Over the course of the Raiders’ 4-game losing streak, they weren’t the team we had come to recognize throughout the 2016 season. It didn’t take long before it became apparent they weren’t doing a few crucial things that either they strived at last season or one would typically equate to success.
Once those things were pinpointed, the criticisms ramped up and the outcry got louder. Last week they either finally listened, or showed they were saving it up for the Chiefs.
The Raiders had run play action just 12 times over the first six games. That’s an average of TWO play action dropbacks per game; by far the fewest in the NFL. Against the Chiefs last Thursday, they ran play action 9 times, completing 4 passes for 89 yards and a touchdown.
“It’s hard to get to some play actions on your call sheet when either the game situation takes you a certain way or you simply don’t have enough plays to get to those,” Downing said last week. “We’ll certainly incorporate them more. We’ve run a decent amount of play action shots. . . They need to be set up to be efficient. We need to be able to sustain drives and run the ball well and then hurt them with play actions.”
Downing likes to say the play action only works if the run game is working. And I like to say it absolutely does not. And he proved it in Thursday’s game.
On the third play of the game, with the Raiders having run one run play for one yard, Carr did a play action fake to Marshawn Lynch who went left, Carr rolled right and nailed Jared Cook on a slant for 24 yards. The Chiefs bit hard on the fake and Cook was wide open.
The next play, they went with the flea flicker, which is a play fake of its own, handing it to Marshawn, who pitched it back to Carr, who put it up top to Amari Cooper for a 38-yard touchdown.
The next time they used it was the second quarter on what should have been a good catch and run by Amari Cooper but he dropped it. Later in the quarter, a little fake right opened a hole on the left side of the line and Carr ran through it for 15 yards. It’s as if misdirection and play fakes actually keep the defense guessing. I know, crazy right?
Derek Carr had 10 deep passes with 3 completions over his first five games. Both his attempts and completions were the fewest in the league. He had 10 deep passes with 3 completions in this game alone for 105 yards and a touchdown according to number compiled by Pro Football Focus.
Stretching the field turns out to be a good thing. Even against a secondary as talented as the Chiefs. Though being without All Pro Eric Berry should make them vulnerable to the long ball.
Power run blocking
Raiders ran a total of just 6 power runs in the first 6 games. They ran 7 power runs against the Chiefs alone. They averaged 4.0 yards per carry on those 7 runs including the DeAndre Washington 4-yard touchdown run. That’s more than twice as much as they averaged on outside zone (1.75 ypc) runs, and more than a half yard per carry more than on all other designed run plays in the game (3.46).
No doubt the success Le’Veon Bell had against the Chiefs the previous week was a major factor, but it doesn’t excuse the Raiders for not using it but an average of once per game over the first six weeks.
If they were indeed keeping this game plan under wraps just for the Chiefs, then that whole ‘one game at a time’ line is BS. It would mean they were handicapping themselves during a 4-game losing streak, including a 1-point loss to the Chargers, all because they were focused on the Chiefs. That would also raise questions as to whether they will continue to perform at this level.
If they were simply finding their footing in a new offense with a new coordinator, then there is hope this is what to expect from them going forward.