Once again, I have to tip my hat to Bill Musgrave for coming into the game with an excellent game plan. Fans might have an issue with his “conservative” play-calling but I don’t blame him for trying to establish the run against Houston’s 26th run defense. The front was simply out-played in the run game. The big drops didn’t help, but to score 27 points against the fourth ranked defense in total yards is no small feat. The offense came in with plays that were designed to take advantage of the Texans linebackers in pass coverage with their running backs and they resulted in 199 yards in receiving yards for the Raiders backs.
The Raiders actually picked on one linebacker in particular, Benardrick McKinney. McKinney was involved in a lot of the big plays that we’ll look at. He looks to be a big run-stuffing linebacker that lacks the fluidity and quickness to hold up in pass coverage. The Raiders first touchdown was prime example of that.
The Raiders started in an empty formation with running back, Jalen Richard lined up outside to the right. McKinney lined up over him indicating that the Texans were in man coverage. This was confirmed as Mckinney followed Richard as he motioned into a slot position to the left.
The Texans were in a 2-man coverage, meaning that they have two deep safeties while the rest of the defense is in man to man coverage. This coverage is effective at taking away deep passes but the weakness is in the short middle because there is no “robber” to help on in breaking route and this is the precise area that the Raiders attack.
Richard puts a great move on Mckinney by taking a pronounced step to the outside before breaking inside. Carr hits him stride and Richard leaves Mckinney in the dust and splits the safeties to finish the play for the touchdown.
Spread them out with 21 personnel
21 personnel means that the offense has two running backs and one tight end in. On first down, when the Raiders have 21 personnel in, the defense would expect a run-heavy formation especially when one of the backs in is a full back.
On this play, the Raiders come out with full back, Jaimze Olawale, Deandre Washington, and tight end, Clive Walford. The Texans seem to expect a run heavy formation because they are in a bear front. However, the Raiders line up in a spread formation with Olawale lined up in the slot. The Raiders spread the Texans out further by motioning Richard out of the backfield, which puts them in an empty formation. McKinney follows Richard out but are still a man short on that side, as Olawale finds a vacant zone. It may only be a five yard gain, but credit Musgrave for creating throwing lanes with personnel packages, formations, and motions. It’s an OC’s job to create easy opportunity for his players and that is what Musgrave did here.
Olawale’s touchdown was part of the Cooper in the backfield package. The Raiders have lined Cooper up in the backfield and throwing swing routes to him with some success earlier in the season. They tried to expand on the package that almost resulted in an interception against the Broncos (T.J. Ward dropped INT). That didn’t stop Musgrave from going back to the drawing board and trying again. This week, he adapted the Raiders switch verticals concept into the package with Olawale and Rivera running the verticals.
The Texans look like they are in a cover-2 defense on Olwale’s side. The corner is aware that Cooper is in the backfield and is ready to jump the swing once Cooper runs it and that’s exactly what he does. Rivera runs into the seam and holds the safety, while Rivera runs a wheel from the backfield. Olawale is wide open because of the attention given to Cooper and Rivera and once he catches the ball, he makes the safety miss and shows his incredible speed for a fullback by finishing the play for a long touchdown.
This play is an example of Musgrave finding creative ways to take advantage of Olawale’s uncommon athleticism for a fullback, creating counters for his packages, and dressing up old concepts.
Murray’s Big Play
People are discounting Carr’s fourth quarter play because he “just” dumped the ball off, as if going through your progressions and getting to your check down is not a skill, but it takes brains to read coverages, figure out your progressions, and then go through them.
The concept is a dagger concept to the left side. The defense looks like it’s in cover-2. The slot runs a seam and the outside receiver runs a dig, while Murray runs into the flat after the play fake. Carr’s progression against cover-2 is look at the seam to dig to check down. Carr first sees that the seam is covered, and then sees that Mckinney drops right into where the dig is. The corner is suppose to pass off the dig to Mckinney but instead he runs with the dig leaving nobody in the flat. Carr finds the hole in the flat and Murray breaks the play for a huge gain.
Manilek Watson is lined up a sixth linemen to the right of the formation and absolutely owned Clowney on this play. Clooney was having his way against Austin Howard. If Watson keeps playing like this, he might get his starting spot back soon.
Although the play didn’t quite end the game for the Texans, the Raiders gave the Texans a brutal blow by throwing a fade to Richard, who was matched up against, you guessed it, McKinney. The Raiders once again line up an empty formation with Richard lined up out wide to the right.
McKinney is lined up way inside of Richard and practically daring him to the run a fade. Because he is so far inside, he can’t press Richard or push him towards the sideline, giving him plenty of room to work with. Carr recognizes that the defense is in cover-1 and all he has to do is hold the safety with his eye and then throw the fade. He does and the play is practically uncontested.
Again, credit Musgrave for being aggressive and taking advantage of a big match up problem in this stage of the game. Some fans wish that he would call these plays early in the game, but saving his best plays for critical junctures in the game are one of the reasons that the Radiers are able to step up in critical situations. I hope that involving our multi-talented running backs in the passing game will continue, as it’ll help make up for the lack of production from the tightened position.