Oakland Raiders: What Was Learned from Last Night’s Win

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Nov 20, 2014; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Raiders running back Latavius Murray (28) scores on an 11-yard touchdown run in the first quarter against the Kansas City Chiefs at O.co Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

1. Latavius Murray Can Play

As the calls for Latavius Murray to get more touches grew louder and louder in the comments sections of JBB articles, on Twitter, and on Facebook, I did my best to give the coaching staff the benefit of the doubt as the bulk of the Raiders carries went to Darren McFadden and Maurice Jones-Drew and the running game was historically inept. I said over and over “if he showed something in practice, he’d get more touches” and pointed to his six carries for eleven yards all season as evidence that he wouldn’t fare any better than the two veterans. I knew Murray had a rare combination of size (6’3″, 225) and speed (clocked in the high 4.3 range prior to being drafted) but aside from some preseason performances, I thought it was another case of a talented athlete not having what it takes on game day. Boy, was I wrong.

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  • To be fair, I learned I might have been wrong about him late in last Sunday’s loss to the Chargers, when he carried the ball four times for 43 yards, including a huge 23 yard run late. But Darren McFadden had his best game in two years against those same Chargers earlier in the year, so I thought it could be a fluke. Maybe the Chargers defense just wasn’t very good against the run, maybe they were looking for the pass during that stretch of game. Clearly it wasn’t a fluke. Latavius Murray, on just four touches against one of the league’s premier run defenses, managed to rack up 112 yards rushing and score the first two rushing TD’s allowed by the Chiefs all season, including a 90-yard home run that was the longest rushing TD by a Raider running back since Bo Jackson. Murray also beat the Chiefs defense to the edge on an 11-yard scoring run to open up scoring in the game.  He broke tackles, pushed piles, and on his 90-yarder, completely outran Eric Berry and the rest of a relatively speedy Chiefs defense – on a soggy grass field, no less. He pressed the hole, made the right cut, exploded, and was gone. He let his blocks get set up and then made it happen, something that seasoned backs McFadden and Jones-Drew have been unable to do all year.

    Unfortunately, Murray was knocked out of the game on a nasty helmet shot on his fourth carry of the game, and of course the Raiders struggled to run the ball again until late in the 4th quarter. But Murray, in a stretch of roughly two halves of football (the second half against San Diego, the first half against KC), has now carried eight times for 155 yards and two TD’s. In those eight carries, he’s shown vision, ability to quickly change direction, power, and of course that great speed to beat defenses to the edge and then get on his horse and get downfield. He has all the tools and all the talent to be a featured rusher in an NFL offense, and he could be the featured guy for Oakland for years to come if he keeps it up and can stay healthy. While he will need to develop as a pass blocker and receiver in order to be an every-down back in the NFL, he can definitely be the guy you want to hand the ball to early and often in games to establish the run game and open up passing lanes for Derek Carr. Here’s hoping the concussion is of the minor variety and he’s back healthy for the rest of the year.