It only took 14 games for it to happen but the Oakland Raiders have finally stumbled onto a winning game plan. It’s a simple three step formula but executing it has been a painful process this season.
1) Run the rock on offense
2) Stop the run on defense
3) Enjoy the results
To be fair our basic victory checklist should also include a heavy dose Sebastian Janikowski. But hopefully Greg Knapp will realize getting cute on the goal line is unnecessary when you’ve got Darren McFadden (sorry, had to mix in one shot at Knapp otherwise its not a JBB post).
Speaking of McFadden its no secret that as he goes so too do the Raiders. It’s no coincidence that a highly effective running game just so happened to help make Sunday’s contest so one-sided. Granted it helps to be playing against a team whose quarterback is barely one step above Kyle Boller. But a shutout in the NFL is nothing to ever apologize for.
It’s also not coincidence that by putting the ball in the hands of McFadden more and Carson Palmer less also resulted in fewer mistakes.
With all due respect to Palmer his errors have proven far too costly even for a team with no hopes of making the postseason. It’s always unfair to blame one man for any loss in a team sport but there is no denying those hideous interceptions Palmer threw in crucial moments against the Falcons, Bucs and Browns denied the Raiders even a chance at victory.
This past Sunday a sickened Palmer (he had the flu) was in no condition to put the ball in the air 40+ times as we’ve seen far too often this year. Perhaps his sickness was a blessing in disguise. Without the heavy reliance on Palmer the Raiders had almost no choice but to lean on McFadden and the highly underperforming rushing attack.
While we’re handing out praise a lot of the accolades must go to the men in the trenches. The offensive line finally had a bullying afternoon while the D-line actually looked like the unit that terrorized QBs all of last season.
No question the Raiders have a solid formula in place that exploits their greatest strength (running the ball) while minimizing their greatest risk (asking Palmer to win games with his arm). The ultimate irony is that this is the exact formula that worked when Jason Campbell was calling signals in the East Bay. In many ways the Palmer trade is what really got this team off course even though it was meant to keep the train rolling on the tracks.
Now all that remains is to see this team do it again and again and again. Well, since we’ve only got two games left we’ll settle for again and again. Anything less will reveal Sunday’s win as circumstance instead of improvement.