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A running joke in Oakland

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Thearon W. Henderson

There's this problem the Raiders keep running into. It was there when they went to New York and still there when they came back to Oakland. It's the ground. More specifically the ability for the opposing offenses to cover it and their inability to show any signs of moving on it.

The Jets had three capable runners on their offense. They had Chris Johnson and Chris Ivory as well as Geno Smith. All three of them had success against the Raiders defense. The line wasn't putting up a fight and the linebackers were often simply not at home.

The result was giving up 212 yards rushing. Ivory led the Jets with 102 yards on 10 carries (10.2 yards per carry), including a 71-yard touchdown run. Johnson had 13 carries for 68 yards. Smith added 38 yards of his own on 10 carries.

To say the Raiders runners didn't fare as well would be understating to the point of disingenuous. They were in quicksand. They gained a grand total of 25 yards. Maurice Jones-Drew had 11 yards on 9 carries. That's an average of 1.2 yards per carry, folks. McFadden added 15 yards on 4 carries (3.8 ypc).

As one might expect, this got considerably worse against the Texans. Not only were the Raiders without Maurice Jones-Drew, but the Texans have their All Pro running back Arian Foster toting the rock in their zone blocking scheme. Foster racked up 138 yards on 28 carries (4.9 ypc) with a touchdown. This included a huge 40-yard run on the Texans second drive that ended at the one-yard line.

Even Foster's backup, Alfred Blue posted 40 yards on 11 carries (3.6 yards per carry). That was more than Raiders starting running back Darren McFadden who had 37 yards on 12 carries (3.1 ypc).

Oakland's leading rusher was the quarterback. Derek Carr had 58 yards on 4 carries. Most of that came on one run when he kept the ball on a read option to sprint through open field for 41 yards. That's sad.

The whole thing seems to have taken Dennis Allen completely by surprise.

"I'm a little surprised because that's been an area that we've been fairly decent at over the last couple years," said Allen. "We've faced a couple good back the first two weeks of the season but it all starts up front with our ability to stop the run and we have to do a better job of stopping the run."

As for the slow start in which the Raiders spotted the Texans two touchdowns to begin the game, which included Arian Foster putting up 96 yards rushing and a touchdown?

"They blocked us," Dennis Allen added. "At least the first couple drives. After the first couple drives, I thought our defense settled in a little bit more and played a bit better."

FYI: The Texans added 83 yards rushing in the second half along with 13 points.

Allen wasn't the only one who was surprised the Texans were able to run all over the Raiders. Veteran defensive end Justin Tuck was taken off guard as well.

"Very (surprised)," said Tuck. "It's a zone scheme. I got to say, you've got to give those guys credit. Arian Foster is a tremendous back, very patient, and he just waited. He just waited until a little seam opened up here and there. Obviously, I haven't watched the film yet, but I don't think we were that far out of our gaps. It's just him making plays and we didn't. You combine that with some missed tackles and he's that type of back that can really embarrass you."

Running the ball as well as the Texans did today doesn't just help their offense, it hinders the opposing offense. The Texans completely controlled the clock. They had almost twice the time of possession, with over 38 minutes compared to the Raiders who had the ball just over 21 minutes.

That and coming from behind the whole game skewed the rushing numbers heavily in favor of the Texans who had nearly three times as many rushes (46 to 17). It was not dissimilar in the season opener in New York when the Jets had more than twice as many rushes (34 to 15).

"Houston had rhythm all day," Said Stefen Wisniewski. " The time of possession was real lopsided. That's no way to put point on the board. We've got to keep the ball and not turn the ball over as much. Running the ball is part of that."

Another area that has been lacking for the Raiders is the pass rush, which Lamarr Woodley said is also a byproduct of not stopping the run.

"The last two weeks we gave up some big plays," said Lamarr Woodley. "We put ourselves in bad field position. When you do that and teams take advantage of that. So, we have to make teams one dimensional. This was a running team. We have to stop the run first if you're gonna see that good pass rush that we have. Until we stop the run, you will never see that pass rush."

With a defense that can't stop the run, so they can't rush the passer, so they can't get the offense on the field, so they fall behind early, it completely takes the pressure off the opposing defense. This particular defense has the reigning defensive player of the year, J.J. Watt.

"I think our defense is having some fun right now," said Watt.

Watt had one big defensive play in this game. Late in the game, he laid a hit on Derek Carr as he threw to cause him to be intercepted at his own 11-yard line. After that, the Texans didn't even put Ryan Fitzpatrick back in the game.

But Watt's day of fun started early in the day. He was trotted onto the field with the offense in the first quarter at the end of the second leisurely stroll the Texans made down the field to the one-yard line. He came in the game and promptly caught a wide-open touchdown pass. A defensive end... catching a touchdown pass... wide open.

All created by the chasm between the Raiders rushing and that which they give up. A difference of 400 to 126.

Quite the joke, wouldn't you say?