A Look at the Other 9 Run/Option Plays v the Broncos

Play 1 Hard Edge and Collapsing Lane

The goal of an off-tackle play is to collapse the edge, make it "soft" so to speak. Meanwhile, the defense is trying to set a hard edge, preventing the offensive line from pushing downfield. Here we see the Broncos' defender setting a hard edge and when DMC gets to the gap, the lane collapses from the outside and inside and the linebackers fill.

Still 1 :

Double team against the DE and Mychal Rivera has the LB one-on-one. Gurode will pull. Denver linebackers will fill. McFadden presses the B-gap before breaking it to the outside (or there is a mis-communication about the intended gap).

Second Still :

Gurode is pulling to the D-gap. DMC initialy pressed the B-gap. Linebackers are filling. Pashos will release the double team to try to get to Trevathan, but Pashos can't get there. This leaves Mastrud singled up on #95 DE Derek Wolfe.

Mastrud and Rivera will be lose their blocks, collapsing the running lane.

Third Still :

Gurode leads into the hole and has LB Wesley Woodyard one-on-one. Wesley Woodyard is 6' 233 lbs. Andre Gurode is 6'4", 320 lbs. We would expect that a 90 lbs difference would result in the defender being driven downfield about 5 yards. Gurode does get some movement; it is enough to get a few yards, but not what you'd hope from such a mismatch.

Meanwhile, Nate Irving collapses from the outside (Rivera) and Derek Wolfe from the inside (Mastrud). Trevathan gets past Pashos to help clean things up.

DMC has no outside (Irving is contain) and so cuts it up into the running lane.

Fourth :

Gang tackle, but DMC still manages a 4 yard gain.

Play 2 Defeated Lead Blocks

Isolation plays get single blockers isolated on single defenders. The offense counts on the lead blockers to win which will spring the runner into the clear. FBs are supposed to be able to manage LBs blocks and you definitely expect pulling guards to get movement on LBs.

So when you have two lead blockers and they are defeated, then it gives the runner little to do. In fact, there's nothing for him to do, since the play calls for him to follow his leads into the hole.

Notice that this play design has a built-in misdirection to it. The flow of the line is to the left while the run goes to the right. This adjustment gets the d-line out of the way and makes Kevin Vickerson a non-factor.

Still 1 :

Zone blocking look with a guard pulling in the opposite direction. The offensive line blocking gets the def line flowing away from the play. Marcel Reece leading the play against #59 LB Danny Trevathan. Pulling Andre Gurode will have #52 Wesley Woodyard (again).

Second Still :

Big hole opened up. Pashos has #99 DT Kevin Vickerson one-on-one while Mastrud has #90 Shaun Phillips. The initial action has Vickerson vacating the target gap, but he fights to close it down.

2 Raiders are leading into the hole against 2 linebackers. The pulling guard needs to win. The BOB block (Back-on-Backer) needs to win.

Third Still :

To repeat, Wesley Woodyard is 6' 233 lbs. Andre Gurode is 6'4", 320 lbs. this should be a pancake waiting to happen. Ideally, the OG would crush the LB and push him back into the safety #33 Duke Ihenacho. But we've seen this before.

Reece takes on #59 Danny Trevathan one-on-one.

Marcel Reece is 6'2", 255 lbs. Danny Trevathan is 6'1", 240lbs. Trevathan stands Reece up and then sheds him to make the tackle.

Fourth :

Trevathan is shedding Reece to make the initial contact.

Vickerson is closing down the gap from the opposite side. Though he does not actually get in on the tackle, Vickerson does force the play slightly to the outside and into Trevathan. Vickerson may also have impeded Gurode on his attempted block.

Gurode gets a little bump on Woodyard to create a little bit of space, helping DMC get a few yards. If Reece had managed his block, it might have been enough to let DMC run headlong into an off-balanced Woodyard, perhaps for another 3-5 yards.

Fifth :

Gang tackle again. DMC still manages 4 yards on the play.

Play 3 Read Option and Playing the Two-Way

Compare this to Play #4 Communication Breakdown in the First set of breakdowns. It is the same play but with better execution.

The Read Option helps create some space and forces the defense to make some decisions. In this case, the option play gets the edge defender to bit on the keeper and then the double teams are effective at opening up some gaps. The offense generates multiple large running lanes which compromises the linebackers. They cannot attack without guessing; to do so would leave a gap vacated (if you want an example of this, watch some Raiders' clips when Rolando was playing).

The Broncos LBs have to play against the 2-way go (when a RB has 2 potential ways he can go) and this forces them to be more passive. DMC takes advantage of this by pressing a hole and then cutting into another one to get a solid gain. If the LBs could have been disrupted at all (lead block, released block, moved DLineman), then DMC would have had a bigger gain.

To Denver's credit, with the gaps that were open there was alot of yards to be had, but the Broncos' discipline gave up a few yards but prevented the big gain.

Since Ayers had attacked upfield so hard, if DMC had somehow been able to get to bounce out to the outside, there could have been a huge gain.

Still 1 :

7 in the box against a read option look. Double-teams on #97 Malik Jackson and #94 Terrance Knighton.

#91 Robert Ayers bites hard on Pryor's run fake. Reece executes the fake also, but has no one to block.

Vickerson 2-gaps in the middle on Wis.

Second Still :

#52 Woodyard and #59 Trevathan each have to cover 2 gaps. Woodyard has the two A-Gaps, while Trevathan has the A-Gap and the C-gap.

DMC will press his right A-gap to try to get Woodyard to commit, but Woodyard sits to read the play.

Third Still :

DMC cuts back into his left A-gap and Woodyard follows. Vickerson keeps Woodyard's run lane clean. For some reason, Barnes is trying to release and block Trevathan when he has an impossible leverage position. This looks like a problem with the two linemen (Barnes, Gurode) being in conjunction with each other. Ideally they would be working to kick out and for Gurode to be able to wall off the 2nd level.

Fourth :

DMC runs clean into the initial hole and the two Linebackers close in on him.

Fifth :

Woodyard will make initial contact, Trevathan will support.

Sixth :

Two tacklers with safety support. But DMC gets 5 yards out of it.

Play 4 Barnes Tossed Aside

Goal line plays are rarely clean. There are some occasions when the defense sells out in one direction and the runner hits a different way and gets a walk-in, but for the most part, there's going to be contact. And with the way the goalline is set up, most of the time, there is one free defender; he is then the responsibility of the runner. The saying goes, "We'll get the 10 and you have to beat the 11th."

So on many goalline plays, the offense tries to get the runner one-on-one with a defender at the goalline and bet on the runner to get the needed inches.

This is basically what happens here. Bigs will take on Bigs, a lead blocker will take on of the filling linebackers and then DMC will take on the other linebacker near the goallline.

But what happens when a Big loses his matchup so badly that a defensive Big runs free? A runner can't handle two defenders. And that's what happens here.

Barnes will get thrown down by Unrein and DMc will get high-lowed by Unrein and LB Trevathan.

Still 1 :

Gurode will take on #96 DT Mitch Unrein one-on-one Olawale leads into the hole. Two Linebackers are filling. Olawale takes on Woodyard, but Trevathan and Unrein combine on the tackle short of the goalline.

Second Still :

Barnes takes on Unrein, but Unrein is able to throw him aside. Barnes falls to the ground and Unrein comes free. Olawale takes on Woodyard, but Trevathan attacks from across the field.

Third Still :

Barnes is thrown to the ground; he's a non-factor. This play needed Barnes to maintain his block. This would have left DMC one-on-one with Trevathan near the goalline.

Fourth :

But DMC can't beat two, especially when one of them is a 6'4", 306 lbs, DT hitting his legs.

Play 5 Run-Pass Option, Run TD

DMC fakes the dive to draw the defense; he then takes it outside to look for Rivera in the corner. But the Broncos have this well-read. The LBs level does not overcommit to the dive fake and is in pursuit; it doesn't matter, though because DMC has more speed than they do., especially as they navigate through traffic.

DMC has a lead block by Jamize Olawale, but it's not a good one. if Olawale gets a good block on David Bruton, DMC has a walk-in touchdown. As it is, DMC still has enough speed to beat Bruton to the corner.

Still 1 :

Pulling Gurode as DMC fakes the dive. Three major playside blocks are disrupted by the Broncos defenders. Rivera leaks out to the sidelinie but is picked up and covered well. Olalwale gets a rather poor lead block.

Second Still :

Kevin Vickerson gets immediate penetration on Brisiel. Allowing DL penetration is likely part of the play, to draw them up inside and then for DMC to be able to cut to the outside. Ideally, the LBs would attack as well (as in the previous play). Sucking in all the defenders would leave Rivera free.

But the LBs don't overcommit.

Third Still :

DMC cuts to the outside.

#92 DT Sylvester Williams penetrates past Pashos, but Gurode will seal him to keep DMC's lane clean. Olawale leads on #30 S David Bruton. He will get only a little bump, but it's just enough for DMC.

Fourth :

McCants on #95 Derek Wolfe. Wolfe will get past McCants, but he will not be able to catch DMC on the outside.

#25 CB Chris Harris picks up Mychal Rivera. Not a good matchup for the Tightend.

Fifth :

Rivera is well-covered.

Bruton and Derek Wolfe are in pursuit. It's a race to the pylon.

Sixth :

Bruton has an angle.

Seventh :

DMC has just enough speed to get the pylon for the TD.

Play 6 Run Pass Option 2, Pass TD

Fake toss play to DMC to get outside. Reece lined up outside will leak downfield as DMC makes the throw.

A couple interesting notes about this play. The Raiders offensive line is able to block the big Defensive linemen in space. Allowing them to attack upfield and then trapping them to the inside. By pulling two linemen to the outside, it generates more space as well as getting leads in front of DMC.

When DMC gets to the outside, he has a great broken field in front of him. There are linebackers trying to pursue but also several lead blockers. DMC has a potential very good gain if he choose to run it. When his initial pass set-up is disrupted, if DMC pulls the ball down and takes off, he has a chance to run it all the way to the endzone.

Curiously, this is the only time that Greg Olson called for a Toss Play to DMC. With the poor showing against the Denver Front 7 and the amount of space that this play generated, it seems a shame that Olson had not tried this play more often.

Note that the Toss Play was one of DMC's favorite/most effective plays during the 2010 and 2011 seasons. Bob Wylie explained it by saying that the goal was to get DMC to use his speed to get to the edge of the defense and then run downhill.

Some of DMC's huge runs against Denver in 2010, for instance, came using the Toss play. Perhaps we will see more of this mixed in.

Note also that this play also gets the Raiders' most mobile lineman (Wis) into space; another reason to like the construction of this play.

Still 1 :

Pull Wis and Pashos to the outside. Mastrud traps #97 Malik Jackson. Brisiel one-on-ones with #99 Kevin Vickerson. Gurode starts to back out like he's going to pull and then helps seals Malik Jackson and #96 Mitch Unrein.

Rod Streater is supposed to block #56 Nate Irving? This does not look promising.

Linebacker level is in pursuit, but maintaining gap integrities.

Second Still :

DLine is mostly penetrating, making the outside play much easier. Mastrud's got an easy job since his man is attacking upfield. Running to the outside neutralizes Kevin Vickerson's dominating power inside; Brisiel is able to contain him.

Third Still :

Streater engages and then disengages with Nate Irving, basically a "chip" block and passes him off to Pashos. Streater then releases downfield to block Woodyard.

Not highlighted, but look at #59 Trevathan; he's reading the cutback lane.

Fourth :

Pashos has Irving in space; this is a difficult task for him. Brisiel has held up Vickerson, taking him out of the play. The other linemen are all bunched up on the backside.

Reece on the outside is releasing downfield.

DMC has three lead blockers and a huge lane to run into if he wants to.

Fifth :

DMC sets up to pass. Nate Irving is attacking, but Pashos gets enough of a shove on him to push him out of the way. Still, Irving's play will have the effect of forcing DMC to re-set to throw.

Right now, Reece is open, but there's a defensive back #26 Rahim Moore coming over to cover.

The linebacker #52 Woodyard is now dropping off into coverage, leaving an even large open field in front of DMC.

Sixth :

DMC pulls it down and then re-loads to throw, which has allowed Rahim Moore to close in on Reece.

Seventh :

Rahim Moore, best known for his blown coverage in the Playoffs last year, gets beaten.

Play 7 Pryor Read-Option 1

When the defense keys on DMC, it should leave some room for Pryor to run.

In previous looks at the Read Option and how it plays out, it's clear that the way the entire linebacker level reacts is the real key to the success of the play (by "success" I mean mostly if it'll gash them for a big play). When the LBs play discipline and react without over-reacting, it's a tough night; but if the LBs as a group over-commit one way or the other, it can lead to a big play.

What forces LBs to commit? What forces any player to commit, for that matter?

One answer is urgency or maybe "Emergency." If the defense is compromised in some manner it forces defenders to react without the luxury of reading the play. So, basically, if the offensive line can cause some gaps in the defensive line, it looks like there might be a problem and so the LBs have to react to overcome it. If the play then goes in the opposite direction, it doubly compromises them.

So, in essence, to be an effective fake, the fake itself has to open holes as if the play were headed that way.

In this play, that's exactly what happens. Combine this with the outer defenders reacting hard to the fake and you have a big play.

Still 1 :

2 Double teams showing an A-gap power run.

Broncos play this perfectly with the Edge defender reading and a linebacker rotating out, but both these defenders (#90 Shaun Phillips and #56 Nate Irving) bite hard on the DMC dive fake and take themselves out of the play. Mastrud is leading the play and has no one to block.

Second Still :

The upfront blocking compromises the defensive line, forcing the LBs to honor the run gaps. Phillips and Trevathan are watching/reading DMC.

Third Still :

DMC's fake gets the attention of all the linebackers!

The lineblocking creating holes and forced Woodyard and Trevathan to support their gaps. Woodyard running up gives Khalif Barnes fantastic position to seal him.

Phillips and Irving are starting down DMC

Fourth :

Totally, absolutely faked out. Mastrud is running free (hopefully he doesn't cramp up)

Fifth :

Mastrud leading whiel Irving is trying to recover. Irving, Woodyard, and Trevathan look like they have angles on Pryor. They do not.

Also notice that DMC is also hustling downfield to try to get a block. Very nice.

Sixth :

Mastrud's open field block on #26 Rahim Moore. Mastrud doesn't really get a block on him, but he does get in the way enough to prevent Moore from making the play. DMC is hustling, but he can't quite get to #33 Duke Ihenacho. If only DMC had a coupe of more steps.... Ihenacho is the last defender between Pryor at the endzone.

Seventh :

Ihenacho attacks the outside shoulder and forces Pryor to slow and cutback. This allows Nate Irving to come up and make the play.

Eighth :

23 yards, but so close to much more than that

Play 8 Read Option, Negated by Reece's Hold

Another nicely executed option play that has the defense reacting hard to DMC. Again, this occurs principally because there is a definite threat of DMC's run because of holes opened up on the defensive line. The double team on Terrance Knighton is key and forces the LBs to commit.

There will be a key block by Pashos that is missed that essentially forces Reece's holding penalty and ruins this entire play. On 1st-and-20, the Raiders execute a perfect play and get 13 yards to bring up 2nd-and-7, but because of the poor execution, the Raiders instead have a 1st-and-25.

Still 1 :

A read-option that has very different sensibilities than previous executions. This time it's out of the traditional Shotgun, instead of the Pistol and there is no H-back in the backfield. Additionally, Brisiel will pull giving a G-Power Left-look.

This play gets the Four Broncos to commit.

Pryor keeps to the outside.

Second Still :

Double team on Terrance Knighton and Mastrud kicking out on #91 Robert Ayers opens a hole. Wis is able to hold off Vickerson (who appears to be 2-gapping).

Linebackers #52 Woodyard and #59 Trevathan commit to the run holes.

#95 Derek Wolfe also bites on the run fake and #26 Rahim Moore run upfield to support.

Third Still :

Gurode tries to release downfield to get to Woodyard, but can't quite get off Knighton cleanly. Brisiel takes on Trevathan.

Fourth :

DMC carries out the fake and Trevathan makes the hit on him.

Meanwhile to the outside, #95 Wolfe has committed to the inside, which gives Pashos good outside leverage to seal him to the inside.

Woodyard, Trevathan, Moore are out of the play.

Fifth :

Pashos can't get to Wolfe. This causes the penalty.

Marcel Reece is playing inside leverage. Pashos is supposed to take outside leverage. These two blocks should combine to give Pryor a lane between them. When Pashos fails his block, it forces Pryor to take it to the outside. That's fine with respect to Wolfe because Pryor is much faster then he is.

BUT, this now compromises Reece's position. He's now to the inside of the defender.

Sixth :

Reece engages as much as he can to give Pryor room to run and Mike Adams comes over to make the play.

Seventh :

Tackled for a 13 yard gain.

Reece's Holding Penalty :

Ticky-tack foul and similar to the block that DHB made in week one against the Raiders during Andrew Luck's TD scramble.

Still, there are two reason why this was called. First, it was out in the open field right in front of the play. Second, it's very easy to see Reece's hand on Chris Harris' back.

And it is easy to see his left hand grabbing the jersey. It's just too obvious.

But again, this play goes back to Tony Pashos' lack of footspeed and agility. Interestingly, these are exactly the attributes that Menelik Watson DOES have and this is the type of play that (in the future), we will expect Watson to make.

Play 9 The QB Draw Concussion

Sometimes the offense calls a perfect play against a particular defense (like throwing a screen against a blitz or a quick slant against a Cover-0 blitz). But sometimes it goes the other way. In this case, the Broncos called the perfect defense against the offensive play call.

The Broncos blitzed hard, sending a total of 7. This compromise left Mychal Rivera wide WIDE open for an easy quick pass in another situation.

Still 1 :

Broncos are bringing 6 rushers. MLB Wesley Woodyard has man coverage on DMC; when he sees that DMC is staying in for blitz pickup, Woodyard blitzes.

This totally vacates the center of the field and the coverage has safety #20 Mike Adams rotating over to cover Mychal Rivera.

Second Still :

Rivera releasing and is wide open. Painfully so.

Pryor drops back and gives pass-look. Notice how Woodyard is reacting/blitzing before Pryor takes off. He's not spying Pryor or reading the play; he's reacting to McFadden.

Third Still :

It's a perfect defense against this play call. Pryor run off-tackle, which is exactly where Woodyard is attacking on his blitz. DMC has Trevathan on the blitz pickup.

On the backside #25 CB Chris Harris is blitzing; this is (among other things) what opens up the middle of the field.

Hi, Mychal Rivera.

Fourth :

Pryor want to cut it upfield, but sees Woodyard so he cuts to the outside. DMC expects the play to be upfield and not so close to him. He doesn't (or can't) hold off Trevathan.

Fifth :

Woodyard forces Pryor to cut outside. Trevathan crashes inside.

Sixth :


These are the rest of the running plays (and the run/pass option plays) that the Raiders ran. It seems pretty brutal. Even the "good" plays where DMC gets 4 or 5 yards, there are mistakes and misses along the line and it's a credit that there were gains made.

For the record :

17 rushes, 49 yards, 2.9 average as a team.

McFadden : 12 rushes, 9 yards, 0.8 avg,

Pryor : 4 rushes, 36 yards, 9.0 average

Ford : 1 rush, 4 yards

There are a few thoughts to be had and perhaps we may see some adjustments in the future.

Against this Broncos' front , the Raiders offensive line really had a hard time forcing and maintaining gaps. This meant that DMC often had nowhere to run and multiple defenders crashing down on him as he neared the line of scrimmage. It's clear that Vickerson pretty much had his way whenever he was one-on-one. And other defenders like Unrein or Derek Wolfe or Terrance Knighton also had success when they were blocked singly.

And while the single-blocks were problematic, the double-teams were beautiful at times. Unfortunately, you can't double team EVERYONE!

There was some success when Pryor got to the outside. On those option keepers, when the offensive line forced the issue with the defense, it made the linebacker react. It's not clear if Pryor is only reading a single defender or if he has the wherewithal to read the reactions of the linebackers level, but in some cases, when the edge defender is explicitly blocked, Pryor may be reading the reactions of a different second-level defender.

And on DMC's run-pass option when he threw the touchdown, was it not spectacular how much open space there was for him? Imagine if Olson called for that same play except as a called-run. Perhaps we will see some toss plays to DMC and see if he can outrace the defense to the edge.

What also sticks out is how un-athletic the Raiders' offensive line is as a group right now. Barnes, Gurode, Pashos, Brisiel all look painfully slow and heavy footed. Worse, they also seem not particularly powerful.

On the plus side is that Veldheer is a rare combination of power and agility and Menelik Watson is a Next-Level athlete. When they can get healthy and come back, there is lots of headroom for this unit. Watson is going to be the biggest hope for the short-term, but he's still so raw and inexperienced, we may still suffer severe growing pains watching him develop.

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