A few weeks ago the Raiders were riding high. Their offense came alive and they scored at least 34 points in three straight games. They went 2-1 in that stretch and landed themselves firmly in the playoff conversation as well as in the top ten in the power rankings.
The way they did it was by being aggressive and pushing the ball down the field. Derek Carr was getting protection from the line and taking shots down the field. During the team's three-game losing streak, that hasn't quite been the case.
With the team having played 10 games and sitting at 4-6 on the season, you get a nice idea of the keys to their wins and losses. In the team's four wins, they average over nine yards per pass attempt. In their six losses, they average just over six yards per pass attempt. That's the difference between first downs and third-and-shorts and third and longs and punts.
To see the look at the two opposite sides of the coin for the Raiders lately, you need only look at their post bye two-game win-streak over the Chargers and Jets versus their last two losses against the Vikings and Lions.
In those two wins, they averaged 9.34 yards per pass attempt. In the last two losses, they have averaged 6.89 yards per attempt. That may not seem like a lot, but the difference is made up in big plays down field.
In their win over the Chargers they had four completions over 20 yards and two over 40 yards. In the win over the Jets, they had five completions go for over 20 yards, and two over 40 yards. Three of those big plays were for touchdowns.
So, that's nine completions over 20 yards in two games.
In the two games since then, they have had a combined total of four completions that went for over 20 yards and just one pass over 40 yards - the 43-yard bomb to Seth Roberts last week against the Lions. It was the longest pass of the past two weeks, and it appeared to be a play that was initially designed to go to Cooper underneath, but the way the defense played it left Roberts wide open down field.
"Well, we definitely would like to," Musgrave said about calling more long balls. "We've just got to do a better job of calling them at the right time, devise them so we can launch them like that. That was a good play for us. We needed it like crazy. We want to be a big-play offense with explosives, so we need to do more of that."
That completion to Roberts was one of just two pass that traveled more than 20 yards in the air over the past two weeks. According to Derek Carr, the difference isn't in what the Raiders have done, but the way the defense has adjusted to take away the deep ball.
"It really depends on the coverages," said Carr. "It really depends on what they're doing. It's hard, obviously. In that look we had it drawn up perfectly to where Seth would be open and he'll be able to make a big play on the ball, but sometimes, depending on the coverages they're doing versus formations and personnel groupings, you can't really get that. So I think that we're doing a good job of it and I know that we'll continue to, but sometimes the way they do things dictates some of that."
"You see it. I saw it a little more often the last couple of weeks, but I also see and I think about games where other teams tried to do that and we exploited it. So that's the thing that we have to go take a look at, make sure that we can continue to do that."
The Raiders big play offense has up and disappeared before our very eyes. The offense has lost its teeth. Can it really be just the defensive adjustments that have stomped out the once white hot Raiders offense?
"I think we all know there's a number of factors that go into each and every play, whether it be what the defense is doing, our protection, trying to get all our guys their opportunities," Musgrave continued. "We want to have a more heavy dose of those explosive plays. We've missed that the last two weeks."
Unless the Raiders make some adjustments of their own to ensure they can once again open things up down field, this will be a long six games to end this season. The defense isn't good enough to keep opposing teams from moving the ball on them and scoring, so their only chance is to put some points on the board. And they have shown the way they do that is by airing it out.
Their best chance for a while comes Sunday when they face the Titans in Tennessee.