Oakland Raiders Week 4 Primer: Bad News Bears

3 of 7

Sep 27, 2015; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Browns quarterback Josh McCown (13) Oakland Raiders defensive end Khalil Mack (52) at FirstEnergy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

What Was Different?

The big change for the Raiders that won them this game was the defense. In the two weeks previous to this game, the Raiders ran what is known as a “43 Under”. Basically, it is four down lineman and three linebackers, however unlike a normal 43 which is symmetrical, the under alignment places the strong side linebacker on the line of scrimmage directly over the tight end.

What the Raiders did in this game, is start with a 52 defense. Many pundits have been saying the Raiders ran a 34, something similar to what the Steelers run, but it is not quite that simple. The Raiders took their three down lineman and put them in a bear alignment, meaning the nose tackle was over the center, and the two ends either over the guards, or on their outside shoulder. Well outside of the offensive tackles were Aldon Smith and Khalil Mack leaving lots of space between the defensive lineman and the outside linebackers.

This alignment gave the Raiders one huge advantage. Mobility. Because the three defensive lineman ate up the three inside blockers it allows the linebackers to operate in space. Then when the Raiders chose to, they would slant, twist, or stunt those lineman leaving the linebackers alleys to rush the passer. It was a wonderful decision by Ken Norton to make this adjustment. This is not to stay the Raiders only used this formation, because they did shift to their 43 under occasionally.

There was one other significant change the Raiders made. Due to the lack of a true free safety and the deep threat provided Travis Benjamin, the Raiders asked cornerback TJ Carrie to play free safety in certain packages and concepts. Carrie’s main use at free safety came in two safety sets, and Carrie flashed extensive range and solid instincts.

Between the two changes, the defensive front and the use of Carrie as a safety, the Raiders were able to drastically increase their defensive effectiveness against a very solid Browns offensive line. Five sacks were recorded, two by Mack, one by Ball, one by Malcolm Smith, and the first of the season by Ray Ray Armstrong. Of course, not only did Armstrong record the first sack, but it was an absolute gimme. He did make a solid read knowing he would be uncovered with play action coming, but it could not have been easier.

Next: Week 4 Primer: Murray Gets Going