The building blocks

There was no clearer picture than Rob Ryan tossing his notes to the ground and becoming emotional. A little offensive tweaking and this Oakland Raider team could be very good.

Standing in the middle of the locker room, Aaron Brooks issued an apology on behalf of the Oakland Raiders offense to their defense.

About 20 feet away, defensive end Derrick Burgess sat in a chair and waved off approaching reporters.

"I can't interview today," Burgess said, "because I'm afraid of what I might say."

The Oakland Raiders had just lost 23-14 to the Houston Texans at McAfee Coliseum despite giving up just 124 yards of total offense and 2.4 yards per play. The Texans became the first team since the 1981 Houston Oilers to have negative passing yards and still win the game.

It's been a season-long theme for the Raiders. The defense plays well -- Oakland is ranked first in pass defense and is No. 3 overall behind playoff-bound Baltimore and Chicago -- but the offense can't get out of its own way.

But this was taking things to a ridiculous extreme.

The Raiders, 2-10, turned the ball over five times on offense and served up a Houston touchdown when a ReShard Lee fumble was returned 58 yards by Demarcus Faggins.

As the game ended, Burgess was ranting on the sidelines to teammate Anttaj Hawthorne and defensive coordinator Rob Ryan was seen throwing a stack of photographs to the ground and kicking them in disgust.

Linebacker Kirk Morrison came over to comfort his leader.

"He was getting a little emotional," Morrison said. "That's what I want to see from my coach. I was saying, 'Don't worry about it, you're doing your job. Keep doing what you're doing."

Once the locker room opened, cooler heads prevailed. Defensive tackle Warren Sapp could not be drawn into addressing the role of the offense in Oakland's 2-10 record.

"You don't win like that," Sapp said.

Oakland's defenders, without joy on the scoreboard, can only find solace in statistical validation, not to mention the knowledge that virtually everyone will be back next season to build on what they started.

Free safety Stuart Schweigert, in an impassioned defense of his defense, went so far as to say the Raiders could become "one of the best defenses in NFL history."

"If you look at this year and then go on to next year, if we have a little offense that can help us, there's no stopping what we can do or build here," Schweigert said. "Everyone wants to talk about the bad stuff and what's going on off the field, our record and all that, but anyone who watches football knows we have a lot of character in this room and a good defense."

Cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha said he understands how offensive players must feel.

"They feel bad, and we feel bad for them," Asomugha said. "It's not like they're out there purposely saying, 'Hey, let's go blow this game.' They actually want to win."

Center Jake Grove says effort level is not Oakland's problem offensively.

"It's frustrating because we're playing hard, we're just not having success," Grove said. "The defense is playing great right now. They're playing hard and having good results and shutting people down. We're doing the opposite. We play hard, don't get results and can't get anything done.

"Our defense is playing at a level where we could win a lot of games."

Players recognized that offensive coordinator John Shoop had made some creative adjustments that simply didn't work out.

"You can't blame the coaches," Randall Williams said. "The coaches had a good game plan. The game plan was sweet."

Coach Art Shell insists there is no sign of division in the locker room.

"I don't see a problem. None whatsoever. Guys refuse to let that happen," Shell said. "Are they frustrated on defense? Sure. But the offense is frustrated too because they aren't doing what we feel we should be doing on that side of the ball.

"Nothing has come in between, that I know of, and I am pretty in tune with the locker room as to what goes on in there."


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