A win is a win but besides one drive and one play in the redzone, the Oakland offense did not perform well against the Denver Broncos in their second meeting of the season. In the 2015-16 season, the Denver Broncos are playing historically good defense and a lot of that had to do with their secondary that feature all pro corners, Aquib Talib (21) and Chris Harris Jr. (25). To complement this lockdown corner tandem, the Broncos have a gang of safeties and linebackers that excel in man coverage. Von Miller and Demarcus Ware rushing the passer makes it extremely difficult for opposing passers. They play primarily Cover 1-Robber (pictured below.)
Creating Favorable Match Ups
When a team plays as much man coverage as the Broncos do, the game is simplified to a sense. The defense can play fast because they are primarily focused on their fundamentals and covering their assignments. Offensively, the easiest way to the attack the defense is to find the most favorable match up. Can your guy beat their guy? The Raiders unwisely attacked the strength of Denver’s Defense by targeting Talib and Harris Jr. 12 out of the 25 pass plays that the Broncos played man to man coverage.
A couple of weeks ago, the New England Patriots had one of the best offensive outings against the Broncos this season. They did it by creating mismatches with their tight ends and running backs and primarily targeted the Bronco’s safeties and linebackers like Brandon Roby (29), Darian Stewart (26), and Brandon Marshall (54), while rarely targeted the Talib or Harris Jr.. They created true 1 on 1 situations by lining up Gronkoski outside, so that he can’t be double covered by the Bronco’s robber and free safety without leaving other receivers without inside or deep help. If the corner is lined up tight then Gronkoski will run a fade, if he is lined up deep then he will run a hitch, and if the corner is lined up head up or outside shade he will run a slant.
The idea is to stay away from help defenders and match up your best pass catcher with a linebacker. It seems like such a simple concept, but it’s not something that many teams have done. The Raiders used a similar concept, by shifting out of a Broken-I formation into empty to isolate Walford on the outside. Instead of giving Walford an option route, all the eligible receivers run verticals and Carr’s job is to find his best match up and throw it.
The catch is overturned because Walford’s toe is slightly on the line, but the Raiders should have went back to this concept and force the Broncos to get out of their game plan and adjust or play zone which they are not nearly as effective playing.
On the Raiders first touchdown, they get a favorable match up on the outside with Roberts against the Bronco’s third corner, Brandon Roby (29). Again, Robert’s outside alignment takes him away from the Broncos’ help defenders. He runs a slant-go and beats Roby for a touchdown.
The Game Winning Touchdown
Despite multiple pundits saying that the Raider’s set the game winning touchdown play up by running the tunnel screen a couple of times on third down. They actually have been setting this play up for weeks now, as every tunnel they have ran since the Charger’s game has been blown up for no gain. All joking aside though, the video below shows the second time that the Raider’s run the tunnel screen on a third down situation. The Bronco’s are in 2-man, which is man to man with two safeties deep.
The defender, Stewart (26) guarding Rivera man to man is suppose to be blocked by the Right Gaurd, J’Marcus Webb (76), but Stewart is too aggressive and blows up the play before Webb can get there.
A play later the Bronco’s muffed a punt, but the Raiders promptly get themselves into a third and long. Musgrave later gave credit to Matt McGloin for the play call. And it makes sense why the play might not have came to mind for Musgrave right away because the Raiders ran tunnel screens to Roberts earlier in the game and on the touchdown they faked a tunnel or bubble screen to Cooper. However, the screen action along with Carr’s pump fake is enough to get two Bronco defenders to bite hard and Carr makes a great throw to Rivera for what would be the game winning touchdown.
Overall, the Raiders Offense was terrible. Carr looked extremely nervous in the first half, but settled down in the second half. I haven’t criticized Musgrave on his play-calling often but the game plan did not seem well put together, as the Raiders targeted Talib and Harris Jr. too often and could not get into a rhythm at any point of the game except for one drive. I still believe that Musgrave is the right man for the job but next year the offense needs to take a page out of New England’s book. The Patriots and Raiders both struggle to run the ball under center against good defenses, but the Patriots allow Tom Brady to set up the run with his passing.
Areas for Improvement: Overthrows
Against the Broncos, Carr overthrew the ball to open receivers five times. Granted teams that play tight man to man cause quarterbacks to be cautious and overthrow passes, but Carr has had a lot of trouble throwing to the right outside all season. His inaccuracy in that area is due to his fundamentals. Right handed quarterbacks have a longer distance to step to their right outside because they have to get their right shoulder and front foot to point to the numbers to the hashes and Carr routinely steps short. His missed throw to Crabtree against Kansas City was in that direction and the pick six against the Broncos in their first meeting was also in that direction.