The particulars of the decision-making process used by the Raiders to pick a starting quarterback make for good copy and serve to camouflage the true reason the franchise suddenly has returned to its 2003 through 2009 roots.

The Raiders played their best team defense since 2002 during a three-game win streak that put them atop the AFC West division at 5-4.

The last two weeks, they've played some of their worst -- and that's saying something for a team that has been a sieve for the better part of the lost years.

Considering the caliber of the opponent, a 33-17 loss to the Miami Dolphins before a crowd of 48,946 at the Coliseum was a return to the days when even mediocre foes ran with abandon and became the second coming of Air Coryell at the sight of silver and black.

The previous week's loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers was forgivable and even understandable. The Steelers are an elite team, playing at home and coming off an embarrassing loss.

Surely the Raiders would reach back to whatever it was that they unleashed on the Broncos, Seahawks and Chiefs, games where they got off the field (6 for 42 in third down conversions), rushed the passer (15 sacks) and choked off the run (75.3 yards per game, 3.2 yards per carry).

Miami was coming in smarting from one of the most anemic performances in its history, gaining 187 yards in total offense and losing 16-0 to the Chicago Bears.

Quarterback Chad Henne was a stationary target coming off a knee injury and had missed two games. The Dolphins' best wide receiver, Brandon Marshall, was inactive with a hamstring pull.

The offensive line has been nursing injuries, most notably a torn labrum by left tackle Jake Long, who may not even make it through the season.

So with the Raiders seemingly having the sort of defensive line that could do the same damage the Bears did and All-Pro cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha returning to the lineup, the Dolphins went out and put up season highs in yardage (471) and points (33).

The only reason the game stayed in doubt at all is two red zone possessions in the first half where Miami came away with nothing, one when Rolando McClain intercepted a Henne pass at the 1-yard line and another when a Tyvon Branch sack on a safety blitz forced the Dolphins to attempt a 51-yard field goal that Dan Carpenter missed.

Miami was 9 for 19 on third-down conversions, staying on the field for 41:38 to 18:22 for the Raiders. Henne, 17 of 30 for 307 yards and two touchdowns, may as well have been Dan Marino.

Ricky Williams put the game away with a 45-yard touchdown run and had 95 yards on 20 carries, with Ronnie Brown gaining 85 on 24 attempts, as Miami rushed for 186 yards on 49 carries.

There were different levels of disgust in the Raiders' postgame locker room.

"There was a lot of frustration going around, a lot of disappointed faces and disappointed players and coaches, period," Asomugha said.

Defensive tackle Richard Seymour was stoic, pointing the finger at himself after finishing with three tackles and nothing behind the line of scrimmage, acknowledging there wasn't much in the way of enthusiasm.

"I don't know, we were just out there playing, you know?" Seymour said. "Just kind of going through the motions."

Tommy Kelly, who lines up next to Seymour, was mystified, given Henne's status and Marshall's absence.

"We're at home," Kelly said. "They come, they don't know about their quarterback situation. Their wide receiver is out. I mean, there ain't no way I thought we were going to lose, the way we been practicing and playing."

For unvarnished anger, there was safety Mike Mitchell.

"It's a simple question. Is everyone on our team going to decide that we're done (expletive) around, and are we going to play?" Mitchell said. "That's what this game was. It wasn't coaching. It wasn't scheme. It wasn't anything. It was us. If you're not 100 percent committed, you can't play."

Exactly which players weren't committed, Mitchell declined to say, sticking with his original statement.

It didn't help that Asomugha discovered early on he couldn't plant and turn, giving up 65 yards on four completions and being called for a holding penalty. Or that rookie Walter McFadden, in his first game as a nickel corner, was torched for 133 yards on five completions, gave up three third-down conversions and another first down on a hold.

The fact that the front four got virtually no pressure on the quarterback exacerbated the problems in the secondary, and Miami's ability to hunt and peck for rushing yardage set everything up.

Two of Oakland's three sacks came by defensive backs, one by Branch and one by safety Michael Huff. But several blitzes were adequately blocked by Miami and turned into positive yardage.

"I think we can control where we're trying to go, but if we play like that, we don't control anything," Seymour said. "We're at that fork in the road."

And perilously close to having a fork put in their season.

As in done.

Contact Jerry McDonald at jmcdonald@bayareanewsgroup.com.

nO STOPPING THEM
Yards allowed by the Raiders defense during their three-game win streak followed by their past two games, both losses:
Opponent Results Yards
allowed
Denver W, 59-14 240
Seattle W, 33-3 162
Kansas City W, 23-20 304
Average 235
Pittsburgh L, 35-3 431
Miami L, 33-17 471
Average 451