ARLINGTON, Texas

Given another chance to make a modest statement that better days lie ahead, the Raiders instead had all their problems displayed on a video board as big as Texas before a Thanksgiving Day national television audience.

"I got dizzy a couple of times looking up at the replay, that screen is so big," Raiders quarterback Bruce Gradkowski said Thursday following a 24-7 loss to the Dallas Cowboys at Cowboys Stadium.

Looking at the big picture, you wonder if Al Davis' level of mortification is as high as it's been since Super Bowl XXXVII and the 48-21 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers that started the Raiders on the road to where they are today.

The Raiders have committed more turnovers, been beaten by bigger point margins and have displayed a less competitive feel in many games over the past six-plus years. But the most galling thing for Davis in his team's first Turkey Day game in 39 years was what the Cowboys represented.

Owner Jerry Jones' team is raking in the money, playing in a home Davis never will have. The game sold 83,489 tickets (public parking is $60), and the suites were full. On the field, they were everything Davis hopes his team can be again.

As it is, the Raiders continue to await approval of a three-year lease on a home they consider inadequate. Their dwindling crowds have dropped into the 30,000s. The suites are not full.


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On the field, the Raiders' shortcomings are on display often, and they were again. The 3,000 flat-screen HD televisions throughout Jones' new stadium and the monstrous 160-foot board that hovers 90 feet above the field allowed Davis a great view of the Cowboys gaining 384 yards on 10 snaps of the ball (the other 46 snaps netted 110).

"It's been that way all year,'' defensive tackle Tommy Kelly said of the defensive breakdowns. "Stop, stop, boom. Stop, stop, boom."

This time, stop, stop, boom came four days after coach Tom Cable opened his weekly press conference by expressing his concern over the amount of big plays surrendered by his defense. He said Job One was to get it under control.

"It's pretty obvious that there were too many big plays," Cable said. "They were so explosive offensively, we were never able to get any kind of rhythm defensively to contain it."

Dallas, which had struggled to move the ball while scoring just 14 points in its previous two games, took aim at the man-to-man defense preferred by Davis and sliced it to ribbons. Tony Romo completed 18 of 29 passes for 309 yards and two touchdowns and receiver Miles Austin (145) and tight end Jason Witten (107) each went over 100 yards.

If Davis is looking for another coach in January, Cowboys offensive coordinator Jason Garrett can expect a call.

"They knew how to get certain guys open," cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha said. "They knew how to ... I don't want to say exploit us, but they knew what to do. In a short week, when you're studying a man team, it's not going to be very complicated.''

Asked how his offense generated so many big plays, Cowboys coach Wade Phillips was to the point.

"A lot of man-to-man,'' Phillips said. "You play a lot of man-to-man, you've got to be able to cover those guys and they blitz some and we picked it up. You can't cover our guys for a long time man-to-man and you can see that."

The Raiders' own offense? It remained the little engine that couldn't, save for an 11-play, 88-yard drive to open the second half. It was the ninth time in 11 games they've had one touchdown or less.

Gradkowski, who will have to go a long way to prove he's anything but someone's erstwhile backup, completed 18 of 35 passes for 200 yards. Because Gradkowski didn't turn it over, he's an upgrade from JaMarcus Russell, the man Davis has promised will be great and is the future of the franchise.

At least Darren McFadden and Darrius Heyward-Bey, the two players who along with Russell are supposed to give the Raiders the explosiveness the Cowboys demonstrated, were on the field.

McFadden had 23 yards on six carries and caught four passes for 43 yards. Heyward-Bey caught two passes for 21 yards and scored a touchdown. The bar has been set so low on offense in Oakland that those were actually considered good days.

Three times this season, the Raiders have won. Three times, they've returned to earth the following week without a parachute, outscored by a combined 85-10.

"We're all pretty embarrassed with how the game ended up," Asomugha said. "Trying to win two games for us has been like trying to climb Mt. Everest. It's been very difficult. We're trying to get to two (consecutive) wins at some point in the year, and it never happens."

Cable, ever the optimist, insists he can see the mountain top. Asomugha wonders what it would be like to actually get there.

Raiders players will get some time with their families until Sunday, when they report for meetings.

Next up is a road game in Pittsburgh, another franchise with a glorious past that has managed to carry some semblance of greatness into its future.

Contact Jerry McDonald at jmcdonald@bayareanewsgroup.com.