OAKLAND -- There are no do-overs in the NFL, but the Raiders at least get a chance at a progress report Saturday when they host the Detroit Lions at O.co Coliseum.
What better way to test their restructured defense than to go face-to-face with the offense that helped put the Raiders out of the playoffs last Dec. 18 with two touchdown drives totaling 169 yards in the final eight minutes?
The third preseason game is typically a dress rehearsal for the opener, with most starters playing into the third quarter. The Raiders have actually game-planned for a specific opponent for the first time, and the Lions have one of the most formidable passing attacks in the NFL.
"We're going to go out and treat it like a real game," free safety Michael Huff said.
An epic collapse against the Lions went a long way toward making the Raiders what they are today.
Had the Raiders held on to a 27-14 lead in the fourth quarter, they likely would have won the division title and perhaps the chain of events that led to the hiring of Reggie McKenzie as general manager and the dismissal of Hue Jackson as head coach would have been altered.
Linebacker Aaron Curry's 6-yard return after a sack-fumble of Matt Stafford courtesy of Tommy Kelly gave the Raiders a commanding lead with 7:47 left.
It was the last play the Raiders defense would make. The Lions had back-to-back drives of 10 plays for 71 yards and seven plays for 98 yards, the latter accomplished in 1:35. A major breakdown that set up the final score came when middle linebacker Rolando McClain was paired with safety Jerome Boyd in a regrettable defensive scheme that saw Calvin Johnson gain 48 yards on a pass from Stafford.
Stafford was 29 for 52 for 391 yards, four touchdown passes and no interceptions. Johnson caught nine passes for 214 yards and two touchdowns.
Oakland's defensive personnel is not radically different, other than a new pair of starting cornerbacks in Ron Bartell and Shawntae Spencer in place of Stanford Routt and Lito Sheppard, and Philip Wheeler moving as the starting strongside linebacker in place of Kamerion Wimbley.
Huff missed the Detroit game because of injury and was replaced by Matt Giordano, and rookie Miles Burris is starting Saturday in place of the injured Curry at weakside linebacker.
In terms of scheme and philosophy, however, coach Dennis Allen and defensive coordinator Jason Tarver have done a complete makeover.
"I like the way we look on defense," Kelly said.
The Raiders have mixed zone and man-to-man defense. Worked in an occasional 3-4 alignment. Blitzed from different angles. Despite the multiplicity, Tarver said he's distilled responsibilities into "rules" that prevent the kind of confusion that surfaced so often in previous years even when the schemes were more basic.
"Coach T does a good job, man, It's dummy-simple," safety Mike Mitchell said. "We're not all rocket scientists out there. He does a good job making it easy."
The results have been promising through two games. Dallas failed to score against the Raiders' first-team defense and Arizona managed just two short-field drives of 41 and 23 yards, with Oakland recording a safety.
"An opponent like (Detroit), a playoff team, they rank very high on offense with a good quarterback and receiving corps," Spencer said. "It poses a challenge and is a nice measuring stick in terms of where we are and where we want to get to."
Said Bartell: "If we want to be a great secondary -- and I think we have the talent to do that -- this will be a great challenge for us."
Detroit (1-1) at Raiders (0-2), 4 p.m., KICU (tape-delayed at 7 p.m.)
Join Steve Corkran for a live chat during the game, starting at 4 p.m., at mercurynews.com/raiders