ALAMEDA – The Raiders ran right at Denver back in Week 9, and there was nothing the Broncos could do about it. They were determined to avoid getting run over again, and were set up to stop Latavius Murray and Co. on the ground.
Stacking the box was easier with Derek Carr recovering from surgery, and Denver allowed just 57 yards on 17 rushes. Those were disappointing totals for a run game expected to set the tone for a Raiders team carrying on without their MVP.
“We didn’t run it the way we wanted to run it and to me we didn’t run it enough,” head coach Jack Del Rio said. “I mean, Latavius (Murray) ends up with five carries. How’s that happen? It wasn’t a great job of executing by the Oakland Raiders.”
Denver loaded up against the run, bringing extra bodies into the box while daring the Raiders to throw deep.
“You have to run when everybody knows you’re going to run,” running back Jalen Richard said. “Coming into a game where (Carr’s) out, we have to be able to run the ball. Denver had a good game plan, and we couldn’t connect on the back end.”
That should be a new reality for the Raiders run game without their starting quarterback. The Raiders will play an aggressive front during Saturday’s playoff game at Houston.
The whole world knows the Raiders need to run well to stabilize the offense. There’s no spinning that. At times, they’ll have to produce against a defensive front expecting the run.
“That’s always a tough way to make a living, but we’re all used to it,” offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave said. “That’s what happens in professional football. You have to be able to handle eight and nine man boxes and run it when you want to. We’ve experienced a lot of success in the run game his year, more than we did two years ago. Last weekend, we didn’t have a lot of success running it, but we want to get right back on track.”
The Raiders were close to running well, but blocking wasn’t perfect. Nor was the timing within these plays. Poor play on third down dropped their carry count, especially for Latavius Murray.
Seeing only minor imperfections gives the Raiders confidence they can rebound from one bad showing following four games with 130 yards or more.
“We were one block away from a few big runs,” Richard said. “We had one where, if one thing went different, it was a house call. The details got away from us a little bit.”
Houston got to the run game in a Week 11 meeting, and held the Silver and Black to a season-low 30 yards. That didn’t eliminate running backs from the game plan. Running backs had 199 receiving yards and two touchdowns in that game.
Houston can stop the run without loading the box. Also, Texans defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel said this week he might try defensive backs on Raiders backs, which could create better matchups downfield.
“A lot of teams want to bring in extra DBs, go dime or quarter, instead of just nickel, so they can put DBs on our backs instead of linebackers,” Musgrave said. “We’ll anticipate that, just like we have the past few weeks.
“You have to give and take on offense and defense when you make adjustments. We’ll hope that we can play the chess game with them and come out on top.”
Outsmarting the opposition is obviously beneficial. At times, however, the Raiders want to succeed when everyone in the building knows what’s coming. That will be key for a running game looking to control tempo and help Cook ease into his first NFL start.
“We know we need to run the ball to be successful, as we do week in and week out,” Murray said. “I’m sure me, DeAndre (Washington) and Jalen take on the responsibility of carrying this team. I know I do. We need people to step up and make plays. I’m going to look to do that as a leader on this team and as a running back in this offense.”