ALAMEDA – Head coach Jack Del Rio was asked this week to name one thing his Raiders must improve heading into Sunday’s game against the Kansas City Chiefs.
His answer came swift and unwavering.
“I’d say run the ball better,” Del Rio said. ”We’ve got to be more consistent running the ball.”
The answer came after the Raiders matched a season high with 30 attempts against Tennessee, but turned a second-worst 2.8 yards per carry. The only effort less efficient came the week before, when the Raiders averaged 2.38 yards per carry.
That was a break from the previous month, when Latavius Murray especially carved opposing defenses. He averaged 5.34 yards per carry in the previous four games, the last time Del Rio put his run game under the microscope.
That was a bye week project back in Week 6, after which the Raiders turned the ground game around.
The Raiders are struggling again, and Del Rio thinks it’s time for another tune up.
“We have some things to clean up,” Del Rio said. “Usually when you don’t run it as well, it comes down to the timing on a couple of combination blocks, and whether you’re hitting the hole just right, or whether we’re finishing down field with the receivers, and all the things you’re praising when it goes well. It just wasn’t quite as good as we feel like we’re capable of doing it and we’ve got to go back and refine that.”
Murray agrees that it’s an internal issue.
“It’s tough running the ball in this league, against some of the best athletes in the world,” he said. “It’s not easy, but I think it’s still a matter of us doing our job. Don’t want to take credit away from other teams, but we feel like we can produce when we execute well.”
When the Raiders execute on the ground, they usually win. They’re 4-1 in five games where they’ve exceeded 95 yards as a team. The only win below that threshold came Sunday against the Titans, when the Raiders ran a ton.
The Raiders weren’t efficient against Tennessee, but they ran a bunch and earned six first downs on the ground. Even so, players and coaches agree it wasn’t good enough.
Getting right against Kansas City’s No. 9-ranked run defense will be difficult, but the Raiders hope to come up with opportunities to turn and burn.
Murray will continue getting feature back’s carries, on pace for the best single season total since Darren McFadden’s 2010 effort. That will only happen if consistency reigns, and the Raiders don’t continue their current rushing rate.
“It’s just a matter of us continuing to work at it,” Murray said. “We have five games left, and we need to strain and finish the way we want to finish on offense. We have a lot left out there that we can accomplish. Good things will come if we continue to believe in what we’re doing.”