ALAMEDA – Amari Cooper lined up in the slot on 2nd-down-and-7, preparing to run five yards before breaking across the field to his right. Raiders quarterback Derek Carr believed his top receiver would be isolated in Kansas City’s zone coverage.
Pre-snap, he already knew where to go.
Cooper ran the route perfectly. Carr waited until he reached a hole in the zone before delivering a 15-yard strike. Cooper caught in stride, turn on the jets and blew through the Chiefs secondary.
Offensive coordinator Todd Downing reached a fist toward the sky, hopped a few times in celebration.
“Watching Coop light up when he took that (crossing route) and scored while outrunning three defenders,” Downing said Wednesday on the Raiders Insider Podcast, “with good transition by blockers on the perimeter as well, that play kind of fired us up.”
It wasn’t just about a score or an early lead Thursday over Kansas City.
That’s how the Raiders offense is supposed to look. Cooper’s touchdown was a perfect play, from scheme to call to execution. Design created a favorable matchup. Protection provided time. Quarterback capitalized on defensive vulnerability. Playmaker turned and burned.
It was a signature moment for Downing and the Raiders offense. They were Clark Kent a long time, scoring 13.1 points per game during a four-game losing streak. That was a Superman play.
The Raiders stayed in costume during a 31-30 victory over the rival Chiefs, showing their true offensive identity in a crucial Week 7 win.
The offense rolls when four things happen: Protection holds. Backs run hard. Receivers “light up” with ball in hand. Carr comes through in the clutch.
That happened against K.C. Carr pushed the ball downfield at times. Receivers created yards after the catch at others. The rushing attack wasn’t overpowering, but holes were available and backs ran hard. The Raiders took calculated risks, and consistently grabbed yards in chunks. Downing’s scheme helped facilitate those actions. He hopes that’s the end of an offensive slump cause by some early-season growing pains, and that good times will continue Sunday against Buffalo.
“Anytime you’re putting a new player or coach in a prominent position, whether it’s play calling or play making, you’re going to have some bumps in the road,” Downing said. “It’s a matter of how you respond to them. We’ve have far too many bumps the previous four weeks, but we started to find our groove on Thursday night and we were able to highlight some strengths and weaknesses better than we have in the past.”
The Raiders gained 505 yards, averaging 6.9 per play. Carr threw for 417 and led a heroic comeback. The ground game averaged 4.2 yards per carry. They were solid on third and fourth down combined.
Another stat was most important. The Raiders ran 71, after averaging 54 the previous six games. That allowed Downing to find rhythm as a play caller.
“One of the things hindering us the most over our little slump was that we weren’t able to get enough plays,” Downing said. “We weren’t able to sustain drives. It’s hard to stay on schedule with first and second down calls and stay with things you’re trying to set up, whether it’s play-actions or repeating runs you’ve adjusted on the sideline. We were able to run 70-plus plays Thursday, which allowed us to repeat some run adjustments hit some play action that we set up.”
This breakthrough came because Downing didn’t waver. Sure, he made some schematic adjustments. His process didn’t change. He didn’t flip the script, and remained confident improvement would come.
“There was no difference in him,” Carr said. “When we did well, he celebrated with us, when we did bad, he coached it. He didn’t come and demean people or anything like that. He was him. That says a lot about his character and it’s so encouraging going forward knowing that we went through some adversity, but when that good day came we were still the same. We were like, ‘Hey, that was awesome but now we have to move on.’ To see that it didn’t change was really cool.”