Monday, October 03, 2011

Pats Slice & Dice Raiders D

Patriots 31 - Raiders 19

The Raiders defense got off to a terrible start and continued to struggle with the Pats high- powered offense. In the 1st series, DT Richard Seymour gift wrapped 30 yards in penalties, sustaining the initial drive, and leading to an opening TD drive. The 1st penalty was a boneheaded, completely unnecessary roughness on Brady on a 3rd and 9. The 2nd penalty was a senseless face mask on 2nd and 10.

The Raiders defense was carved up by the Patriots passing attack and rush offense for 409 nets yards. The total net yards wasn't alarming but the Pats ginsu knifing the Raiders defense by running the ball (30 carries, 183 yards, 6.1 ypc) was glaring and somewhat unexpected. Going into Sunday's game, the Pats had one of the most anemic rushing attacks in the NFL.

There were numerous times throughout the game that the Raiders secondary simply had no answer in stopping or remotely containing WR Wes Welker. Double teams, zone, man to man ... didn't seem to matter with Welker grabbing 9 balls for 158 yards and a TD. The fact that the secondary did a poor job on the initial tackle of Welker only made it worse.

Part of the problem was the efficiency, balance, and style of the Pats offense. The Raiders seemed to pre-determine that blitzing wasn't an option against the Pats spread offense which is sound in theory. The 4 man pass rush didn't provide enough pressure on Brady who was allowed to sit back, comfortably view the complete field, and often times, pick out his secondary or third reads. My personal belief is that at some point in the game when your D is getting steamrolled that it is time to take a few risky chances with the defensive playcalling in order to change the dynamic of the game. DC Breshnahan opted for a passive approach that was the equivalent of watching a slow, painful water torture

The key juncture in the game was near the end of the 2nd quarter with the Raiders down 10-14. Driving the ball 80 yards from their own 14 yard line and consuming 5+ minutes on the clock, the Raiders faced a critical 2 and goal from the 6.

Head Coach Hue Jackson called a play action pass that went horribly wrong when QB Campbell got happy feet in the pocket and threw an INT in the back of the end zone without a Raider receiver in close proximity. It was a play that Campbell could have thrown out of the end zone to live another down or pulled it down and run for daylight. Besides the poor decision by Campbell, I also question the choice of playcall in this situation. The Patriots had difficulties stopping the Raiders running attack. Why not run McFadden on a power sweep or Bush between the tackles?

It was frustrating to realize that the Raiders had a golden opportunity to go into half with a 17-14 lead but instead this turnover led to a 10 point swing with the Pats leading 17-10. It was also disturbing that Jackson only called 14 run plays for McFadden who was earning 5.4 per carry. Unless hurt, McFadden should be geting a minimum of 25 carries per game. This isn't rocket science. He is the best player on the team, an elite player in the league, and the Raiders ultimate playmaker. (Update: McFadden was nursing a sore groin and was used sparingly by Jackson for this reason.)

The game truly got away from the Raiders when the Pats marched to 2 TD drives on their 1st 2 possession of the 3rd quarter. Poor tackling, more inopportune penalties, a non-existent pass rush, and key receptions by Welker made it look all too easy.

The way this season is unfolding, the Raiders offense will need to overcome the defense's shortcomings. The offense will not only have to carry the D but do it by using the rushing attack as the primary means and sledgehammer for establishing the terms of the game. When the Raiders go against the grain of a pass happy league, running the ball 60%+ of the time, it creates the best chance to control the tempo, time of possession, keep the D off the field, and exert their bullying will upon the opponent.

Clearly, the best thing the Raiders do is run the ball with McFadden and Bush. Currently the Raiders are the #1 team in the NFL in rushing at 178.8 per game. This team has scored at a 27.8 clip. The elephant in the room is a defense that is gouged by the run (#29, 136.0 per game) and gives up far too many points (#30, 28.3 per game). In order for this team to take the next step in climbing the competitive ladder, the onus will be on the defense to make drastic, urgent improvements for the remaining 12 games.


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