Prior to this week, I had huge questions about whether our current offensive line personnel could handle the task of finding success in Greg Knapp's zone blocking system. The Raiders did a great deal to put to rest many of those questions with a very solid performance and perhaps more impressive: Dennis Allen coached this team to four quarters with fewer penalties than they've seen for nearly a decade, and the squad executed with precision when they most needed to to come away with the win.
On the first possession, the Raiders came out in its typical go-to formation in 21 personnel, two backs--Darren McFadden behind FB Marcel Reece in the I, Palmer under center, one tight end in Brandon Myers lined up left side with Darrius Heyward-Bey flanking wide left, Denarius Moore wide right. This play results in an int. with Denarius Moore slipping on the Oakland A's infield and falling down. This turnover would result in a touchdown by Heath Miller, who had a huge day against the Raiders.
On the second possession, Oakland lined up single back formation, 11 personnel, Darren McFadden and one TE, this time Richard Gordon lined up right side with three wide. This time Denarius Moore is wide left, motions inside Rod Streater, who is lined up slot left, and DHB wide right. Palmer on the five step drop targets Moore on a timing pattern he turns down and out for the left flats after motioning; the pass hits defender Chris Carter in the back of the helmet. Moore is at least turned and attempting for the ball, but unable to make a play on it.
2nd and 10, same single back formation and 11 personnel, this time Brandon Myers lines up on the right side. Three wide, DHB right side, Moore wide left, with Marcel Reece slot left. Myers finds some space running upfield and cutting right just shy of the first down line and catches and runs for a few more yards netting 16 on the catch.
1st and 10 on their own 36. Raiders come out single back, 11 personnel again, Myers right side, once again Reece is slot left side with Moore, DHB right. Palmer under center, audibles at the line. The zone blocking sets up a nice hole, Cooper Carlisle setting up and holding his man, McFadden patiently lets this one set up, and S Ryan Mundy takes a poor angle and DMC makes him miss taking it to the house and tying the game.
The Steelers march down and score in the jumbo formation, three TEs and culminate a drive that takes with another Heath Miller TD off play action.
The Raiders take the field again, 21 personnel, DMC deep behind Reece, offset strong side behind Palmer under. Richard Gordon at TE is lined up right side where Moore is flanking opposite DHB on the left. The dump off to McFadden floating toward the left flat, Brett Keisel reading the screen all the way stuffs it for a three yard loss.
2nd and 13 on the 20. 12 personnel this time, McFadden deep backfield, Myers is lined up right side with Gordon slotted right between flanker Heyward-Bey. Moore goes down and out from the left side at the first down marker is unable to hold on to the low and outside throw. Tough catch but hits his hands. Not to worry: Moore will shake the yips off and be back to that guy we remember making those impossible ones soon.
3rd and 13. Technically 12 personnel, but Myers is lined up in the backfield right side, with Gordon TE right in a three wide, pro-form split back set Palmer shotgun. Rod Streater flanks left side, DHB right with Moore in the slot right. Pittsburgh in the big Nickel brings extra heat and Woodley gets to Palmer unblocked after Larry Foote clears the way. Punt.
Unfortunately due to DVR malfunction and my failure to record the correct Sunday ticket channel (d'oh! will ensure this doesn't happen again ), this was all the game I got! Will probably resume this upon purchase of the coaches film offer on NFL.com that has been too intriguing for me to pass up...
I did notice a creative use of personnel like Reece lined up wide, as well as McFadden, then motioning and using movement to confuse and create separation. I also notice a cohesion in the line in which I wondered if the unit was capable prior to this week. No doubt, the growing pains won't be completely over, but this was a refreshing change to the prior two weeks debacles. Carson looked in greater command of the tempo with the no huddle and play calling at the line, and seems very capable of doing it moving forward.
Myers and Gordon not only had great games, but continue to demonstrate versatility to line up in the backfield, both as a FB or just a decoy, and Myers 100% catches deserve note. I'll shut up about them now sos we don't jinx it going forward! Ausberry looks as though he'll be able to create mismatches all over the field from multiple positions as well. Good to see all the imaginative ways we have thrown around here come to fruition on the field the ways fans imagined.
While the defense was mostly hard to watch on the day, it did have its moments. Dennis Allen deserves a huge nod for the control of the penalties and preparing this team to fight for the full sixty minutes required to win this won.
DHB was integral in this game, and the wide receiver group looks ready and willing to seize opportunities as they present themselves. Get well soon, Darrius, and we'll look forward to your 100% return and not a moment sooner.