Cracking the Run DMC Code?


Cracking the Run DMC Code?

Programming alert: Tune into CSN California at 1 p.m. today for head coach Dennis Allen's day-after press conference, live from Alameda.
KANSAS CITY -- It would be easy to say Darren McFadden got the bulk of his season-high 114 yards rushing Sunday in garbage time.But it would also be wrong to demean it as such.Sure, McFadden, who has struggled mightily this season running behind the return of the zone-blocking scheme, had a mere 17 yards rushing in the first half. But while he was busy wracking up 73 yards on 12 carries in the fourth quarter alone, he was following the formula the Raiders hoped to implement -- keep running the ball until something breaks.That he was able to do so and protect the Raiders' lead in an eventual 26-16 victory over Kansas City was the bonus.ANALYSIS: Raiders keep first road win in perspective"That's part of being able to run the football," insisted Raiders rookie coach Dennis Allen. "When the score gets to a point where you continue to run it, continue to run it, continue to run it, eventually you're able to wear the defense down a little bit."I thought we were able to do that some. Darren was able to get a few big runs at the end of the game."And as a result, McFadden had his second 100-yard rushing game of the season, along with the 113-yard rushing day he had against Pittsburgh on Sept. 23.Plus, the Raiders improved to 9-2 overall in games when McFadden rushes for at least 100 yards.It did not look like it would happen early against the Chiefs, though, not when McFadden had 14 yards on nine carries in the first quarter, or the 17 yards on 12 carries he had at halftime. Five of the seven carries McFadden had for no gain or for a loss came in the game's first three quarters."I feel like it took us awhile to get it going, but once it finally got going, we finished the game out well," McFadden said. "We feel like, with our offense, you just have to stick with it."Call it the stick-to-itiveness factor of McFadden and offensive coordinator Greg Knapp. Because McFadden said he could physically feel the Chiefs defense start to wilt down the stretch."Yes, you want to wear a defense down," he said. "I feel like we did that today and eventually we were able to start to get (runs) to break out."All three of McFadden's "explosive" runs -- gains of at least 12 yards on the ground -- came after halftime. He broke off a 19-yard run up the middle midway through the third quarter, on the first play after Kansas City had pulled to within 16-9.McFADDEN STATSThen, after his next six runs netted 16 yards, he went around the left end for a 28-yard pickup, setting the Raiders up at the Kansas City 37-yard line early in the fourth quarter. Six plays later, Sebastian Janikowski kicked a 32-yard field goal to put the Raiders up, 26-9.McFadden's last big run again came around the left side, a 21-yard scamper near the 2-minute warning that allowed the Raiders to sit on the ball to run out the clock.See, it all fits the formula. Even if it's not all that exciting or easy to watch early on."You're going to get one or two yards here or there," said McFadden, who finished with a season-high 29 carries, "and eventually, they're going to start popping."

Days after signing with Raiders, NaVorro Bowman expected to play vs Chiefs


Days after signing with Raiders, NaVorro Bowman expected to play vs Chiefs

ALAMEDA – NaVorro Bowman was a sponge this week, absorbing the Raiders defense as quickly as possible.

The veteran inside linebacker signed with the Raiders Monday afternoon and did enough to play Thursday night’s pivotal home game against Kansas City.

That’s a huge plus for a Raiders team looking to snap a four-game losing streak. Bowman should be able to help right away despite being new to the scheme.

“He’s a veteran. He understands ball,” Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio said Wednesday. “We haven’t tried to install the entire playbook, but specific game plans and things. He’s had a good week. Even though it’s a short week, we feel good and he’ll play.”

He’ll probably start at inside linebacker and play the base defense as least. While many have criticized his speed and coverage skills diminished from major injuries, Bowman remains a sure tackler who can provide solid on-field leadership.

Veteran savvy and natural ability should carry Bowman while he masters a new scheme, allowing him to make the immediate impact required with the Raiders reeling at 2-4.

“He is very instinctive,” Del Rio said. "He’s a veteran guy that’s been there before. He understands what it looks like to lineup against a good football team and help us win.”

Bowman’s fresh and healthy, a step above his others at his position. Inside linebackers Cory James (knee), Marquel Lee (ankle) and Nicholas Morrow (ankle) are all questionable heading into Thursday’s game.

He has also been a willing teacher to a group of inside linebackers featuring a second-year pro and three rookies.

“They’re just soaking it up,” Del Rio said. “They’ll ask, ‘When do you lift? How often do you lift? When do you meet? When do you cover this?’ It’s good stuff to have for a really young group.”

In other injury news, right tackle Marshall Newhouse is out, leaving Vadal Alexander to start in his spot. David Sharpe should be the swing tackle in reserve.

Downing: Raiders offense off track, answers exist ‘in our scheme’


Downing: Raiders offense off track, answers exist ‘in our scheme’

ALAMEDA – Todd Downing has friends with fantasy football teams. Those faux general managers, like many across the roto world, took Raiders with high draft picks.

They would like to know why Derek Carr isn’t throwing touchdowns in bulk, Amari Cooper’s in a slump and Marshawn Lynch isn’t getting more carries.

“I have friends that have him on their fantasy team that are mad at me for that,” Downing said after Wednesday’s practice. “That’s part of the business.”

Ah, the life of an NFL coordinator. Players get credit when things go right. Play callers sit over a Bunsen burner the rest of the time.

Downing understands that part of this gig.

“I welcome the responsibility that this job has afforded me,” he said. “I understand that I’m going to have to deal with negative comments and consequences when things aren’t going well. I’m looking forward to standing up here in a more positive fashion some time soon.”

Positives were expected right away. He was given the keys to a Lamborghini with a franchise quarterback under center, 1,000-yard receivers on each flank, an older back considered among the best of his generation, and the NFL’s biggest and most expensive offensive line.

The Raiders ranked No. 6 in total offense before adding Lynch, tight end Jared Cook and receiver Cordarrelle Patterson in free agency. Now they’re 30th heading into Thursday night’s game against Kansas City.

The mob is lighting torches, armed with pitchforks. After six weeks.

Everyone has an opinion on what’s wrong and how to fix this offense. More interior runs, less outside zone. More play action, please. Go deep, a lot. Have Derek hold on to the ball longer. Have Derek get rid of it quick. Do all that at once. Do it now.

Downing’s going to stick with his system. The Raiders will stick with their process, thank you very much, with faith that things will turn.

“When you look at the tape, you can see that we’re so close on so many things,” Downing said. “I know that sounds cliché and I know that sounds like someone sitting up here and trying to give you the rose-colored glasses, but it’s the truth. We know that we’re just this close to making a couple more plays each game and being able to come out on top and feeling like we put together a good product.

“…We’re looking for answers right now, but we know those answers exist in our room and in our scheme. Once we hit our stride, we’re excited to see what it looks like.”

There’s reason to believe that can happen. Take the season’s first two games, for example. The Raiders scored 71 points in that span. There’s talent everywhere in the starting lineup and behind it.

That’s why concern reigns during a four-game losing streak where the offense is averaging 13.1 points. They can’t sustain drives, come through on third down or block consistently in the run game. Their play count is dismally low. According to the Associated Press, the Raiders aver averaging 54 plays per game. Every other team has at least 60. The 2005 49ers were the last team that averaged such a sum. The Raiders haven’t had a 300-yard passer, a 100-yard rusher or a 100-yard receiver.

Offense is blamed for a dismal 2-4 start. Even the universally beloved Carr has taken some heat for lackluster performances.

“I don’t think there’s a single guy that can look back over the last few weeks and say, ‘You know what, I’m really pleased with how I’ve played over the last three weeks,’ or, ‘Called the last three weeks’ or, ‘Coached my position the last three weeks.’ We all own this together,” Downing said. “There’s no one guy that is going to save it or break it or anything in between. We need to do this as a team and everybody needs to make the plays they’re afforded the opportunity to make and I need to call the right plays when afforded the opportunity to call them.”

The Raiders can and must do better before falling further. Righting the ship too late to reach the season’s goals might hurt as much as a completely dismal campaign.

Pressing, however, isn’t the answer.

“You do have to stay patient,” Downing said. “I tell the offense this every week, but it’s never been more true than where we’re at now as an offense. We have a belief in what we’ve done this far, and the system we’ve put in place, and the playmakers we have in that room, and the coaches that are up in the room with me, and you will never see me waiver in my belief of any single one of those guys, including myself. If I did, and I started acting different or started calling games differently, then that would mean I didn’t really believe in the first place.”