Week 1: Raiders vs Saints Offensive Analysis: Big Start in the Big Easy

What a game! 486 yards of total offense and four touchdowns and a comeback that included a two point conversion for the win. It was pure entertainment and jubilance at the end. The game was just as entertaining to study and chart. Hopefully, the defense could improve and fans don’t have to suffer heart attacks every weekend, but if Sunday was a sign of things to come for the offense, the Raiders are going to have a shot to win every week.

Derek Carr looks like he has stepped into category of elite. Yes, he faced a porous New Orlean’s defense, but it’s how he effortlessly and correctly read the defense, got through his progressions, and deliver throw after throw that was so impressive.

On this play, the Raiders are in their most frequently used formation this week, a Y- bunch formation. They have 11 personnel on the field with Michael Crabtree, Seth Roberts, and Lee Smith bunched up and Amari Cooper flanked on the opposite side. Roberts and Crabtree run a deep smash concept and are the primary reads on this play. Carr sees Crabtree is covered and looks at Roberts deep before noticing that the corner sinking into that area. Carr immediately snaps his eyes and hips to his final read which is Cooper running a dig. He hits Cooper in perfectly in stride and allows him to run after the catch to the tune of 35 yards.

During the same drive, Carr again is able to get to his third read. This play is really well designed by Bill Musgrave and really illustrates his chemistry with Cooper. The concept is a naked boot to the left with three routes breaking outside to the left. Carr quickly sees that they are covered and sees Cooper running an interesting route on the backside. Initially it looks as if Cooper is running a crossing route into an area with that is already convoluted with receivers, but at the very last second he slips deep down the field. His initial route got the backside safety to sag off of him and left him wide open. Again, Carr’s ability to get through his progressions leads to a big gain and this drive eventually finished with the Raiders first touchdown of the game.

There are still things that the third year quarterback could work on though. There were two instances in the game in which he threw off his back foot even though his protection was good.


It’s third and three and the Raiders are running a mesh concept. The mesh concept has two receivers on opposite sides running drags in hopes of creating a pick to get one of them open. The Saints did not blitz Carr much during the game which is a sign of respect, but they did blitz during this play. Carr saw the blitz and didn’t have faith in his line to pick it up because he rushed the throw and threw off his back foot. It was just a five man protection, so it made sense why Carr felt the need to rush, but the line skillfully picked up the rush and if he let the play develop and stood strong, the Raiders would have probably gotten the first and possibly more.

Crabtree Out Routes

Once Musgrave’s saw that the Saints were willing to guard Crabtree without giving much help, he started sending Crabtree on either speed outs or deeper out routes. The Saints either played cover-1 with an off corner or an inverted cover-2 to Crabtree’s side and he ate them up with out routes.


The Saints are playing off-man on Crabtree, which allows them to double Cooper on the other side. The corner is giving Crabtree a ton of cushion. Crabtree stems the route inside and makes a slicing cut to the outside, gaining a ton of separation. Carr escapes pressure and delivers a perfect throw to Crabtree for a nice gain.

Carr’s Throw of the Day

Carr’s most impressive throw of the game came in the fourth quarter on a pivotal drive in which the Raiders were down 13 to 24. The Raiders were just called for a ten yard offensive pass interference penalty and the drive looked like it was doomed, but on second down the AC/DC connection delivered. The concept was a deep dig/ seam combination to Roberts and Crabtree to the right. The Saints cover the concept well and Carr almost checks the ball off to Murray but he sees a linebacker barreling down on Murray. Instead of panicking, he calmly looks to Cooper who has gotten far down field on fade route. The corner on Cooper is playing cover-2 tech and sags off Cooper. Carr fits the ball perfectly in what some coaches call the “honey-hole” right in between the safety and the cornerback for a 43 yard gain and the Raiders score on the drive.

Richard’s TD Run

Jalen Richard’s big touchdown run came on one the Raider’s favorite inside zone variants, the opposite zone, in which the line zones one way, while the back gets the handoff the other way.

The line zones to the right, while Richard gets the ball to the left. What makes the run so impressive is Richard’s understanding of the game. He said in an interview after the game that he recognized that the defensive tackle was two gapping and that “he played with him a little bit”. Knowing that the defensive tackle is responsible for two-gaps, Richard faked to one gap and ran to the other. You could see his patience, as he stays north and south and just explodes like a bat out of hell to the end zone. It’s wonderful to see the New Orleans native make a play like that in his hometown in his first game as a professional.

Osemele Impact on the Run Game

If you watch Osemele on Richard’s long touchdown you could see a devastating pancake block. Osemele might have had over five pancake blocks that entire game. He had a huge impact on the running game opening huge lanes for the Raider running backs all day. He was worth every penny of his huge contract and even played admirably at left tackle when called upon.

Final Drive: Formation, Pressures, Levels TD

On the game-winning touchdown throw, the Raiders were in the Y-bunch formation five out of 12 times. The Raiders ran the ball well out of this formation through out the game and it was clear that Musgrave wanted to physically dominate the tired Saints front late in the fourth quarter.

Watch Osemele dominate in the run game once again.

The Raiders gained 18 yards rushing on the first two plays, but the Saints were able to slow down the run. However, Musgrave stayed in his favorite run formation and broke tendency by heavily passing out of the Y-bunch. The results were a 12 yard gain and two passes that should have been completed (miss throw to Walford, drop by Roberts).


In the Y-bunch formation, the Raiders ran a deep smash concept the right. Crabtree is once again running an out route. The Saints are in a cover-2 and Carr is reading the corner. If the corner drops deep to Roberts then Carr will hit Crabtree. This play illustrates Carr’s growth as a quarterback because although Carr wasn’t pressured much during the game, he was pressured by far the most (4 out of 8 passes) on the last drive and handled it exceptionally. On this play, Carr escapes a free rusher, reads the play correctly, and gets the ball out to Crabtree who makes a spectacular play by coming back to the ball to snag it out of the air. Crabtree finishes the play by trucking a defender for some extra yardage. Now that’s a man that wants to win!

The final touchdown was a result of a good read and delivery by Carr on a levels concept. The Raiders are lined up in a trio (2 WRs, 1 TE) to the field. The Saints are once again in Cover 2 and Carr is reading the defensive back lined up on Crabtree. The defensive back turns his hips to cover Crabtree and the since the corner on Roberts is playing with outside leverage, Roberts is easily able to get inside of him. Carr throws the ball to Roberts in stride and he finishes the play by pin-balling his way to the touchdown.

Game Winning Back Shoulder Fade

The game winning touchdown was actually a run play. Similarly to the game tying touchdown Crabtree caught against the Chargers last year, Carr seemed to have a built in option to throw the ball if he wanted. The Raiders are in an empty formation with the tailback lined up to the right. Richard motions into the backfield and a linebacker goes with him, confirming that the Saints are playing man coverage.


The corner knew a fade was coming as he is playing hard outside leverage, but the ball was placed perfectly to Crabtree’s outside shoulder and Crabtree simply wanted the ball more than the defender did. Crabtree and the Raiders showed a ton of passion in this game and simply refused to lose this game. From Carr jumping over a defender for a first down to Osemele burying defenders, this Raider team has the determination of a winner. We’ll see if that determination could get the Raiders to the playoffs.

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.

4 comments on “Week 1: Raiders vs Saints Offensive Analysis: Big Start in the Big Easy

  1. Great work!
    Loved the “honey hole” pass.
    How’s the whole eating/food thing working out?

  2. Rikki-Tikki-Deadly

    Love love love the “double stack of pancakes alert!”

  3. I really appreciate what you have done here. Awesome! This is the first time I have seen this and I look forward to future postings. I also appreciate the comment on DC rushing his throw when he had protection. I think DC has a clock in his head set at 2.5 seconds and sometimes makes a hurried throw to avoid losing yards on a sack. I am sure he will see that on tape and improve on it.

  4. Erik Fountaine

    Nothing like a stack of pancakes! Hopefully we can continue to run the ball effectively all year!

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