Experts and fans alike knew the key for the Raiders to move the ball against the Broncos defense was to run the ball. The Broncos were ranked 27th in run defense coming into the game and the Raiders were ranked 8th. However, nobody could have projected that the Raiders were going to run rampant over the Broncos to the tune of 218 yards. The six big guys upfront (Denver Kirkland included) deserve a bulk of the credit for the win because they absolutely punked a once proud Bronco defensive front into submission. They did it with a jumbo line that included a sixth offensive linemen and several punishing, old school run concepts. To keep the spirit of that smash mouth approach, we aren’t going to look at anything fancy in this article. We are going to review how good old-fashioned run concepts helped the Raiders win their biggest game in over a decade.
Full House Iso
It doesn’t get more simple and old school than an Iso play from the I-formation.
Carr motions Mychal Rivera inside to form a full house backfield to give Rivera a better angle to block the inside linebacker. Rodney Hudson and Gabe Jackson miscommunicate on a double team that almost got the play blown up, as they left the nose tackle unblocked. However, Kelechi Osemele creates such a big running lane by displacing his man out of the picture that Murray had plenty of room to get in the hole and avoid the nose tackle. Full back, Jamize Olawale also completely stalemates a linebacker in the hole. The problem with crowding the line of scrimmage as tightly as the Broncos did is that if the running back is able to get past the first level there is no one to stop him. Murray busts through the line and no one is near him until he gets into the secondary.
The Raiders run game lives and dies on the inside zone. There isn’t a set gap that the play is suppose to hit. The running back is tasked with making his reads and finding the hole. Most of the inside zone will end up cutting back to the backside of the play.
Tight end, Clive Walford is lined up to the left of the screen. Kirkland, the sixth linemen, is lined up in a “sniffer” position on the left between the Walford and Manelik Watson to the left of the screen. The inside zone is called to the right, but again since the play usually cuts back coach Musgrave positioned two extra blockers to the left of the formation. Kirkland absolute demolishes defensive linemen, Billy Winn, and makes his way to block a linebacker. Walford does a nice job of kicking out number 48 even though his technique is questionable to create a massive hole. Safety, TJ Ward, hesitates because he sees Amari Cooper faking a reverse and is unable to fill the huge gap made by Kirkland and company.
The zone read is inside zone out of shotgun, while leaving an unblocked defender for the quarterback to read. It is a simple play but it executed to perfection here. The most essential part of the play is the backside double-team between Howard and Gabe Jackson. They have to get movement on the defensive tackle before one of them leaves to block the inside linebacker. Jackson makes the initial contact, while keeping his eyes on the linebacker. He leaves at the perfect time, while Howard overtakes the block and shoves him beyond the hash mark. The defensive end has to respect Carr’s ability to keep the ball and cannot make a tackle until Deandre Washington gains seven yards on the play.
T Counter or G counter
An interesting addition to the Raider running game is the Tackle or Guard Counter. Depending on the alignment of the defense, either the backside guard or tackle will pull and lead through the hole.
On this play, the play side is the right of the screen. Richard takes a counter step to the left and goes right to get the handoff. Since, the backside defensive tackle (circled in video) is head up on Howard he could easily block him, which allows Jackson to pull and lead through the hole. The frontside gets clogged up but Howard does such a great job at finishing his block that Richard is able to cutback even though the play isn’t designed for a cutback.
On this play, the play side is going right. The backside defensive tackle is lined up in a three technique between Howard and Jackson. Since, it’ll be more difficult for Howard to block a defensive tackle inside of him, Howard and Jackson switch assignments. Jackson down blocks the defensive tackle, while Howard pulls around and leads for Richard. Osemele and Penn once again opens up a huge gap for Howard to lead into and Richard bursts through for a nice run.
Opposite Zone or “Crunch”
The Raiders also love to run a play that I call opposite zone in which the line zones one way, while the back gets the ball going the other. Michael Silver reported that Penn scolded Mike Tice to tell Musgrave to run the ball more and he responded by running this play 7 of 8 times in the last four minutes of the game.
Although Kirkland and the offensive line had an excellent day overall, Murray makes this play. There seems to be some miscommunication on this play because there are two unblocked defenders in the hole. Latavius Murray does an excellent job of juking one and then making another impressive jump cut to get outside of a very athletic defender in cornerback, Chris Harris Jr.. Murray ran hard and tough throughout the night and may have had his best game as a Raider to date.
The Raider run game has been good, not great throughout the season. It just wasn’t as consistent as it should be. If the line blocked everyone, a tight end might have missed a block or the back might not have hit the right hole. But in the Raiders biggest game in over ten years, they put it all together. If the run game could play in sync and as physical as they did against the Broncos, this team might be in line more than just a playoff berth.