Clinching a playoff berth after a fourteen year drought is no small feat, but something about the game felt incomplete. The Chargers are not exactly an easy matchup, but with all of their injuries and the way their season was going, I expected a statement game. After losing to the Chiefs, I wanted the Raiders to come off their ten days rest and dominate at what turned out to be another home game. They had their chances and moved the ball in between the 20’s effectively, but didn’t execute in the red zone. With that said here are three things that I liked about the Raiders offensive performance and three things that I didn’t.
First Thing I liked:
I liked that the Raiders came in with the mentality of establishing the run game. After the Chiefs game, the Raiders staff might have realized that they have to have a more consistent run game in order to make a serious playoff run. They have to get better at moving the ball in bad weather and the run game can certainly make things easier. The Raiders are mainly an inside zone team, but they came out and ran the power play more than usual. In gap scheme runs like power, the offensive line can fire off the ball vertically, which works out when you have a line as mean as Oakland’s.
When running “Power”, the key block is the double team on the frontside. Osemele and Penn have to double team the defensive lineman in between them and then one of them should disengage to the backside inside linebacker. This combo block is known as a “duece” block. The linemen can’t always get to the backside linebacker but if could blow up the defensive lineman involved, the collision ends up walling off the backside linebacker, which is what happens on this play.
From there, it’s the backside guard’s (Gabe Jackson) job to pull around and block the frontside inside linebacker. Jackson seals the linebacker and leaves running back Deandre Washington with a huge hole to run though.
First Thing I didn’t like:
Murray is having a resurgent season, but his performance in this game left much to be desired. He fumbled in the red zone and he looked to have left a lot of yards on the field after breaking into the secondary. The offensive line created some huge running lanes, but Murray didn’t take full advantage by making some head scratching moves in the open field.
This is a zone play in which the Raiders line parted the red sea for Murray. When he gets into the secondary, he elects to try to cut back into two defenders rather than trust his speed and possibly break one tackle with a stiff arm. Even if he didn’t break the tackle, if he kept running straight, he might have gotten an extra twenty yards.
Open field running isn’t his strength and one bad game doesn’t mean he’s terrible at it. Murray is still a valuable part of the Raider offense, but one would hope he maximizes his runs against the Colts. There could be some similar opportunities.
Second Thing I liked:
To say that the Raiders offense run a lot of fades is an understatement. A good counter to the fade route is the comeback route. Receivers sell like they are running a fade for 12-15 yards and then suddenly stop and comeback towards the sideline. It could be extremely hard for defensive backs to stop when they are sprinting for their lives to stay on top of he likes of Amari Cooper.
This might have been one Carr’s best throws of the year. With pressure in his face, he had to release the ball a bit early. He has to let go of the ball when Cooper was at about 5 yards, which meant he had 5-6 yards more to go but he perfectly anticipates where Cooper is going to be and delivers a perfect ball. Pro-bowl corner, Casey Hayward, dives for the ball, misses, and allows Cooper to rack up some yards after the catch.
I hope to see more comeback routes in the playoffs!
Second Thing I didn’t like:
Against the Texans, the Raiders exploited slow linebacker, Benardrick McKinney, with their pass catching running backs. I thought the Raiders had an opportunity to do this against Denzel Perryman, Kyle Emmanuel, and Korey Toomer, but they didn’t. It seemed to be in the game plan, as the Raiders used an running back option route early in the game, but Carr and Richard weren’t on the same page and they didn’t go back to it.
On this play, Richard likely has an option to go outside, curl, or cut inside based on the leverage of the defender that is covering him. The defense is in a cover-1 with a blitz called and has Richard 1 on 1 with a linebacker that typically rushes the passer. Carr chooses the right match up, but he thought Richard was going to go outside and throws there. However, Richard takes a stutter step to the outside to juke the defender before cutting inside. Carr has pressure in his face and has to rush the throw. If he could have waited to see where Richard was going to cut, this might have been a huge play.
At the end of the day, all four backs including full back, Olawale, accounted for 47 yards, but it could have been a lot more against the slower San Diego linebackers.
Third Thing I liked:
If you’ve followed my analysis since last year, you would have known that I’ve been calling for the Raiders to use more rub concepts to get their guys open. All three AFC West opponents are predominately man to man teams and rub concepts could be difficult to defend with man to man coverage. Peyton Manning made a living off these concepts.
The Raiders could have had more success against the Chiefs defense if they did use more rub concepts, but they rectified it by using the “mesh” concept several times against the Chargers for key first downs. The “mesh” concept involves two crossing routes that meet in the middle of the field with the intention of getting a slight bump on a defender to slow him down.
Teams that play man have to play a lot of 2-man to keep two safeties back because they are fearful of Cooper and Crabtree running fade routes. The weakness of 2-man is that there is not help in the short middle of the field, which is why the mesh concept is even better against it.
It’s third and four and the Chargers are in 2-man. Cooper is lined up the slot to the left of the formation, while tight end, Clive Walford, is lined up the right. Cooper runs a crossing route and gets a bump on the defender covering Walford. The bump slows the defender down enough for Walford to gain a couple of steps on him.
Also, notice that the two outside receivers don’t actually run routes on this play. Instead they block because the primary targets on the play are the crossers.
Third Thing I didn’t like:
This might be the obvious gripe I had with the game: the Raiders red zone execution. Murray fumbled the ball away on one red zone trip and Carr threw a careless interception on another. The Raiders had to settle for four field goals.
Although the pistol formation has not hindered the Raiders’ regular run game, it has impacted the Raiders in short yardage situation. Before the Carolina game, the Raiders scored touchdowns on 63.64 percent of red-zone trips. In the last three games after playing the Panthers, the Raiders have only scored touchdowns on 33.3 percent of red-zone trips. I get more in depth with how the pistol hurts the goal line offense here.
The Raiders can clinch the AFC West with a win against the colts and a Chiefs loss to the Broncos. Hopefully, next week there will be a longer list of things to like and a shorter list of things I didn’t like.