The Raiders scored over thirty points for the second time this season against their division rivals, the San Diego Chargers. The Chargers are experiencing a nightmarish season in which they have endured key injury after key injury as well as losing three games after leading the in fourth quarter. They aren’t a bad team, but they just can’t seem to a catch a break this season. As long as they have Phillip Rivers, they have a fighting chance in any game though. Rivers tore up the Raider defense, however, the Raider offense kept pace and with the help of some Charger miscues, won the game.
Throw the Fade!
The Raiders game plan was clear from the beginning. They were going to attack the Charger secondary, especially when they were in man coverage. Star corner, Jason Verrett, is out for the season leaving Brandon Flowers and a rotation of journeymen corners to try and replace him. Carr wanted to test them with Amari Cooper running fade routes right at them. Remember in the preseason when the timing with the fade routes just weren’t right? It still isn’t perfect now, but the deep ball is one of the Raiders most effective weapons.
Carr sees that the Chargers are in man coverage and are bravely playing bump and run on Cooper with back up corner, Steve Williams. Carr makes an audible at the line, most likely to get his outside receivers running fades. Check out the move Cooper puts on Williams at the line. William lunges, but can barely touch Cooper. However, William has 4.3 speed and is able to recover, but Carr puts the ball in a spot where only Cooper could catch it and Cooper stretches out to make a great catch. This play was a tone setter.
Red Zone Woes
The Raiders didn’t have much of a problem moving the ball, but struggled in the red zone and had to attempt five field goal attempts. Washington and Richard took a lot of snaps in the red zone, but they lack the size to be effective in short yardage situations. With Murray out, the Raiders should have given more carries to Olawale in the red zone. He scored in his only attempt there. On top of that, Cooper just couldn’t get both feet in bounds on a couple of goal line fades. I thought he could have toe-tapped the first fade, but the second one would have been difficult. Frankly, Carr just didn’t play very well in the redone and missed a couple of reads.
Against the Ravens, Carr threw his first touchdown pass on a roll out to Seth Roberts. He had a similar opportunity against the Chargers. This was suppose to be a pick concept in which Crabtree runs an inside route and Roberts runs a shoot underneath Crabtree. Roberts is suppose to be the first read but the route takes a little while to develop and Carr actually takes his eyes off Roberts and looks at Crabtree who is being held and then back to Roberts. However, the throw is late and the Chargers are able to defend the play. Carr should have been a little more patient and let the route develop a little longer. One of his strengths is getting through his progressions quickly, but there are times when he could be a little more patient and let things develop.
Carr hardly gets fooled by coverages but defensive coordinator, John Pagano, opened up the playbook against him and was actually able to fool Carr on the goal line. The Chargers show an blitz, man to man coverage pre-snap in the image above, but right before the ball is snapped they back out into a cover 2.
The route combination is designed to beat man to man. Roberts and Rivera were suppose to create picks for Crabtree running a slant. However, the defense’s cover-2 is able to cover every route. Carr tries to thread the needle but the timing of the play is off and Crabtree did not expect the ball and is unable to bring it in. Carr does not get fooled by the coverage often, so this isn’t a problem in the future.
4th & 2 Audible for the WIn.
Not only did the Raiders have the nerve to go for a fourth and two near the red zone, they went for it all with yet another fade. This time to Micheal Crabtree for what would be the game winning score.
The Raiders typically run this play with a double slant to Crabtree’s and Rivera’s side. It looks like a safe, good call because the Chargers are playing man to man and the corner isn’t cheating inside to take away inside breaking routes.
Earlier in the game, the Raiders ran the same play but the Chargers dropped back an outside linebacker to take the play away. That scenario might have been in Carr’s head as he changed Crabtree’s route into a fade. He throws a perfect pass and Crabtree comes down with yet another clutch catch. Offensive coordinator, Bill Musgrave, must have had a near heart attack waiting for that ball to land. That’s the world you live with young aggressive players. So far, the aggression hasn’t really hurt the Raiders and one day it inevitably will, but at this point the young Raiders aren’t good enough to just be conservative.
New Wrinkle Alert
There are a lot of comparisons made between Derek Carr and Aaron Rodgers and there could be some arguments made that the Raiders offense resembles Green Bay when they were at their best. This week, Musgrave seemed to have copied a page out of the Green Bay playbook by putting Cooper in the backfield. Green Bay would put star receiver, Randall Cobb, in the backfield to create match-up problems or serve as a decoy. Musgrave didn’t show the full Cooper-in-the-backfield package, as Cooper only took two snaps from the position but it’ll be interesting to see if this is a package that will be developed in the future.
The Raiders start out in an empty formation and motion Cooper into the backfield. The defense probably is thinking it’s some sort of trick pay involving Cooper and key onto him, but Carr fakes a handoff to Cooper and throws a tunnel screen to running back, Jalen Richard. This is a clever wrinkle because tunnel screens were very effective against the Chargers last year, but as they started to suspect it was coming, they started blowing the play up. By adding some window dressing, they ran the concept more discretely.
A concept that you will the Raiders run often is one in which they will single Cooper up and run route combination opposite of him. Carr will read the combination side first and if he doesn’t like what he’ll see, he’ll look to Cooper running a dig route across the field.
The reason why this type of play is so effective is first because of the exceptional protection Carr gets. Depending on the combination, Cooper could be Carr’s third or even fourth read so he needs time. Defensive end, Joey Bosa, beats Penn initially, but Penn does not give up on the play and dives to give Bosa just enough of a push to allow Carr to step up. It is this type of effort and heart that makes Penn so valuable. He isn’t as nimble as other left tackles, but he is completely committed to protecting Carr. The second reason why this play works because, it is simply hard to run with Cooper running a diagonally across the field. At some point, he is going to beat you and that’s what happens on this play. Again, Williams run a 4.3 and started inside of Cooper, but he is still able to get separation inside on him.
The Raiders are 4-1 and if they hope to go 5-1 against the Chiefs, they have to be better in the red zone. They struggled in the red zone against the Chiefs last year and they might be without Latavius Murray once again this week. Hopefully, Olawale gets more carries and Carr is able to figure it out in the red zone. Making a mistake there against Marcus Peters and the Chiefs defense might not just mean settling for field goals, but giving away turnovers.