By Jerry McDonald
Tribune News Service
ALAMEDA, Calif. -- Talk to interim coach Tony Sparano and some of his players, and it's as if fixing the Raiders' problems on the road could be solved by some kind of mystical energy transfer.
Simply take all the life-giving fan support directed at the Denver Broncos today and reverse the polarity, giving all the intensity and vitality to the visiting team.
"You're the Raiders walking into someone else's stadium," Sparano said. "You know how you'll be received. We have to be able to turn it around. Take some of that confidence and swagger we have from home, and bring it with us on the road. That's the next step."
The Raiders (3-12) have won their last three home games but are 0-7 on the road. They lost by a combined score of 83-13 in their two most recent road games in St. Louis and Kansas City, have lost 10 consecutive road games and are 2-21 as the visitors since 2012.
Denver (11-4), coming off a Monday loss to Cincinnati, can wrap up the No. 2 seed and a first-round bye in the playoffs with a win over the Raiders. The Broncos are 7-0 at home.
Defensive end Justin Tuck, a part of two Super Bowl championship teams that won NFC title games on the road, said winning away from home is all about mindset.
"You've got to have a lot of guys that understand how important it is to be super prepared, because you're not going to have the people on your side," Tuck said. "You're going to have to bring your own energy, because everybody is going to be against you.
"When you're playing at your own place it's easier to turn the tide because you've got a whole crowd fighting for you. It takes a special team to win in a place like Denver. We're just trying to go on the practice field, do what we've done, and take that swagger we've had and bring it with us on the road."
It seems the best way for the Raiders to get energized on the road is to have some success running the ball. In both road wins since 2012, the Raiders out-rushed their opponents: 135 yards to 102 in a 26-16 win over the Kansas City Chiefs in 2012 and 165-90 in a 28-23 win over Houston last season.
During the 2-21 road stretch, the Raiders are being out-rushed 129.4 to 86.2, with the home team running for 30 touchdowns and the Raiders 10. In 23 games at O.co Coliseum since 2012, the Raiders are averaging 127.9 yards per game and are 9-14.
Denver is the NFL's second-best team against the run, giving up 80.6 yards per game, but are coming off a 37-28 loss to Cincinnati in which they gave up 207 yards rushing.
Broncos coach John Fox said the Raiders' running game has improved with the emergence of Latavius Murray and Darren McFadden as a complementary back. The Raiders rushed for 140 yards against Buffalo, with Murray getting 86 yards and McFadden 54.
"I think Oakland is committed to running the ball, a little bit like Cincinnati, and we didn't exactly tear it up last week so it's something that got our attention," Fox said.
Raiders left tackle Donald Penn tries not to get caught up in the home-vs.-away issue, figuring if his team can get a push for Murray and Co., they can win whether it's in Oakland or Denver.
"Any time you can run the ball successfully, you can win," Penn said. "We're running the same plays we were running from the beginning, now we're starting to run them a little better. Cincinnati opened up a couple of things we saw on film from Denver and hopefully we can use some of that stuff this week."
* Strong side linebacker Khalil Mack was limited in practice because of a hamstring strain and T.J. Carrie was limited by an ankle injury. Carrie's left eye is also nearly swollen shut.
Tackle Menelik Watson, out the past three games, practiced for the first time in nearly a month and might be available as a reserve. He is listed as questionable.