It was a tale of two halves this last Sunday at the Coliseum. What started off as a dominant effort on both sides of the ball slipped away in the most heartbreaking way imaginable, leaving Oakland fans stunned by the final result.
The Raiders offense was efficient in the first half of Sunday’s contest and moved the ball well. Gruden’s usual gameplan of sticking to the run while sprinkling in quick passes and play-action worked for the Raiders offense, allowing them to control the ball, kill the clock, and put 16 points on the board. This was the Raiders highest scoring half since Week 10. It’s simple why this happened: The Raiders offense won on first down.
Run-pass balance in first half
Of the 22 1st down plays the Raiders offense ran over the first half, they moved the ball five or more yards 11 times (50%). They were almost an even split in the pass/run ratio department as well, logging 12 runs to 10 passes.
How about the first play of the game? The Raiders gave it to Josh Jacobs on a wide zone play to the left. The rookie back turned this into an 8-yard carry. A surefire way to extend drives is getting 2nd or 3rd and short situations. Jacobs did his work in that department.
The reason why the Raiders run game was so efficient on 1st downs, however, is because Gruden called quick passes or play-action passes on 1st down as well, keeping the defense on their toes while rendering them unable to sell out for one or the other worked nicely for the offense.
So what changed in the second half?
Up 16-3 in the second half, Gruden decided to get conservative. He threw out the balanced run-pass ratio, and on the Raiders first 10 first downs in the second half, Gruden called nine run plays. Only two of these plays went for more than five yards, likely because the Jags’ defense could solely focus on stopping the run.
This play starts with Darren Waller getting walked back into the path of the run. FB Alec Ingold runs into Waller, causing the FB to lose his momentum as he’s attacking the linebacker in the hole. Jacobs does a good job staying patient and looking for a hole to eventually open up, but the impending chaos swallows up any chance, and Jacobs cuts his losses, falling forward for minimal gain.
Why does winning on first down matter?
The result of getting conservative in the second half significantly limited the offense’s chance of moving the ball and extending drives. Maybe this wouldn’t be true for every team, but it is for the Raiders. When the Raiders went run only on 1st down and couldn’t turn those attempts into 2rd or 3rd and short, it put the offense in a bad situation.
The Raiders only converted twice in nine tries when faced with 3rd and 6 or longer on Sunday. These numbers have been consistently bad on 3rd and 6 or longer for the past four weeks. Much of the problem converting from this distance is the Raiders receiving corps not being able to separate down the field. Facing 3rd and long forces the offense to be one-dimensional and opens up the defensive playbook for designed pressure and coverages.
The Raiders strategy shift on offense ended up costing them the game and allowing the Jaguars offense to get enough chances to eventually win. Had the offense taken care of business in the second half, we would be celebrating a Raiders win. Head coach Jon Gruden deserves the blame for taking the foot off the gas pedal.