It’s okay, Oakland Raiders, there’s no such thing as running up the score on your opponent. Blowout wins show dominance and the relentless desire to bury the opposition for a decisive victory. That’s the mindset of a team with a killer instinct on a mission to establish supremacy.
If the Raiders want to break away from that, “they’re just a year away” tag, it’s time stop winning and start dominating.
In a postgame press conference, quarterback Derek Carr and head coach Jack Del Rio made reference to the most recent fourth-quarter letdown as something to clean up going forward:
Carr’s closing comments paraphrase the concept of playing 60 minutes and finishing strong, regardless of the situation.
“We got to keep the pedal down,” said Carr. That’s if it’s a tie ball game, if we’re up a lot or down a lot. Good football teams keep playing no matter what.”
The Raiders exhibited sheer dominance against two opponents, but escaped with seven-point victories in both contests:
|Raiders Defense By Half - Struggling to Close the Deal?|
|Week 3 vs. Cleveland Browns||Week 7 vs. San Diego Chargers|
|First Half Points Allowed||3||6|
|Second Half Points Allowed||17||23|
|First Half Yards Allowed||125||139|
|Second Half Yards Allowed||230||278|
No one bats an eye concerning these statistics because the bottom-line result covers up the underlying issue. However, it’s important to address lethargic second-half displays before one of them costs the Raiders a victory.
We’ve addressed the problem. What are the possible solutions?
Running the Clock
Running the clock, literally and figuratively speaking go hand in hand as a potential situational game plan.
The coaching staff remains conservative with running back Latavius Murray’s workload, keeping him at 15 carries or less in five out of the six games this season. The speedy tailback, Taiwan Jones, serves as the change-of-pace back. Roy Helu Jr. specializes in catching out of the backfield.
Marcel Reece has handled a low volume of carries, but he has shown shown the ability to move the ball at a decent yards-per-carry average:
|Marcel Reece Running Downhill|
Reece would add a bruising, in-between-the-guard running style needed to close out games. Oakland can hand off to the former fullback on 3rd-and-2 with confidence in his ability to power his way across the first-down marker.
A conservative ball-control approach doesn’t necessarily indicate a passive offense, especially when the running back continuously moves the chains in short-yardage situations.
Two hard-earned yards could become the difference between maintaining possession or putting a fatigued defense back on the field.
Trust Carr’s Arm
Maybe it’s time to accelerate Carr’s growth process. Offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave should begin testing the second-year quarterback’s thought process with a late cushion on the scoreboard.
Good quarterbacks find ways to put points on the board, but great signal-callers know how to put games out of reach.
As a leader should, Carr owned fault for all three of his interceptions this season. However, only one errant pass falls squarely on his shoulders as a poor decision. In Week 2, he threw a late interception with the game tied. The response to his miscue showed resiliency. He led the offense down the field and tossed the game-winning touchdown.
What about the second and third interceptions?
In Week 4, a pass bounced off Murray’s chest into the hands of the opposition. In Week 5, a miscommunication with wide receiver Seth Roberts resulted in a costly pick-six. The intended receivers share culpability in those particular errors.
Overall, Carr deserves more trust in handling the football in critical moments. It’s preferable to expose a potential franchise quarterback to high-pressure situational football to mold a stone-cold cerebral field general.
Play Physical Defense Throughout
In Week 7 against the San Diego Chargers, the Raiders set the tone with physicality. That mentality extinguished Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers' hot hand and helped build a 24-point lead by halftime.
In the fourth quarter, it’s obvious the Raiders defense flipped into cruise control and underestimated the Chargers’ will to overcome a 31-point deficit. San Diego’s offense took advantage of underneath routes and soft coverage across the field.
A strong defense plays with passion and a certain degree of aggression. For the most part, the Raiders lacked both characteristics, which became clear to spectators:
There’s no excuse for allowing 23 points in the fourth quarter after shutting an opposing offense out of the end zone for three quarters.
The Chargers kept Rivers in the game, which doesn’t indicate a premature surrender. Norton may consider subbing in reserves when the backup quarterback steps on the field, but it’s important to keep the energy levels high.
Every week, Norton’s defense should take the field and attempt to make an emphatic statement that exudes dominance. Establish the tone early, sustain the energy and apply pressure until the final whistle.
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Play-by-play analysis provided by NFL.com.