One of the more noticeable stats from the Raiders' opening loss to the Bengals was just how little the Raiders ran the ball. They had a total of 15 designed runs compared to 48 drop backs. That's more than a 3-1 pass to run ratio which is not nearly what the new coaching staff preached they were all about this season.
Bill Musgrave and Jack Del Rio said their offense was going to be built around running the ball. Along with that, Jack Del Rio said he didn't want to put the game all on Derek Carr. It made that opening game ratio that much more puzzling.
"I think that would be one of the areas that we would want to get better at," Musgrave said this week of the running game. "A number of things in that game that we want to improve upon. More runs, more touches for everybody would be included in that."
"I'd like to see it go up," said Jack Del Rio. "Yeah, I'd like to see it go up. But we have to earn that. Convert some on third downs, have more possessions. I don't feel like we totally abandoned it, but I don't feel like we effectively did what we set out to do."
Having to "earn" running plays sounds familiar to last season. You could usually tell if the Raiders won or not just by looking at the run/pass ratio. If it was more balanced, they won. If it was pass heavy, they lost. At least two of their three wins lasts season were a direct result of leaning on the run game and sticking with it.
It's a ‘chicken or the egg' situation with regard to running the ball. Do they win because they ran it or did they run it because they were winning.
If the team trailing most of the game, they are forced to put the ball in the air to try and pick up yards quickly. If they are ahead, they can run the ball to eat up clock and move the ball down the field.
What they absolutely must do, that they didn't do last week, is establish the run and stick with it.
The first play of the day was a pass. As was the first pass of the next drive. They were down 7-0 before their second drive and were putting the ball in the air like they were already down by several scores. In their first two drives, they were already 7-2 in pass to run plays. And one of those runs was an end around.
That can't be blamed on needing to earn their way back into the game. By halftime they were down 24-0, so it made sense after that to put the ball in the air.
We'll see Sunday if the Raiders commit to running the ball early and often. It could make all the difference in their ability to compete against the Ravens.