Raiders vs. Dolphins: Ground Game Dooms Oakland in 35-13 Loss

Christopher HansenNFL AnalystSeptember 16, 2012

The Raiders need to figure out how to get Darren McFadden going on the ground.
The Raiders need to figure out how to get Darren McFadden going on the ground.Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

The Oakland Raiders had a long trip to Miami to play the Dolphins after coming off a short week. It was a tough situation for any team to overcome, but the Dolphins are hardly a formidable opponent and the Raiders desperately needed a win coming off a disappointing loss to the San Diego Chargers at home on Monday night.

The Raiders came into Miami and were doomed by the ground game on Sunday, both offensively and defensively. The Raiders surrendered 263 rushing yards, gaining only 23 of their own despite having one of the most dynamic running backs in the NFL.

The running game was far from Oakland’s only problem, but it was certainly the most glaring issue. Darren McFadden had just 13 total touches and Carson Palmer had to throw the ball 48 times. The Dolphins gave Reggie Bush 29 touches and he produced 197 yards and two touchdowns.

This marks the second straight game the team hasn’t been able to get McFadden going. There is now a legitimate concern that there is something broken offensively. McFadden has now attempted just 26 runs for 54 yards and a 2.1 yards per carry average through two games. By comparison, McFadden had 42 carries for 222 yards and a 5.3 average through two games in 2011.

Many will blame the return of the zone-blocking scheme and offensive coordinator Greg Knapp for McFadden’s struggles. McFadden wasn’t as productive in the zone-blocking scheme as he was in Hue Jackson’s man-blocking scheme.

There’s certainly some culpability on the coaching staff for not sticking with the running game, but it’s tough when the offensive line isn’t opening holes and the defense can’t keep the opposition out of the end zone.

Oakland’s defense had a solid game in Week 1, so the poor showing against the Dolphins calls into question how much the defense has improved or if it’s improved at all.  The Dolphins averaged 6.1 yards per carry and scored four touchdowns on the ground.

The Raiders missed tackles, lost edge containment and took bad angles on the speedy Bush. It wasn’t one particular player either, which isn’t comforting for defensive coordinator Jason Tarver.  The breakdowns continue on the defensive line, amongst linebackers and in the secondary.

When the Dolphins weren’t able to run the ball, they picked on cornerback Pat Lee, who was playing in place of the injured Ron Bartell. Quick passing playing in front of soft coverage didn’t give Oakland’s pass rush time to pressure Ryan Tannehill to make mistakes.

The Raiders have a tough schedule over the next several weeks and will need to quickly find cures for their problems before the 2012 spirals out of control. Getting McFadden running behind his offensive line can make up for a multitude of other issues and has to be head coach Dennis Allen’s primary goal in Week 3.