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Greg Olson explains Raiders break out offensive performance, look to raise standards

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Ezra Shaw

Last week when the Chargers came to Oakland, everyone (including the author) expected this to be a very one-sided affair in San Diego's favor. It didn't turn out that way, with the Raiders offense coming alive to score four touchdowns and nearly pulling out the improbable victory over the division leading Chargers.

Entering the game, the Raiders were the worst ranked offense in the league in both point and yards. So, naturally the question became ‘Where has this been all season?' That is a question best answered by offensive coordinator, Greg Olson, who Thursday detailed what was different about the gameplan and the performance last Sunday.

"I don't think I've waited," Greg Olson said of the suddenly explosive offensive game plan. "I just think that's the way the game played out, to be honest with you. I think there's a more comfort level right now with the guys in the huddle and the guys that have been in the huddle. The bye week gave us a good chance to go back and evaluate where we were at, what we did well and what we don't do well. And I think simplifying things might have helped. I think our young quarterback more than anything. I've said from the get go he seems to have gotten more and more comfortable every week in what he's doing and what his responsibilities are. All those things played into it. And again, it's got to become consistent. We did some good things last week but it's a new week this week so we've got to see if we can get better every week and raise our standards every week."

So, let's review. The offense did a 180 because...

1. That's the way the game played out
2. Comfort level in the huddle
3. Bye week evaluations
4. Simplifying the offense
5. Rookie quarterback growth

Two of those things can be replicated. That being the comfort level in the huddle and the growth of the quarterback. Actually, as he said, those things can improve. The bye week is a one-time thing. All they can hope is some self-discovery happened that week that will stick for the stretch run.

As for simplifying the offense and how the game played out, good defenses will make adjustments to counter those changes so Olson and Carr must keep taking steps forward if it is to continue.

One of the things that was immensely improved in the game was the third down efficiency. In the first four games of the season, they were just 16 for 48 on third down conversions (34%). They had half as many third down conversion in this game alone (8) as they did over the first four games combined, going 8 of 13 for an impressive 62% conversion rate.

"It's critical," said Olson of converting third downs. "It was our best game in terms of our third down conversions but it was also our best game in terms of our first down efficiency. They go hand in hand, to be honest with you. Those are things that we studied in that off-season. We're just trying to kind of build it around... you always got to be aware of your quarterback, and what does Derek Carr do best and what can we do to make sure that he's developing, and in terms of his development, that's gonna help the rest of the offense develop. So we looked at a lot of things that Derek's comfortable with, whether it be gun runs or gun passes, or quick game deep vertical game, what are the concepts that he's comfortable with and I think that tied into it as well. We were efficient with our nickel runs, we were efficient with our heavy runs. It was a good mix there for us."

I guess we can add a number 6 to the lists of reasons why the offense came alive:

6. Catering the game plan to the quarterback's strengths

This again probably begs the question ‘And why weren't you doing that before?' Though Olson won't say it, the logical thought process goes to that of the head coach as that was the major change that happened over the bye week.

With the passing opening up, the run game started to get on track as well. The two things feed into each other and suddenly Darren McFadden looked energized like we haven't seen him since the time Hue Jackson was catering the offensive game plan to him.

"Everybody looks fresher to me," Olson continued. "I thought Darren [McFadden] looked fast, I thought the wide receivers looked fast. But having a healthy Darren McFadden will be key to us moving forward and hopefully continue to move the football on a consistent basis. But everyone wants... when Darren is healthy, he can run and he is fast, so we've got to do what we can to keep him healthy and keep him going. But we need to find more explosive players to create more of those explosive plays."

The Raiders will have another tough outing this week against the Cardinals. While the Chargers were the top ranked defense coming into last week, the Cardinals are no slouch. They boast the second best run defense and are sixth in points allowed.

Where they have struggled is pass rush. Derek Carr's passer rating last week without pressure was 125.8. It fell to 39.6 on pressured drop backs. If his offensive line can hold up as it did last week, he and the Raiders offense could show last week's breakout performance wasn't an anomaly.