Oakland Raiders vs San Diego Chargers: Raiders in a Must Win Game-UPDATED
John Doublin – Nov 9, 2011The Oakland Raiders find themselves having to go on the road to San Diego to take on the Chargers in a must win gameâ€”on an extremely short week. Just four days after suffering a demoralizing defeat at the hands of the Denver Broncos, the Raiders are forced to play the Chargers under very difficult circumstances.
This week 10 game will mark the third week in a row in which the Raiders will have an opportunity to seize control of the AFC West by defeating a rival opponent, but this time they'll have to do it away from home.
The good news is that San Diego struggles to run the ball and their starting running back, Ryan Matthews is nicked-up and is likely to be limited. The stumbling Raiders' run defense will not be tested as much as they have been this season.
The bad news is that Oakland will be without their most potent offensive weapon, Darren McFadden. McFadden sprained his foot a couple of weeks ago and missed the game last week against the Broncos. Michael Bush will be called upon once again to carry the load for the Raiders ground attack.
A few key factors must go right for Oakland to win this game.
Get back to your identity: In their four wins, the Raiders have attempted, on average, 33.25 runs per game. In four losses, the Raiders average just 25.7 rushing attempts per game. This would suggest that Oakland needs to run the ballâ€”no matter what!
Even with McFadden not playing, Bush has proven time and time again that he is more than capable of being the number one running back. Whatever Bush lacks in speed, he more than makes up for in power and durability.
The Chargers are ranked 18th against the run and Oakland is ranked third in rushing yards offensively. The statistics bear out that Oakland is more successful when they commit to the run. Put all these facts together and a minimum 30 rushing attempts with no more than 25 passing attempts would be the wisest game plan for the Raiders.
UPDATE: The Raiders attempted 42 rushes and just 21 passes. SUCCESS!
Don't try to get "too cute:" The Raiders are a physical, smash-mouth football team. That's how Al Davis built them and that's how they've won four games this year. Straying away from that with "Flea-Flickers" from mid-field, throwing the ball all over the field and trying harder to trick opponents, than trying to just beat them will only lead to defeat.
Of course Carson Palmer is the best quarterback the Raiders have had since Rich Gannon, but that fact does not mandate that Oakland should all of a sudden become "Patriots West." Palmer has only been with the team, and in and the offense, for less than a month. There is no way he's ready, or comfortable enough with the playbook and receivers to be the kind of player the team can rely on to win games all by himself.
Head coach Hue Jackson needs to take his time in utilizing Palmer to any great extent. Pushing Palmer too fast will result in mistakes and turnovers like fans witnessed against the Broncos. The time will come when Palmer can put the Raiders on his proverbial back and lead them to victory, but that time is not now. Until that time comes, the Raiders should just do what they do bestâ€”cram the ball down the opponent's throat.
UPDATE: There was just one "trick" play, a fake punt that failed because of a completely unheard of rule. Other than that, no trickery. SUCCESS!
"Just tackle baby!": In the previous two games, both losses, the Raiders put on a display of how not to tackle. Chiefs' Jackie Battle and the Broncos' Willis McGahee and Tim Tebow all rushed for over 100 yards. This cannot happen if Oakland wishes to win.
The Chargers are not a spectacular running team, but they do have some weapons in the ground game. A very solid offensive line and nice combination of running backs with the aforementioned Matthews and a bigger, stronger Mike Tolbert.
Matthews is likely to be limited, but Tolbert presents problems on his own. He is a great receiver out of the back field and is quite a load to bring down in the open field. Attempting the big hit without wrapping up will result in broken tackles and a lot of yards after contact for the Charger back.
Oakland needs to focus on better pursuit angles and remaining disciplined to their gap responsibility as well. Plays like the 60 yard scamper by McGahee in which two Raider linebackers were left unblocked, but so far out of position that he went into the endzone untouched must be eliminated against the Chargers.
The fundamental tackle is a thing of the past in the NFL, but the teams that win consistently tackle better than those that lose consistently. Teams like the Ravens, Steelers and Jets prove this to be true every season.
UPDATE: The Chargers were held to just 75 rushing yards and no Charger broke a big play because of missed tackles. SUCCESS!
Keep your cool: In my previous article I discussed the now well-debated fact that Oakland is allowing penalties to cost them chances to win. An average of just 8.25 penalties for 66.25 yards in their four wins; over 10 penalties for more than 100 yards in their four losses.
This week in San Diego will be no exception. The Chargers are likely to pull the same tricks to incite and bait the Raiders into silly, drive-extending penalties that Denver did with great success.
The onus to fix this glaring problem lies not only with the players, but withÂ the coaches as wellâ€”all the coaches. Jackson, defensive coordinator Chuck Bresnahan, offensive coordinator Al Saunders and all the position coaches must make reducing penalties a priority in the limited practice time this week.
This problem is severe and if it's not rectified Oakland will keep giving free yards, free first downs and free wins to their opponentsâ€”just like last week. The simple fact is that the most successful teams are usually the least penalized. That is not a coincidence.
UPDATE: Only seven penalties on Oakland for just 45 yards. SUCCESS!
To conclude: Oakland must get back to their winning ways by doing what they've done in their wins and avoiding the mistakes they've made in their losses. Run the ballâ€”commit to itâ€”stick with itâ€”no matter what. Wrap up when tackling, stick to gap responsibility and use good pursuit angles. Don't beat yourself by committing penaltiesâ€”no matter how much they bait and egg you into it.
It's real simpleâ€”do what you do, be who you are. Nothing more, nothing less. The rest will take care of itself.
UPDATE: The Raiders played their gameâ€”run the ball, get the big pass play and beat your opponent physically. The result was a victory. SUCCESS!
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