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Raiders have lost all faith in run game

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Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Every week the Raiders already putrid run game seems to stoop to a new low. Sunday against the Broncos showcased just how little faith the Raiders have in their abilities on the ground.

The Raiders had 15 runs in this game, 13 by running backs. That is tied for their season low in run attempts. Those 15 runs resulted in just 30 yards of offense which, surprisingly, isn't their lowest total on the season -- they had 25 yards on 15 carries in the season opener.

That shows you the Raiders running woes started with they first touched the ball this season and have carried through the season as a big contributor to their continued winless season that has now reached 0-9.

Last week in Seattle, I noted the Raiders hadn't run the ball the entire game on third down. A total of 15 third down plays and they passed on every one of them. That disparity continued this week where the Raiders had 18 third down attempts and again did not attempt a single run on any of them. I asked Tony Sparano about this and he was candid in his response.

"We've tried [running on third down], ok. We've tried it a couple times," said Sparano. "We've run the ball in several situations on third and one and have come up short. We took a chance and threw the ball. And I don't know if we had a real third and one today. I'm not positive in that situation, a true third and one that was out there today but I know we threw one time, which I think was naked and I believe he completed it to Rivera."

When Sparano says he tried running on third down and it didn't work, it goes back a while. The last time they ran on third and short was in the second quarter in Cleveland three weeks ago. They handed the ball to Jamize Olawale up the middle on third and one and he was stopped for no gain. That was the second time the Raiders had gone to Olawale in the situation this season to the same result. After the second time, Sparano had seen enough.

The problem is that the third down efficiency with the pass in the past two games has not been good either. In 33 third down attempts, they have converted 10 of them, five on 18 attempts against the Broncos Sunday.

Having to throw on third down puts a great deal of pressure on rookie quarterback Derek Carr. That pressure no doubt contributes greatly to his 30% conversion rate. Also all three of the Raiders turnovers, including Carr's two inteceptions, came on third down.

"It's hard," said Carr. "When you have a running game it opens up play action type things, the bootleg type things. When sometimes teams maybe don't think you'll run it and you do certain things, it's hard."

It's a tough situation for a rookie quarteback to be in. Any good offense needs to be well-rounded and the Raiders are anything but. Even Tony Sparano, an offensive line coach by trade with a strong belief in the run game, has abandoned the run.

The irony here is the fault lies mostly in the the play of the offensive line which Sparano himself helped construct over the past two seasons. So, the decision to give up on the abilities of that line to get the push they need to pick up tough yards is an informed one.

It's one thing for outsiders to lose faith in the abilities of the Raiders running game. When the man who put this line together, coached them for the past two years, and starts them each week takes the game completely out of the hands of the ground attack and the offensive line to win battles on the field, that's a damning indictment. It's also damning for the chances of this 0-9 team to find a win over their last 7 games.