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Raiders running game is key to beating the Broncos

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Raiders need to control the line of scrimmage to win Sunday

NFL: Oakland Raiders at Denver Broncos Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Oakland is coming off an absolute drumming at the hands of Tom Brady and the New England Patriots. Even though the game was a match-up nightmare for the Raiders, some thought the extra time to game plan and self scout would give the ‘Home team’ the edge. It wasn’t.

It was such a poor performance, it resulted in defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. being given his walking papers.

Despite all that went wrong in this game, there was a slight silver (and black) lining. For the first time in perhaps the entire season Oakland’s offensive line looked like they were in control of the game. Unfortunately a 24-point second half deficit didn’t allow the Raiders to continue to utlizetheir physical dominance throughout.

“Yeah. We really ran the ball efficiently in the first half,” Raiders offensive coordinator Todd Downing said Thursday. “It was something that we were hoping to be able to stick with and the game situation just took us out of it.”

Obviously getting rushing yards against a team ranked 24th defensively against the run isn’t the same as doing it against Denver who is ranked #4 against the rush. It’s not that they gained yards that matters, it’s how they did it.

The Bronco’s have a very powerful tandem in defensive end Derek Wolfe and nose tackle Domata Peko Sr. who was signed this past offseason and has been credited with improving Denver’s rush defense. The film says he deserves all of the credit he receives.

Peko split a double by center Rodney Hudson and left guard Keleche Osemele. They are the Raiders best two linemen and yet they combined for a run stuff on this play. So what does the Patriots game and this play have to do with each other? The answer is outside zone runs.

The running game has really suffered this season as the team has shifted what seems to be an offensive line built to run a gap scheme to a heavy zone scheme. This past week was the first time all season that the line looked really comfortable and executed really well.

It could be a product of the defensive line they faced or could it be that the time they have put in mastering a new system is finally paying off.

“I️ think that they’ve continue to improve,” Downing said of the Raiders offensive line play. “I️ think they’ve gotten a little more comfortable with some of the schemes that we’re asking them to execute, a little bit better in adjustments throughout the course of the season. I think they’re trending upwards and excited about riding them in the second half.”

If the offense is successful in establishing their zone run game, it will neutralize the power of the Bronco’s defensive line. Forcing them to chase down a play instead off attacking the offensive line. This will benefit the offense as it will both wear down the defense and help limit the pass rush.

The decision to bring in running back Marshawn Lynch was as much about beating the Raiders division opponents as it was any other consideration. He finally started looking like his old self last week, it is a shame the team couldn’t stick with him.

The Broncos beat the Raiders 16-10 in their first meeting. Oakland was down 16-7 and driving when starting quarterback Derek Carr sustained a back fracture and was unable to finish the game. He was replaced by EJ Manuel who nearly mounted a late game-winning drive.

If the Raiders can get the defensive line worn down from chasing Lynch, it is also going to force them out of their preferred Man-2 defense. If the offense forces a safety into the box, they will have plenty of oppertunities to attack Denver’s man coverage deep. Do these things with more plays like this and Raider Nation could be celebrating a win on Sunday.

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  • 86%
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  • 13%
    Broncos
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