There is much finger pointing going on after the debacle last Sunday at home against the Buccaneers. The blame, depending on who you talk to (and whether or not you think they're crazy), can be placed on Palmer (interceptions), DMC (fragility), Knapp (ineffective), Allen (indecisive), the entire defense (useless), the entire offense (hopeless), Willie Smith (deserving of a separate category for blame), Reggie (inexcusable), Al (interred), Mark Davis (in over his head). It is what it is. But I think It's time to move beyond the Xs and Os, the ZBS versus PBS, WCO versus vertical game, key position failures, offensive line issues or even lack of offensive strategies outside the no huddle, into the big picture. Is the offensive game plan suitable for this team?
The first quarter of the Raiders-Tampa Bay game saw 4 running plays against the Tampa Bay defense. Of those plays, 2 were to the left side for 12 yards (5 and 7) and 2 was to the right ( for -1 yard at the right tackle and 7). Out of 13 possible offensive plays (excluding punts/fFG we ran less than 33% of the time against a defense that had done poorly against the run. The second quarter saw a TD nullified by a holding call on the infamous right tackle, 3 more run attempts for a total of -1 yards and 2 sacks of the QB.
After passing the first 2 first downs, we then chose to run the next 5 first downs for an anemic 17 yards. Is it any wonder that the first pass play on 1st down
after the 5 runs resulted in DHB's spectacular 46 yard catch? Or that had TB not taken DMC out, we may have well run the ball on that series and not gotten a TD? Guess what the first Oakland play of the second half (after our half-time adjustments) was???? You guessed it, a run on first down for no gain. And mercifully, our running game was soon put to rest. It appears that we were never going to see a game plan with a balanced mixture of running/passing on first downs this game.
The significance of all this is that we scored 10 points in the entire half. One interesting note is that we finished a no huddle drive without using the no huddle on the final 2-3 plays and wound up with a field goal. Our defense kept TB down to 7 points in the first half. But this is a team that has scored 30 points or more in the last 3 games. They were still on schedule for about 23 more points. And the clouds shift from Atlanta to the Big O.
Defensive Meltdowns or Offensive Stagnation:
Here are some facts to consider. When teams have scored more than 15 points against Miami, they have beat Miami every time. Four of Miami's wins have come from anemic offensive performances by their opponents. All 5 Raider losses came with zero points in the third quarter. All 3 Raider wins came with at least one score in the third quarter. The most 3rd quarter points came from the Pittsburg game (clearly surprised by the no huddle). The third quarter is most significant because it should reflect the implementation of half-time adjustments by both the defense and the offense.
As I stated before, Tampa Bay has now scored 30 points in their last 4 games. Which meant that offensively, they were on a roll to begin with. We could not have come up with a better game plan offensively for their defense. Limited attack against their run defense and an aerial attack into coverage. One would almost think that we misinterpreted the TB victory over Minnesota as an example of a stout run defense.
After the half, Desmond Bryant was unavailable due to being taken to hospital for an irregular heartbeat (precautionary). Which meant that we weren't getting the fresh DTs in. Which means, without an offense that is sustaining drives, the defense will be on the field longer and would not be able to contain a fresh Martin (whose longest run of the first half was 13 yards. That may have been one of the considerations for not using the no huddle in the early part of the second half. However, the advantage from consistent first downs was probably missed. It would be foolish to argue that the defense was tired when Martin gashed them for the two TD runs after the half. But after chasing Martin for a hundred yards, you can be sure they were tired the rest of the game. Considering that we waited until the 4th quarter to score twice as many points as we had scored in the other 3 quarters combined, it's not surprising that TB was able to build an insurmountable lead.
We have faced the 3 worst run defenses in the entire NFL. The verdict is clear. We cannot run the ball. Not because we lack the players but we lack the conviction of a run game. Saying that the loss of DMC and Goodson hurt this game is not true. We were never positioned to utilize the backs this game. It would be like arguing that we would be 7-1 if Barnes hadn't got hurt. We'd have been better off, but we still would have had what we have which is an OC whose game plan appears to be at odds with the team. We scored twice as many points in a single quarter with no running backs as we did with healthy running backs. In fact, we scored more points than we ever had in a single quarter this season with everyone healthy (Barnes included).
This isn't a rebuild issue. It isn't a cap issue. It isn't a Reggie or Dennis issue. It isn't a player issue. The question is simple. Does our offensive game plan put us in a position to win? Even the no huddle has to come from the game plan. So when it's not working, you still have to look at the game plan. Our stated objective offensively was to run the ball. We have not done that effectively. But more importantly, we have not adjusted our reality to that fact. If I had to identify a component that stands between winning and losing now, it's Palmer. I saw how the defense responded to him in the Jags game after giving up 20 points in the first half. I believe they would have responded in the 3rd quarter of the TB game if we had given them some hope. That ball was in the air 60 times that game and at least 55 of those times, TB knew that was the only place it was going to be. You can't play 3 card monte in the NFL and win.