Modern Raider Defense Unveiled ... Finally!
Eagles 9 - Raiders 13
The Raiders attack dogs on defense were mercifully and shockingly cut loose vs. the Eagles. Going into Sunday's contest, the Raiders blitzed less than any team in the league. (20 blitzes in 153 pass plays, or 13.1 percent).
When the Raiders hired Defensive Coordinator John Marshall before the season, many Raider fans were ecstatic about a new DC with a reputation for using a heavy dose of blitzes to ratchet up the pressure on the QB. The LBs in Marshall's defense typically ranked high in individual sacks.
The Raiders defense has been painfully stuck in a very predictable defensive mindset the past many years. You know the drill. 4 DL expected to apply QB pressure, LBs in pass coverage, corners in man to man. Is there anything wrong with this as your base D? No. The problem arises when you don't strategically change things up in order to keep your opponent on their heels.
In this game, which is an aberration until proven to be a trend, the Raiders actually called an unpredictable defense game plan that clearly rattled and confused long time veteran QB McNabb. To start the game, the Raiders blitzed Howard, Morrision, and Branch on numerous plays. The DLine ran aggressive stunts and twists. The secondary mixed in some zone coverage. The end results: 0 TDs, 6 sacks, 2-16 3rd down conversions.
QB McNabb: “This week the defensive coordinator came up with a scheme in which we haven’t seen. They’re known for playing man coverage. They dropped back in a lot of zone, more zone than we’ve seen in the early games. That allowed them to sit back in a zone and just wait for a guy to catch the ball and make the tackle. They came up with more of a blitz package today. They were able to get pressure.”
The Eagles saw the Raiders previous 5 games on film. Clearly the Eagles were caught off guard by the Raiders unpredictable, aggressive defense.
Offensive Tackle Winston Justice: “They were doing some stunts. They caught us by surprise. They did a lot of things that we weren’t really expecting.”
Eagles Right Guard Max Jean-Gilles: “They just generated a lot of pressure. We just weren’t prepared.”
Other key factors in the victory:
- An early TD by the Raiders offense to jump out to a 7-0 lead; Russell to Miller 86 yard catch-n-run TD
- Handling the Eagles blitz packages; good line calls by Satele, excellent blitz pick ups by FB Gary Russell, mixing up the playcalls to including a heavy dose of screens to Gary Russell (5 receptions, 55 yards)
- Solid special teams play from K SeaBass (2 for 2 FGs) & Lechler (7-51.1). The way these 2 veterans are playing is worthy of a ticket to the Pro Bowl.
- Raiders offense doing a better job of sustaining drives by committing to the run. Fargas ran the ball with conviction 23 times for 87 yards. Force feeding Huggy Bear allowed the Raiders to manage the down and distance and win the time of possession battle (33:02 to 26:58)
- An efficient, steady performance from QB Russell (17-28, 61%, 209 yards, 2 ints, 1 TD).
The big questions that will be answered in the next few weeks:
Was the Eagle game a fluke?
Will DC Marshall continue to use the blitz as an important tool to a modern, sophisticated NFL D?
How will the team handle a week where most everyone is patting them on the back?
Will the offense finally begin to carry the unit's fair share of the load?