NEW ORLEANS — The Raiders changed their coach, switched play-callers and arrived here re-energized on the heels of a two-week break between games.
By all accounts, they were prepared. Heck, they even benefited from catching the New Orleans Saints in a short week — the Saints played the Minnesota Vikings last Monday night — and reeling from a stunning loss.
But nothing could have prepared them for the onslaught that awaited them in the city made famous by persevering in the face of long odds and, certainly, far greater obstacles than the one the Raiders presented in a 34-3 shellacking at the Superdome.
"We got our (butts) kicked," Raiders right guard Cooper Carlisle said. "Simple as that."
This was a game the Raiders (1-4) felt they could win, should win. They maintained that belief through a first quarter in which they led 3-0, and at halftime, when they trailed only 10-3.
Besides, they already had weathered the Saints at their best. How much worse could things get?
Saints quarterback Drew Brees completed his first 16 passes in the first half for 171 yards and finished the half 17 of 19 for 196 yards. Yet, the Raiders exited the locker room for the second half with the Saints kicking off and a chance to tie the game.
That evaporated in about the time it takes Brees to find an open receiver and get the ball in his hands.
"You blink your eyes or turn around, and you're down 21, 28, 31, next thing you know, the game is out of hand," Raiders cornerback DeAngelo Hall said.
The Raiders punted after three plays failed to produce a first down.
The Saints (3-3) then scored on their first four possessions of the second half and turned a close game into a one-sided affair.
To be sure, this had nothing to do with the Raiders being unprepared or outcoached.
It had everything to do with the disparity at quarterback between Brees and JaMarcus Russell. Both had plenty of time to throw. Brees capitalized time and again. Russell floundered more times than not.
"The game came down to really a terrific quarterback who really never got bothered," Cable said of Brees. "That's something we've got to fix."
Brees completed 26 of 30 overall and amassed 320 yards.
This was virtuoso Brees. Unfortunately for the Raiders, it wasn't a one-game anomaly. They have seen this side of Brees many times during his eight-year NFL career.
"It's not the first time," Raiders cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha said. "I saw him on Halloween in '04. He got us pretty good. He's a smart quarterback."
Brees completed 22 of 25 passes for 281 yards and five touchdowns in the San Diego Chargers' 42-14 victory over the Raiders on Oct. 31, 2004.
Fortunately for the Raiders, Brees no longer resides in the AFC West. This way, they face Brees in the regular season only once every four seasons rather than twice each season.
"There's no one thing you can do to stop him," Hall said. "There's no one special formula."
Cable looks at Brees and sees what he wants Russell to be. In time, he said, Russell will get there.
On Sunday, Russell missed open receivers numerous times, delivered five passes into the hands of Saints defenders — only one resulted in an interception — and failed to establish a rhythm.
"You have to use (Brees) as the model if you're the Oakland Raiders," Cable said. "He was hot and, certainly, that's what we want to get to. There's no question."
That requires time and patience, Cable said. Russell made his sixth NFL start Sunday and has played in only nine games in his two seasons.
"Patience is everything," Cable said. "Unfortunately, in this league, at this level, there isn't a lot of patience by the powers that be. The bottom line is, to bring a young quarterback where you want him to be, you got to have patience, and we'll do that. We'll take care of it."
Part of Russell's evolution entails taking advantage of his strong arm and ability to make throws few, if any, other quarterbacks are capable of doing.
As promised, Cable and offensive coordinator Greg Knapp distanced themselves from fired coach Lane Kiffin's keep-under-wraps philosophy and allowed Russell the freedom to use his arm strength.
Russell dropped back on the first play of the second quarter, set his feet and launched a pass for wide receiver Ashley Lelie that traveled 67 yards before landing untouched in the Saints end zone.
Russell wasn't pleased by his performance, especially considering he had 40 or so family members and friends in attendance. Just the same, the former LSU star said he learned something from Sunday's game.
"You're going to have times when things go bad," Russell said. "You just have to move forward, and everything's not going to be perfect as far as how you draw it up. You just have to work hard and keep going."
That's a lesson lived and learned many times over by the good folk of New Orleans and the Saints.
Contact Steve Corkran at firstname.lastname@example.org.