In a game that had all Raiders fans screaming at their TVs for multiple reasons, the Oakland defense bent to the point just before breakage to dispel a Steelers’ 4th quarter comeback. The offense started the game with a beautiful read-option run by Terrelle Pryor that went for 93 yards and a touchdown. It was the longeest run in Raiders’ history and longest run by any quarterback ever in the NFL. Darren McFadden added two touchdowns before halftime to make it a 21-3 game before halftime, although if Brice Butler had not caused an interception it very well could have been 24-3 or even 28-3 going into the half. Give credit to the Steelers’ kicker though, as he added fuel to a Steelers’ team that was burning in struggle until the fourth quarter by shanking two 30-35 yard field goals that killed any momentum the Steelers had. Now here are my Four key takeaways from the game.
Don’t blame Olson- I was on twitter the entire game and while I understand that the casual fan could be very angry at the play-calling in second half, it is ridiculous to say that Pryor isn’t the future or that Greg Olson should get fired. Yes, Pryor’s passer rating was atrocious, but his QBR was an almost perfect 96.2. The offense in the first half was great, they moved the ball down the field and got a big lead that could have been bigger if Pryor’s receivers could stop dropping the ball. In the second half, they switched the play calling to, as one of my twitter followers said it best, a “prevent offense”. Make no mistake, the second half offense was not trying to win the game, they were trying not to lose it. Remember all those runs for no gain in the fourth quarter that had everyone up in arms about how the offense is so terrible, well lets take a minute to examine the situation. The
Raiders were up by two possessions, the defense was dominating the game and there were limited minutes on the clock. The Raiders were simply trying to run the clock down. Why would you risk passing it and creating a turnover or stopping the clock? Because the Steelers knew that they were just going to run it the entire time, they stacked the box. It is quite easy to stop an offense when you know what they are going to be doing. It had nothing to do with the offense supposedly “lagging” in the second half, in fact, I would say the offense went according to plan in the second half. They ran the clock down, let King do his job, then left it into the hands of the defense. So I urge you stop blaming Olson and Pryor, especially if you don’t take the time to stop, step back, and analyze the situation.
Pass rush is going strong- Let us make something clear, Big Ben is called what he is for a reason: He is hard to bring down. He has great pocket awareness and is surprisingly agile and elusive in the pocket. He attributes this to his days playing basketball, well while he did avoid some extra sacks this Sunday, the Raiders still got to him five times. “Yeah, you have to hold on for dear life a little bit with Ben Roethlisberger,” said Sio Moore. “He’s a good quarterback, and he knows how to escape guys. Half the time you think he’s sacked.” Lamarr Houston, Vance Walker, Daniel Muir all had one sack, while the rookie Sio Moore had two. It was the third time this season that the Raiders have recorded at least four sacks, and second game five sacks. While the may not have an animal pash rusher like Von Miller, Jason Tarver does an amazing job with Dialing up blitzes from various positions on defense.
Let’s stop the run…- The Raiders held the Steelers to just 35 yards rushing after the Steelers had two successful weeks on the ground. This is the third time this season that they have held opponents to under 40 yards rushing, all at home. They held the Steelers to a season low 8 yards on the ground in the first half. The Raiders have been stopping the run all year, but unlike the Broncos who “stop” the run because they dig a hole for the other team and force them to pass, the Raiders have run stuffers in Houston, Sims and Walker. They forced Big Ben to pass, and let the secondary make plays, as witnessed by Big Ben’s two interception. The defense this year has been outstanding all year in all phases, a huge upgrade to what they had last year. Give credit to Tarver and Allen for coaching them and to Reggie for putting all the pieces in place.
…And run all over the place- The Raiders had over 170 yards on the ground in the first half against the Steelers. While this number is skewed because of Pryor’s 93 yard run on the first play from scrimmage, the Raiders moved the ball effectively on the ground, and it resulted in three first half rushing touchdowns. This game moved Pryor up in terms of leading the NFL in quarterback rushing, as he is now in first with 391 yards on the season. He also leads in the NFL in yards per carry with 7.4 and is second in the NFL for runs over 20 yards, with six. This trails on Frank Gore, who has seven. Darren McFadden only 73 yards rushing, but after his two first half touchdowns, he was asked to do much other than run into the offensive line to run the clock down.