Oct 4, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr (4) throws a pass against the Chicago Bears during the second half at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports
After dropping a winnable game in Chicago, the Raiders are now looking forward to a real test. The Broncos have been dominating the AFC West for the better part of the last decade, but with an aging Peyton Manning, there is a glimmer of hope for the Raiders to win. Of course, this team has talent across the board, and the question for the Raiders is simple: how good are you?
The Raiders had an opportunity to start the season 3-1 and set up a fight for first place in the AFC West. Chicago limped into the game with Jay Cutler coming off of a knee injury and no Alshon Jeffrey. On the other hand, the Raiders were coming off of a big win where they found a defensive formation that produced pressure, a change in the safety position, and a signifiant amount of confidence. In the end, the Raiders lost on a last second field goal after having a fairly solid defensive performance.
Whether Raider fans are willing to admit it or not, the Raiders are not a defense that will ever be “dominant”. Well, at least dominant in the traditional sense. Ken Norton Jr. comes from a mindset of defensive football that ignores traditional thought. In Seattle, the defense is built upon the idea of “bend but don’t break”. The reason for this is simple. By forcing offenses to stick to short gains, you force them to run more plays which gives your defense more opportunities to make plays.
Traditionally, defenses are judged by how many yards they give up. For modern football, judging the abilities of a defense based on yardage is a waste. What matters today is plays made. Sacks, turnovers, and points against are the three most important stats for a modern defense. Against the Bears, the Raiders recorded three sacks and forced three turnovers. Most importantly they only gave up 22 points. If somebody were to tell me the Raider defense would have that sort of line, I would assume that they won the football game.
If the defense played a relatively solid game, then the attention must turn to the offense. The Raiders had two unforced turnovers in this game and they both came from Latavius Murray. To watch Murray simply take his eyes off the ball twice and cost the Raiders two possessions where they gave up a total of 10 points is extremely frustrating.
What was truly mystifying about the offense in this game, was the play calling. The Raiders have shown time and time again that they struggle to run the ball in traditional formations, because defenses tend to stack the box. Most of all, to attain balance the Raiders need to pass the ball early to show they have a threat to be reckoned with. Once defenses react and go to nickel or thin out the box, the Raiders can run the ball efficiently.
In both Raider losses, the team was ineffective in getting Cooper involved in the game early. This loss started as every other game has with a couple of Cooper mistakes. However, the Raiders did one thing in this game they lack on a weekly basis, they connected with Cooper deep. More specifically, Carr threw a tremendous pass that he dropped over Cooper’s shoulder beyond double coverage. This was about the extent of the excitement that the offense produced which is the primary reason the Raiders lost this game. Offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave got away from what the Raiders do best and the team paid for it.
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