Oakland Raiders Film Room: OAK at CLE

4 of 5

The Defensive Ripple Effect

One of the beautiful things about football is that a stud at one position allows for more risk-taking and easier gains at other positions. Khalil Mack was causing havoc in the backfield the entire game. Not only did this make it more difficult for Cleveland to throw the ball, and thus easing the weight on the secondary, it makes life a little more easy for the linebackers as well. And as we’ll see, veterans Curtis Lofton and Malcolm Smith took full advantage of Mack’s disruption to cause a little trouble of their own.

Cleveland tries the outside zone run on 1st and 10 in the late second quarter. Outside zone runs are easy to read. Just look at the offensive line, they immediately move in unison to the side of the play. Zone runs are designed to give the offensive line a head start on the blocking assignments while moving to the play side to create an early numbers advantage and leverage in second level blocking. As you can see, there are six blockers for six defenders (Aldon Smith is ignored) creating a numbers advantage for the running back, who is the seventh man.

Here’s where problems arise for Cleveland. Khalil Mack immediately pushes his man into the backfield, stifling the horizontal movement on the play. Middle linebacker Curtis Lofton makes the solid read and steps up to fill the cut-back lane. This combination of defensive movement forces the running back to bounce deeper in the backfield to get around the edge, with no option for a cut-back.

The play finishes as Malcolm Smith does his new job – holding the edge as the running back works around Mack’s penetration. Smith not only holds the edge, but works into the backfield himself, to make the big tackle for a six yard loss. The is really the peak of what this Raiders front seven can be. Khalil Mack being a powerhouse and disrupting offensive play design while the veterans around him clean up anything he can’t contain himself.

Next: The Godfather Clinches the Game