As emotional a home opener you’ll ever witness, the Raiders made their fans proud by defeating the Broncos to start the season 1-0. In what is almost certainly the Broncos last visit to the Coliseum, Oakland sent them out with a spanking. The final score 24-16 doesn’t tell the full story and the Raiders were in control from the first drive.
The football story this week was how the Raiders revamped offensive line would handle the dangerous Bronco pass rushers. Von Miller and Bradley Chubb were completely nullified and Carr completed over 84% of his passes for one score—no INTs and no sacks.
The gameplan was to keep the edge rushers on their heels with a healthy dose of running the ball while mixing in plenty of quick passes and play action. This strategy was efficient and saw the Raiders move the ball consistently against All-Pro defenders and a celebrated defensive mind in Vic Fangio. Here’s a look at how the Raiders threw the ball around the yard.
Quick passes are the easiest way to stop a pass rush. If the rushers can’t get there before the quarterback throws the ball it helps the offensive line to keep the quarterback clean.
Early in the game Carr hits Ryan Grant for his first completion on 3rd and 4. Grant is running an out route just past the first down marker and hauls in this pass to move the chains. Watch Grant use a “power skip” release from a tight split to make the nickel corner hesitate before breaking toward the sideline. Making routine throws like this in rhythm will be key to staying on the field on 3rd downs.
Sometimes quick passes are about isolating a receiver in a favorable matchup and letting him win early. At the bottom of the screen TE Darren Waller is split out wide. The cornerback Isaac Yiadom has good size for an NFL defensive back, but at 6’1 he’s still 4 inches shorter than Waller.
On Hard Knocks Gruden told Mike Glennon the key to a positive result is “getting a great player in a great look” after an almost identical play that went to Derek Carrier in the preseason game against the Cardinals. Darren Waller gets the fade ball off of a 3-step drop from Carr up the side line. Sometimes football isn’t so complicated.
The run game was effective even if it wasn’t game breaking. Gruden’s patience running the ball into the Broncos front 7 not only helped slow down the pass rush but it opened up play action passes down the field.
No play action pass last night was as effective as this bomb to Tyrell Williams for 43 yards. The Raiders lined up in a heavy run look, subbing in back-up tackle Brandon Parker for the second time on this drive to be the extra tight end. Denver responded by loading the box with 10 defenders.
Carr can be seen calling an audible on the broadcast copy and we see Carr’s command of the offense come to fruition. The playaction is able to slow the majority of the pass rushers and Carr sets up to toss a dime to Williams across the middle of the field.
This is a more complex example of play action getting receivers open. The Raiders are in a 2 tight end look which is still a heavy run formation. Two receivers are at the bottom of the screen. Ryan Grant on the inside runs a “clear out” route down the middle of the field, taking the slot defender with him. Tyrell Williams on the outside runs the “dig” into the voided area.
The run action also sucks up both linebackers including Josey Jewell who is late to close that empty space allowing for an easy pitch an catch for a nice chunk gain.
There were times when Carr had to hold onto the ball and allow routes to develop. Longer developing plays means more time for the pass rush to get there. Carr looked comfortable and under control in this game, aided by great offensive line play and a sound gameplan.
The touchdown pass to Tyrell Williams on the opening drive was one such example of a longer developing route. Tyrell is the inside most receiver on the right side of the formation. Ryan Grant is lined up just behind him and they each run crossing patterns to the opposite side of the field.
Grants route is run at the 5 yard line while Williams runs a deeper route at the goal line. The shallow cross pulls the underneath defenders up and makes more space for Williams to get open. Carr throws a fantastic pass with anticipation at the perfect moment for a score.
One of the few (only?) times Carr was pressured he handled it perhaps better than we’ve seen him in the past. Right guard Denzelle Good misses the blitz pick up from the inside linebacker and Carr is forced to move to the left in the pocket. Carr’s movement ends up freezing two defenders who are in Hunter Renfrow’s area and the rookie wide receiver sits in the resulting open area of the field, hauling in an acrobatic catch on the 2 yard line.
A game plan is only as great as the execution from the players. Carr’s command of the offense and the offensive line being locked in for this game produced the positive results in the passing game.
Kolton Miller and Trent Brown used a variety of pass sets to keep the edge rushers from Derek Carr including jump sets and cut blocks. There will not be many teams with better competition coming off the edge and the Raiders tackles passed their first test with flying colors.
Darren Waller was the biggest recipient of the sudden departure of Antonio Brown. The converted wideout hauled in a team leading 7 receptions despite only logging 18 in his first 3 years in the league. If Waller keeps getting targeted with similar frequency all season this will indeed be an opportunity of a lifetime for him.
Tyrell Williams came as advertised. A bigger bodied wide receiver with speed to get vertical and leaping ability to play above the rim, Williams had a huge night making big play after big play for the Oakland offense. The former Charger is the type of receiver Al Davis loved and Gruden featuring him as a deep threat is fitting in the Raiders last season in Oakland.