NFL Week 15: Oakland Raiders Keys for Taming the Detroit Lions
John Doublin – Dec 16, 2011Anyone that follows football knows this match-up between the Oakland Raiders and Detroit Lions is a must win for both teams. These teams find themselves trying to get back on track after stumbling mid-season.
The Raiders have been blown out their last two games and will be looking for a team on whom they can exact their revenge. The Lions are coming off a hard-earned, narrow victory over their division rival, the Minnesota Vikings. Sitting at 8-5, Detroit is hanging on to their playoff lives, while at 7-6, the Raiders are clinging to life in both the AFC West title race, and a wild-card berth.
This game means a lot to both teams.
The Lions will be getting their volatile defensive tackle, Ndamukong Suh back from suspension and the Raiders will be getting the services of rookie play-maker Denarius Moore. The similarities in these teams goes on and on, but suffice it to sayâ€”this game should be a real battle.
Priority one for the Raider offense has to be to contain that fantastic Lions' front four. The aforementioned Suh, along with Corey Williams, Cliff Avril and, of course, the real threatâ€”Kyle Vanden Bosch make up a great line that can shut down the run and get after the passer.
The Raiders' offensive line will have their work cut out for them.
Using "switch-blocks" and traps with the guards and center can help neutralize the interior of Suh and Williams. The San Francisco 49ers utilized this to near perfection in their week six win over the Lions. The 49ers' running back Frank Gore had a career day behind this type of blocking schemeâ€”Michael Bush can too.
As for pass protection, the Raiders' tackles have a big task this week. Vanden Bosch and Avril are among the most under-rated pass rushers in the league. Jared Veldheer and Khalif Barnes will need to be on top of their game.
The first 10 offensive plays will tell us whether or not the Raiders' tackles will need help with these two solid defensive ends. If Veldheer plays at his best, he can handle Vanden Bocsh, just as he handled the Vikings' Jared Allen in week 11. Barnes is another story. Avril brings a lot of speed and speed is something Barnes has struggled with all year.
Should the Raider tackles need help, using tight ends would be the best solution. Bush is not a great blocker, and fullback Marcel Reece is too valuable in the passing game to use solely as a blocker.
The weakness of the Lions' defense is the linebacking corps. Not to say they're weak necessarily, but they are the "weak-link" on that defense. Forcing them to cover Bush, Reece and the tight ends on pass routes will play into the hands of the Raiders.
Finally, the Raiders get stud, rookie play-maker Denarius Moore back this week. Head coach Hue Jackson needs to get him involved as early as possible. Moore and quarterback Carson Palmer have developed a chemistry and taking advantage of that bond will open up the rest of the field for Oakland.
Getting Moore on deep routes off of play-action, giving him the ball on end-arounds and just generally keeping the Lions' defense focused on him will move the safeties back, force the linebackers to think and help the running game, as well as the short and intermediate passing game.
It's no secret what the Raider defense needs to do to stop the Lions' offenseâ€”cover Calvin "Mega-Tron" Johnson. That said, forgetting about wide receiver Nate Burleson or tight end Brandon Pettigrew would be catastrophic for Oakland.
Single coverage on Johnson won't work, double coverage rarely works and committing three players to one receiver is a huge mistake. To keep Johnson from killing the Raiders secondary will take creativity and discipline. Putting Stanford Routt on him in man coverage, then helping over the top with the safety on that side is a good start, but Oakland's plan for stopping this guy has to be varied and unpredictable. If not, Lions' quarterback Matt Stafford will find him, and he will make plays.
Speaking of Stafford, he is extremely accurate and has a rifle arm. He can make all the throws and is willing to take chances. However, when pressured he tends to force the ball and do too much. This is an area in which Oakland must succeed.
If the front four of Richard Seymour, Tommy Kelly, Jarvis Moss and Lamarr Houston aren't getting pressure by themselves, blitzing secondary players will not be the solution. If Stafford sees a cornerback or safety coming on a blitz, he will simply throw the ball "up-for-grabs" in Johnson's areaâ€”and more often than not, Johnson will come down with it.
That said, to help the defensive line apply pressure, bringing linebackersâ€”instead of defensive backsâ€”on well schemed blitzes would be the best way to go. Stunts, twists and "Snake" blitzes can confuse the Lions' offensive line and put pressure on Staffordâ€”pressuring Stafford will force mistakes and hopefully, turnovers.
Most of the season, this has been the most consistent squad on the Raiders. The last two weeks were the exception however. Both Devon Bess of the Dolphins and Randle Cobb went for big gains on returns. This must be fixed by special team's coach John Fassel.
The Lions' Stefan Logan is a solid return man that can break the big play from time to time. The coverage teams have to play fundamentally sound football. Directional kickoffs and punts, combined with every player staying in their lanes and making solid tackles must be the focus of the special teams this week.
One thing Oakland can count on is consistency from the kickers. Shane Lechler and Sebastian Janikowski are the best kicking tandem in the NFLâ€”maybe in NFL history. However, they can't do it all alone. All 11 players on the field have to do their part for the Raiders to put up points and win the field position battle.
The Raiders' margin for error is erasedâ€”to quote coach Jackson in a recent press conference, "It's gone, man!" This is a must-win game for the Raiders. A loss in this game and the road to the playoffs gets even tougher than it already is.
The intensity, (or lack thereof) has been a problem for the Raiders over the last two weeks. It has to be high, but not so high that penalties become a problem. There's an old misnomer about football: "You have to play angry." Nothing could be further from the truth. You have to play with passion, but you must play smart.
Anger and intensity are two, very different things. Intensity instills focus on the job and a desire to play well. Anger creates dumb penalties, blown assignments and a lack of control. The Raiders need to understand this and not let the Lions bait them into anger, but rather use their intensity to simply do their job, make the plays they're expected to make, and take the next step toward their goalâ€”a trip to the 2011 NFL Playoffs.
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