Derek Carr and the passing game carried the Raiders despite the rainy conditions. Carr had one of his best games of the season and showed that he has great command of the ball in the rain which is not a given even in the NFL (Looking at you, Drew Brees). However, it is not ideal to rely on airing out the ball in these type of conditions and if the Raiders are going to take the next step, they are going to have to develop a running game. I still believe that Musgrave got too conservative too early in second half by going under center and running the ball down after down. A far cry from the play-calling in the first half which was extremely aggressive. Musgrave picked his spots when to run and passed on second and long situations. He stayed true to his game plan and took several shots and the Raiders offense was rewarded. The run game isn’t going to be what the Raiders are going to hang their hat on but it has to be more efficient for the offense to be more consistent.
RAIDERS RUN GAME vs TITANS:
ZONE READS + RUN/PASS OPTION PLAYS: 5 attempts 32 yards 6.4 average
UNDER CENTER RUNS: 21 attempts 51 yards 2.4 average
The numbers don’t lie, the Raiders have to find different ways of running the ball. They cannot just go under center pound the rock the traditional way, they have to find ways to gain the numbers advantage. They can do that by making Derek Carr a factor in the running game by giving him the option to keep the ball on a zone read or they can give him a RPO (run/pass option). As I discussed in the last post in Raiders Vs Lions Offensive Breakdown, the Raiders are beginning to make run/pass options a bigger part of their running game and it has shown it can be effective. Zone Reads or RPO plays on average gained more than double the yardage that traditional under-the-center runs gained against the Titans. The difference is staggering.
This Run/Pass Option concept is one that the Raiders used successfully last week and it worked well against the Titan’s Cover 3 OkieFront. The offensive line and TE is blocking a pin and pull sweep to the right while the backside TE and receivers are running a seam/ double ins combo to the left. Carr is going to read the movement of the backside linebacker.
Tennessee saw this play last week and was determined to take away the pass read and hope that their guys could get penetration and stop the run without a numbers advantage.
The linebacker drops back and Cliff Lee and the offensive line do a great job of hook blocking their assignments and Webb gets a clean pull around the edge. The result is a gain of 6 yards.
Introduction of the “Gift” Concept to the Offense
The Raiders also introduced a new type of Run/Pass option to their offense with a pre-snap read combined with a downfield pass.
The Raiders line up in an unbalanced formation. Austin Howard, the right tackle, lines up to the left and Lee Smith lines up as the right tackle. On the the bottom of the screen, Crabtree is going to run a hitch while the rest of the offense is going to run a sweep to the unbalanced side of the line. Carr is simply looking for the numbers advantage. If the strong safety is lined up on the unbalanced side then Carr is going to have a true one on one and Carr will throw the hitch. A hitch against an off corner is so easy to complete, some offenses call this option a “gift” concept. But since the strong safety is lined up on Crabtree’s side, the offense has a numbers advantage to the left (4 linemen + 1 QB+ RB vs 4 defenders).
Carr decides to hand off the ball and the line does a great job of hook blocking their assignments. A pulling Gabe Jackson also gets a monster block on the edge and that leads to the Raiders best run of the day, a gain of ten yards.
Adding to the RPO Series
For the Raiders to run the ball successfully, Musgrave must continue to find creative ways to add to his Run/Pass option package because defenses are going to find different ways of taking them away.
Dick Lebeau is one of the greatest defensive coordinators of all time and after watching the Detroit tape, he saw this concept and gave his defenders a check. As soon as Murray motioned to the Trips side, they knew the Run/ Pass Option was coming and they manned up Amari (top of the screen) and brought the strong safety to play the A gap, relieving the linebacker, who is typically the read, of his run responsibility to play his pass responsibility (inside wall). Lebeau’s check sort of worked. On one hand, he tricked Carr into reading the backside linebacker and handing the ball off. The strong safety was left unblocked and should have stopped the play. However, the strong safety does not tackle as well as a the linebacker and Murray was able to break the tackle for a nice gain.
By bringing the strong safety into the box, the Titans left Amari 1 on 1 with a pressed corner. In the future, Musgrave should add a check to allow Carr to audible a deep pass if he sees these types of defensive checks because relying on your running backs to break tackles from unblocked defenders is not the way to go.
The Raiders are simply not good enough to run the ball the old-fashioned way. By running more Run/Pass Options and Zone reads, they gain the advantage numerically and puts the decision into the hands of their best player. For the Raiders to be successful, Derek Carr has to be a factor in the passing game and running game.
The Game-Winning Touchdown
Down by 4 with 1:33 left in the game, the Titans decide to bring the house while playing cover 1 behind it. The Raiders have the perfect play called and just enough in protection. Seth Roberts runs a great man-beater route with a hitch and go and Crabtree runs a post route to hold the free safety.
Upfront, the Raiders keep 6 into block against the Titans 6 rushers. They run a man protection scheme and everyone does a good job of pass blocking their assigned man. Gabe Jackson, who had his worst game of the season, does eventually get beat my his man.
Carr remains poised in the pocket and lets go of the ball before Roberts breaks and puts the ball in a good location. Roberts then catches what would be the game winning touchdown.
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