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Are penalties a key reason for Raider losses?

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The yellow flag was dropped on Oakland (and accepted by opponents) 148 times during the 2010 season for a game average of 9.25 penalties and a league high total of 1,279 penalty yards.

Of our 8 wins, we were penalized more than our opponent in each of 7 of those victories (only in Denver II did Oakland win and have fewer penalties).

However, of Oakland's 8 losses, the Raiders were penalized less than their opponent in 5 of those games.

The data suggests that reducing penalties does not, in itself, generate more wins. In fact, the data shows that when the Raiders strived to reduce penalties they always lost, e.g. Houston (2 penalties), Miami (4), Jacksonville (4), Pittsburgh (7), S.F. (8).  

The Data

Week

Opponent

Win/ Loss

Oakland penalties -yards

Opponent penalties - yards

1

Tenn.

L

10 - 77

8 - 81

2

St. Lou.

W

12 - 90

8 - 92

3

Az.

L

11 - 123

7 - 104

4

Hou.

L

2 - 23

5 - 26

5

StD.

W

12 - 85

7 - 53

6

S.F.

L

8 - 60

11 - 143

7

Den.

W

10 - 94

5 - 64

8

Sea.

W

11 - 105

7 - 55

9

K.C.

W

15 - 140

12 - 100

bye

 

 

11

Pit.

L

7 - 55

14 - 163

12

Mia.

L

4 - 20

5 - 35

13

StD.

W

13 - 105

3 - 19

14

Jac.

L

4 - 25

6 - 52

15

Den.

W

9 - 84

10 - 93

16

Ind.

L

10 - 116

4 - 42

17

K.C.

W

10 - 77

5 - 39

 

Discussion:

Oakland played its best football under Cable's erratically invoked "just cut it loose" philosophy and played its very worst when trying not to lose, "playing it safe" and worrying about making mistakes.  Cutting it loose may entail more penalties, but the benefits are superior in playing loose than playing uptight. The results of the latter weakness were demonstrated in the sets and soft strategies of the former DC and in refusal, or reluctance, by the QB to throw the ball confidently downfield (until no options remained). Fear of making a mistake is still fear - the mind killer.

Conclusion:

While an effort to reduce penalties is helpful, any undue focus on avoiding mistakes takes the edge off aggressive play. The focus should be first and foremost on making plays, playing hard and dominating the opponent. A focus on penalties is a distraction from Raider-style ball .. which has always included a lot of penalties.