Oakland Raiders Film Room: OAK at SD

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Oakland Nails the Screen Game

I have been a very harsh critic of how the Raiders have run screens the last couple of years. They’ve suffered from poor decision making regarding when to actually run screens and even worse execution in making them happen on the field.

The two biggest problems are that Oakland has been running screens when they have no other offensive threat on the field for the defense to respect; and that they have the worst timing possible – generally making the pass so quickly the defenders have all the time in the world to respond to it while the blockers have no time to get into the field and protect the ball carrier.

Both of those problems were resolved against San Diego, to spectacular results.

First the adjustments. Oakland isn’t running this play on 3rd and 14 hoping they’ll fool some defensive coordinator into thinking they’re throwing a Hail Mary. This is on 1st and 10, after the Raiders have been rolling all day. They also don’t throw the pass to a receiver on an island at the end of the field, hoping some 300 pound lineman can get out to the sideline to make a block before 180 pound DBs or 240 pound linebackers arrive.

Remember earlier when I said it would be important that the linebackers had to pay attention to running backs on run and pass plays? That comes back into play here. Oakland makes two changes to help with timing. The first adjustment is that they run a very fast play-action before the pass. This forces linebacker Donald Butler to trail Latavius Murray away from the play, eliminating him as a potential tackler. Combined with the five-man rush, this leaves the middle of the field open, again.

The second timing adjustment is that the receivers take a couple of steps upfield before coming back to the ball. Previously they might take a jab, or just turn around and look for the ball. This three-step fake makes a world of difference. It tricks the defense into thinking they’re going to be burned again with another pick play.

By the time the ball is thrown, the DB on the top of the three receiver side is already a couple steps into his backpedal. The additional delay gives the left side of the offensive line time to get into the open field to provide lead blocks for Cooper.

Add Amari Cooper’s brilliant after the catch skills to the fact that C Rodney Hudson basically commits murder on S Jahleel Addae and you get a textbook screen play. Called at the right time & executed perfectly, for a 52 yard touchdown. It’s so beautiful, you might want to watch the video again… 20 more times.

This play, and even the very similar Crabtree touchdown, worked because they built on threats established throughout the game from various aspects of the Raiders offense. Oakland still has a problem finishing games, but if the Raiders can continue to build on a gorgeously orchestrated and executed game play such as this one, they just might become one of the more dangerous team in the league.