FanPost

Tampa Two

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On December 3, 2006, the Houston Texans played one of the worst statistical games in NFL history. David Carr passed for -5 yards net (He was sacked for 37 yards). They had just 129 yards rushing and yet the won by 9 points. Their opponent had 300 yards of total offense and 21 first downs to the 10 for the Texans. But that offense was the infamous Bed and Breakfast offense of Raiders History. Led by Tom Walsh, with a sleepy nod from Art Shell from time to time, the 2006 Raiders flopped to the worst record of an Al Davis Raiders team (2-14). With a points differential of -164 that season, it may surprise some to learn that the 2006 defense gave up the fewest points of the last 10 years. The 168 points scored remains the lowest total in Raiders history. The 2009 Cable offense had similar numbers (-180 pt differential and only 197 points. But this Russell-led offense still managed to win twice as many games (5) and returned the next year (without Russell) and managed the most points in a season since the 2002 Super Bowl as well as the only positive point differential in the last decade.

That 2002 Super Bowl was against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the disastrous outcome cast a pall over the organization for the next 10 years. This week, both the Raiders and Tampa Bay (at 3-4) are playing in the .500 Bowl. The winner gets to say goodbye to a losing record. The loser will have to wait and see. With the Raiders looking at just 2 winning teams the rest of the season, a win here is huge. Tampa Bay needs the win just as much since they have two games with Atlanta to go as well as a matchup with Denver. Tampa Bay has lost to 3 losing teams. Outside of San Diego, the Raiders have not lost to a losing team. Just like the Raiders, the wins have come down to 2 wins over losing teams (including KC for both) and 1 win over a winning team. So despite the victory over the Vikings last week, it's the Raiders that have been playing more competitive teams.

Which brings us back to the Houston game in 2006. It's clear that the defense has improved leaps and bounds since the bye. It's at least capable of standing up against an undefeated team. However, the inconsistency with the offensive line and running game as well as weak play calling has cut into the defensive advantages. As the Houston game showed, you can only do that so long before you lose the game.

The no huddle is an offensive strategy designed to keep defenses off balance and limit substitutions and defensive adjustments. It also places limitations on the offense based upon the base formation. Defenses are allowed to substitute if there's an offensive substitution but many get caught off guard. It's clear that we did not start the year planning a no huddle offense which means we're going to have to address play calling. Why play calling? Because again, the no huddle is a strategy to keep defenses off balance. It still requires execution. It doesn't make good players out of bad ones. It just works on the things the defense can do. It can wear on the defense, but marginalized play will give away much of that advantage. Most defenses can handle 3 and outs all day. We scored as many points in a game of no huddle as in a game with only a half of no huddle. We have to look no further than 3rd down efficiency for the culprit. In the case of KC (2 for 12) we saw the defensive wear we talked about after the Jags game. Running in the second half was completely opposite that of the first half. It does suggest the no huddle as a strategy to open the running game in the second half. However, we need to be more realistic about the limitations as reflected in the stats.

I'm personally giving DA more credit than believing he's content with this or the play calling. This is not related to the ZBS issue. DA knew that man blocking was always on the table and so he could always say whatever he wanted. When the time came, he decided to go with more man blocking. Play calling is different because it's not what he would have expected. While Allen talks players a lot, he does focus in on the problems. They didn't waste the entire season trying to motivate Ro or get him to play better. They made a change. Right when Curry was healthy to back them up if it got ugly. So it didn't and everyone's happy with the defense again. And the players on defense who had been problems stepped up their play big time. DA and Tarver found the problem on defense, fixed it and moved on. The same has to happen on offense.

I think the Raiders will take this game barring any unforeseen tragedies. That's not the homer in me talking. It's possible that we may not see the no huddle initially as the team tries to move beyond it. If there are other adjustments in play calling such as Saunders spending some time with the players, maybe we'll be in for a surprise. I don't see us waiting until we're down by 14 or more at the half, before bringing in the no huddle. Here's a novel idea, how about stretching the field a little? Regardless, we should see an improved effort here and an improved effort and a good defense will be all we need to take the game.

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