Raiders vs. Chiefs Offensive Analysis: Expanding the Playbook

After reviewing the tape of the Oakland Raider’s Week 13 matchup against the Kansas City Chiefs, it was clear Raiders’ Offensive Coordinator Bill Musgrave composed an excellent game plan. Aside from two drives in the second quarter, he was aggressive and out-coached Bob Sutton (Chief’s DC) by effectively mixing short passes, shots, under center runs, zone reads, and run/ pass options (RPOs). The game wasn’t perfect, but he showed growth as a play-designer and play-caller in the spread system by calling more RPOs and expanding his RPO series. However, Derek Carr’s uncharacteristically careless day with the football ultimately doomed the offense and significantly hurt the Raiders’ playoff chances.

Chief’s Defense: Rip/ Liz

The Chiefs play a cover 3 adaptation that Nick Saban developed called Rip/Liz. It is a mix between man and zone but allows for an extra defender in the box, while still being effective in covering the pass. Communication and technique are vital for this defense to work. Brophy does a much more in depth explanation of the coverage on his website.

Chief's D.png

Double Post Concept

Musgrave’s favorite high red zone play is the double post concept. This play is a great 1-high safety beater. The Raiders also ran this play against the Steelers in around the same field position against the Steelers for a Touchdown as discussed in my Raiders vs Steelers Analysis. To the top of the screen is Michael Crabtree, Seth Roberts, and Mychal Rivera lined up in trips. Like the Steelers, the Chiefs are playing a one high safety defense. The middle of the field safety is Carr’s read. However, this is a variation of that concept, as this play is ran out of trips instead of a 2 x 2 formation. Also, there is the added element of a draw fake to suck up the underneath coverage and buy Carr more time.

Double Post

The safety, Eric Berry (29) squats on the inside post, which leaves Crabtree open running the outside post.The window is tiny, but Carr is able to fit the ball in there perfectly for the touchdown right before the first half ended.Double Post 2

New RPO Plays

The Raiders are lined up in trips to the top of the screen with Walford singled up in a tight split to the bottom of the screen. Musgrave probably saw, during film study, that the corner plays outside leverage on tight splits and essentially takes himself out of the play by alignment because it is very difficult to play the slant from that position. That leaves only the backside inside linebacker to wall off any inside routes. Carr is going to read the backside ILB to decide whether he is going to hand off the sweep or throw the slant to Walford. To the trips side, Carr also has a shoot with two blockers option that he could throw if his pre-snap read tells him he has a numbers advantage.RPO outside zone

Even though Daniel Sorenson (49), the linebacker in the orange square, opens up his hip towards the slant, his run read causes him to hesitate and Carr is able to fit the ball in the window for a nice gain.

RPO outside zone 2

The next play was used frequently against the Chiefs. The Raiders ran a bubble screen on the frontside with an inside zone that could become a zone read depending on the front. Carr ‘s pre-snap read is the bubble screen, if he feels he has a numerical advantage he’s going to snap the ball and throw to the screen. If he doesn’t like what he sees he will run the inside zone or zone read.

RPO Zone Key 1

Lee Smith, the Raider’s best blocking tight end, is attached to the line giving the Raider’s a serious numbers advantage. They have eight offensive players against six defenders in the box, so they do not run zone read. Instead they block everyone in the box and Murray finds the cutback for a 35-yard gain.

RPO Zone Key 1 (2)

As we saw last week, spread concepts like the zone read and RPOs were much more productive than traditional under center runs.

Run/ Pass Options + Zone Reads

Att: 10  Yds: 71  Avg: 7.1  

Under-Center Runs  

Att: 14 Yds: 52  Avg: 3.71

Needs Improvement

Expanding the spread run concepts in the playbook has been effective, but the execution could improve. Simply providing the quarterback with multiple options on one play isn’t enough, as he still has to make the right decision.

Here the Raiders’ are running the same RPO concept with the inside zone or zone read packaged with a bubble screen on the front side as mentioned above. However, the corner covering the bubble screen is ten yards back. When quarterbacks count defenders playing the bubble screen, they usually do not count a defender eight yards or deeper because it will take the defender too much time to make up the ground. Therefore, this can be considered a 2-on-1 situation. Carr could have thrown the screen and got decent yardage out of it if Seth Rodgers executed the block from the slot.

Carr KeepCarr may have thought that the strong safety was going to beat Robert’s block and decided that he was going to run the zone. Earlier in the game, the Chiefs were in a six-man box and the Raiders ran an inside zone without reading a defender, but the Chiefs adjusted and went into a Tuff front with seven in the box. The offense also adjusted and the blocking scheme changed into a zone read, leaving the backside defensive end, Tamba Hali (91), unblocked for Carr to read. The defensive end crashed and made the tackle. The correct decision was keeping the ball, but he has been reluctant to all season.  If Andy Dalton or Nick Foles can keep the ball from time to time, Carr can certainly pull the ball!Carr Keep 2

To me, the play that changed the momentum of the game was in the fourth quarter when the Raider’s were up 20-14. The Raiders were driving and had a chance to put the chiefs in a tough spot with another score. On our own 34 yard line, Musgrave called a rub concept with Crabtree running an over pass a series of potential rubs. This was a perfect call, as the Chiefs were in cover 1. Rivera, the tight end to the top of the screen motioned over into a bunch and chiefs adjusted by playing a tandem coverage. However, the defenders didn’t communicate well and the confusion left Crabtree wide open running the over route.

Over Throw Play

Carr felt the rush coming, as Tamba Hali beat Smith’s block and didn’t set his feet perpendicular to the target area. The blue line is where Carr’s feet should have been pointing. Instead he stepped behind where Crabtree was heading causing the ball to be overthrown. Over Throw

If Carr got the ball to Crabtree, he only had one man to beat. The Raiders could have possibly scored a touchdown or at least be in easy field goal range. But the ball sailed high and Carr threw the first of three interceptions on the very next play.

It has been interesting watching an old-school pro-offense guy like Musgrave transition to a wide open spread attack. He certainly has been showing growth and an open mind by adding these college concepts to his playbook. They already have paid dividends, but the Raiders, again, are going to have to work through their growing pains and learn from their mistakes. Carr’s three interceptions were primarily a young quarterback trying to make too many plays, and prior to this game he hasn’t had a three-interception game since high school. I believe that he and the offense will bounce back from this game. It will be interesting to see what the Raiders offense can do against the league leading Denver defense.


Ted Nguyen is a football coach, offensive coordinator, QB coach, teacher and blogger. He graduated from UC Davis with his degree in English-Critical Analysis. He enjoys long walks on the beach and researching and writing about the latest developments and trends in football strategy.

3 comments on “Raiders vs. Chiefs Offensive Analysis: Expanding the Playbook

  1. XCELLENT ANALYSIS!! Great job man. Great read.

  2. Pingback: Raiders at Broncos preview | Raiders Italia

  3. Pingback: Raiders vs Chiefs 2 Offensive Analysis: Paralysis | Raider's Analysis

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