasy football. My feeling is that we're professionals trying to do our best. We want to play for each other and do the best we can."
Vince D'Adamo can be reached at email@example.com