ALAMEDA – Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio rarely looks back. Hindsight isn’t useful in a season that never stops moving, one that demands coaching staffs always prepare for the future.
Del Rio did look back at Thursday night’s loss and wished he could’ve done some things different. On 3rd-and-1 on the Raiders’ final drive, a deep shot at the end zone was called. In hindsight, Del Rio wishes a run was called. A false start eliminated a second shot at the first down, which the Raiders never got and eventually lost 21-13 at Arrowhead Stadium.
The Raiders run game was rolling that night, to the tune of 135 yards and a touchdown on 31 carries. While he publicly lamented one play, Del Rio generally wanted to attack more from the ground.
“I felt like I would have like to see us play a little more big boy ball in that game with the weather, the fact that he was having an off night,” Del Rio said. “We have that big (offensive) line, I would have liked to see us hand that ball off a few more times behind that line.”
The Raiders hulking offensive line was an intimidating force, even with Kelechi Osemele out battling kidney stones on Thursday. He’ll be back for Sunday’s game at San Diego, and the running could maintain a solid six-game that began with Latavius Murray’s return from turf toe.
He missed a Week 5 contest against San Diego, when the Raiders rushed 25 times for 89 yards. He also missed a Week 6 loss to Kansas City, but has taken a greater role in the Raiders offense. He took 42 percent of the carries before his injury, and has taken 57 percent of the carries since his Week 7 return.
“I want the ball in my hands as much as I can, whether that’s carrying the ball or catching it,” Murray said. “Any way I can be a threat or get the ball in my hands, I want it. I want to be a part of this great offense we have going right now.”
The run game can be a crutch, especially in cold weather environments where passing is harder to do.
A three-man running back rotation has trimmed to two, with Murray and Jalen Richard controlling the carries. Murray has become more of a feature back with 57 of the carries over the last seven games. The Raiders have averaged 125.5 yards per game in that span, and ranks No. 6 overall with 116 yards per game.
Murray in particular has been a powerful force in this offense recently. That was clear against Kansas City, where he had 103 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries.
He averaged 4.7 yards per carry that night, and a flat four yards per rush on the season. That efficiency is solid, but the Raiders like a few other metrics as well.
Murray has 12 rushing touchdowns in 11 games played, proving tough to stop near the goal line. He also leads the league with 29 percent of his runs going for first downs. He ranks ninth with 2.73 yards after contact per touch and has forced 17 missed tackles, metrics that show he’s being more elusive in the second level. At times he uses a stiff arm or a quick move. Other times, Murray uses brute force.
“I’m trying to improve on making a defender miss or making them feel it,” Murray said. “That’s something I wanted to improve on from last year, especially when I get to the second level. I continue to work on that and do whatever I can to be a dangerous back.”
Jalen Richard has also been a dangerous back. The undrafted rookie averages 5.7 yards per carry, and has been patient rushing behind solid blocks and shifty in the open field.
The Raiders have a good thing going on the ground, a fact the Raiders hope to exploit as the season wears on. They have a potent passing game, the Raiders have a good rushing system going, and they want to maintain production against a solid San Diego run defense.
“We’ll continue to do what we’ve been doing,” Murray said Tuesday. “We’ve been doing great things, and we’re not going to let what happened let us think otherwise. We have a great opportunity to win a game in San Diego. We’re excited about it.”