It appears there’s an identity for the Las Vegas Raiders offense: Ground and pound the opposition into submission. That was certainly the case this past Sunday in a 32-23 win over the visiting Denver Broncos as the Silver & Black ran roughshod over its AFC West foe to the tune of 212 yards and two touchdowns rushing.
A performance like that, considering how the Raiders played musical chairs with their offensive line as they tinkered on finding the ideal five trench warriors, almost seemed impossible. But it became an impressive reality for Las Vegas.
A day after and reviewing the film, McDaniels — the Raiders chief play designer and caller — credited the offensive line and bell cow running back Josh Jacobs for the unbridled physicality that overwhelmed the Broncos.
“Alex (Bars) has been a consistent contributor to us here the last few weeks. He’s had great effort, a great mindset and attitude the entire time he’s been here, and just consistently tries to work at his craft,” McDaniels said when asked of the offensive line’s performance in the victory. “I think he’s given us some dependable play over there. He’s been pretty physical. The communication on the left side has been pretty good. We didn’t have a lot of blown assignments.
“The two rookies were in there for some important snaps together, yesterday. Dylan (Parham) continues to develop into the type of player we think he can be now moving from center to guard and playing basically the entire time yesterday at right guard. Give him a lot of credit for the duality that he’s had to deal with already this season in four games. It’s pretty impressive for a young player. And then (Munford) Thayer stepped in there, and again (the Broncos) had two good rushers yesterday, really three or four, however many you want to count out there on the edge, they got good pass rushers. I thought they acquitted themselves well and gave us an opportunity there. Had two big drives in the fourth quarter to get down there and score some points to try and get the game into a two-score game, twice. So, they did their job.”
McDaniels noted the gameplan heading into the matchup with Denver was to pound away early with Jacobs and continue to wear the Broncos’ defense out throughout the contest. Mission accomplished. Las Vegas dominance at the line of scrimmage in the trenches combined with Jacobs’ agility, patience, and power was on full display.
“Denver usually does a pretty good job of setting the edge on the defense. J.J. had a couple bounce outs that I think we’re okay and were pretty productive. But we knew we were going to have to try to make some hay inside and I thought he did a really good job of being patient as a runner,” McDaniels noted. “We had some really good double teams inside to try to create space for him inside. Those guys were working hard to do that. We can do a few things, I think, to help him out even more inside. We had some space, but I think there’s some things we can clean up today. But all in all, I thought we had a hat on a hat and usually when we get him a full head of steam and an opportunity to hit the line of scrimmage without somebody at his legs, inertia takes over and he makes yards. He’s hard to tackle. Getting him started, getting him going early in the game, I think was a big focus for us. I thought he carried that through to the end.”
That all said, the Raiders still left points on the field due to their inability to get the ball into the end zone once they entered the red zone. Las Vegas’ dominance over visiting Denver could’ve been even more thoroughly resounding if the offense got six instead of relying on kicker Daniel Carlson to get three (he went 4-for-4, 12 points in the win). The conundrum inside the 20-yard line continues to exist and the remedy remains simple (even if attaining such is anything but elementary): Detail (attention to) and execution, McDaniels said.
“You could talk about any team, offense or defense. It’s hard down there, there’s less space, there’s more bodies. Some teams do more to try to create confusion, or tighten down throwing lanes, or get more bodies in the box in the running game,” McDaniels explained. “So, whatever you’re doing down there, it’s certainly never going to be easy. It requires 11 guys offensively to do the right thing. There is absolutely no shortage of opportunities for us to finish and put the ball in the end zone.”
McDaniels is right: Las Vegas can move the ball up and down the field all it wants and get into the money zone. Perhaps Sunday’s win is a sign of things to come, what the Raiders are truly capable of doing offensively. Players and coaches lamented the week of practice leading up to the Broncos game was one of the best series the team exhibited in the regular season. While that doesn’t guarantee victory, of course, it does point to the team moving int he right direction — when practice performance meets game-day reality.
“Once you find the solution, now we got to work at it and get consistently good at it in practice. And then once we do it in the game, I think you come out of a game and you’re five-for-five in the red zone, it’s going to feel so feel pretty good and you’re going to want to do that again,” McDaniels said. “We’re this close on a couple things and such is life in the NFL against a good defense. We’re going to have to do a little better.”
Danny Dimes Shines
Carlson’s drill streak is at 35 consecutive field goals. While the offense struggles in the red zone, the Raiders kicker is always ready to answer the call and is part of an elite special teams battery with punter AJ Cole.
“I’ve said this before, I think our specialists are, when you talk about two on the same team, I feel blessed that these two are the two we have. And include Trent (Sieg) in there too, all three of them,” McDaniels said. “The operation is good and then when you send them out there, you have confidence that the play is going to go your way, and Daniel has really come through in the clutch obviously for this team in the past and continues to do so for us now. So, I have all the confidence in the world in him. You send him out there, you expect the scoreboard to change and that’s generally what he’s done.”
No Josh-ing You
The last time the Raiders went into Arrowhead and came out victorious, that then Jon Gruden-led team infamously did the victory lap around the stadium. There will be none of that tomfoolery with McDaniels as the boss.
“We’re just going to get on the plane and come back home. Win, lose, or draw, we’re going to get on the on the bus and get to the plane and come on back here,” the coach said. “We have a short bye week next week, so we can use all the time back here we get. No, we’ll prepare as hard as we can, go out there and put our best out there, and see what happens on Monday.”