Oakland Raiders Vs KC Chiefs: Silver & Black Plan of Attack
John Doublin – Oct 26, 2012
The Oakland Raiders are coming off a sloppy win over the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week-7. Oakland will now travel to Arrowhead stadium to take on the hated Kansas City Chiefs. There are several challenges the Raiders will face in the "Show me state."
The Chiefs are one of the best rushing teams in the NFL. Jamaal Charles appears to be fully healed from his devastating ACL tear of last season and is taking the league by storm once again.
The good news for Oakland is: Charles is about the only thing the Chiefs have on offense at this time. Quarterback Matt Cassel is injured and Brady Quinn will get the start. Cassel wasn't playing well anyway, but Quinn isn't an upgrade.
Kansas City does have some weapons in the passing game, like Dwayne Bowe, Jon Baldwin and stud tight end, Tony Moeaki. Fortunately for the Raiders, Cassel hasn't been able to get them the ball with any regularity, and Quinn isn't likely to be any better.
On defense, the Chiefs are ranked 13th against the pass and 22nd against the run. Where they are strong however, is rushing the passer. Tamba Hali and Justin Houston are excellent edge rushers who really cause problems for opponents' quarterbacks.
So, what's the plan? How do the Raiders beat the Chiefs? Let's have a look.
Get the run game going—PLEASE!
Much has been made about the Raiders' rushing attack...or lack thereof. The Zone Blocking Scheme, (ZBS) that offensive coordinator, Greg Knapp has brought back to Oakland has been an unmitigated failure thus far. The talents of the offensive linemen are not at all suited for the finesse style of play the ZBS requires.
The Raiders front five are maulers, not dancers.
It's also clear that Darren McFadden, who struggled in this scheme his rookie year under Knapp, still isn't the least bit comfortable with it. McFadden is a downhill, speed runner who lacks the vision and patience required to run the ZBS effectively. Asking D-mac to slow down, run horizontally and look for a cutback lane that may, or may not be there, is a recipe for failure—as evidenced by the severe drop-off in his production from the last two seasons.
Knapp must do one of two things:
- Find a way to get the McFadden and the offensive line on the same page and executing the ZBS correctly.
- Or...admit defeat and adjust to the strengths of the players, rather than forcing them to play in a system they aren't suited for, or comfortable with.
The entire world can see that Knapp's system isn't working; the entire world can see the ZBS is not the least bit effective; the entire world can see the players in Oakland aren't capable of running this system because they don't possess the skills required for the ZBS to be effective.
Well...the entire world, excluding Knapp and head coach, Dennis Allen, that is.
Having a strong running game will slow down the pass rush that has plagued the Raiders the last few weeks. Getting McFadden going will be absolutely critical to the Raiders having success in Kansas City. More of the same, lack luster play calling and ill-conceived philosophies will result in Hali and Houston feasting on Carson Palmer—thereby, the Raiders will struggle to score points.
If the ZBS miraculously starts working, great. Run it. If not, Knapp can't be so arrogant as to not run some power type plays the Raiders ran so well in 2010 and 2011.
The success of the Raiders this week hinges on Knapp's ability to get the run game going.
Carson Palmer is on pace to have the best season of his career. He's been more than solid and hasn't been nearly as interception prone as many have accused him of being.
If, (ONLY if) the running game can get on track, Palmer can, and will, get the ball down field to Darrius Heyward-Bey, Denarius Moore and Rod Streater off of play action. If the running game looks as bad as it has all season, it'll be another game filled with dinking and dunking the ball all day and the Raiders struggling to score points—again!
The Raiders are having almost the exact opposite problem the Raiders had in 2007: They were good at running the ball with Justin Fargas and Lamont Jordan, but couldn't pass the ball with Josh McCown, Dante Culpepper or "that rookie from LSU." Therefore, teams simply stacked the box to stop the run and dared the Raiders' quarterbacks to beat them—and they couldn't.
Now, teams are only keeping five or six defenders in "the box," and the secondary is playing coverage on every down because they realize the Raiders can't run the ball. This is making it extremely difficult for Palmer and the Receivers.
There must be a threat from the running game for the Raiders' passing attack to be effective.
There are weaknesses in the Chiefs' secondary to exploit and their linebackers aren't that great in coverage. Raider Nation knows what to expect from Stanford Routt—solid man coverage most of the day, but the critical error, (either penalty or blown assignment) that allows his opponent to make a big play. Oakland has to take advantage of that, but they can't if there isn't the threat of a running attack.
As stated above, the Chiefs can really get after the passer. To counter that, Oakland needs to do a couple things.
First, give Willie Smith and Jared Veldheer some help blocking Hali and Houston. Using fullbacks Owen Schmitt and Marcel Reece to chip on them will go a long way to providing time for Palmer. Keeping the tight ends in to block on occasion will help as well.
In addition, those two players will get up field in a hurry—running draws inside of them and screens behind them will force them to hesitate before they simply pin their ears back. This could provide Palmer the time he needs to find the holes in the secondary.
The old cliché, "use the run to set up the pass" must be employed for the Raiders to have any chance at all.
Stuff the run!
Beating the Chiefs comes down to one thing: Stopping Jamaal Charles. It's as simple as that.
Charles is the only consistent weapon the Chiefs have. That's not to say Bowe, Baldwin and Moeaki aren't good players, but when your quarterback is a career backup that couldn't beat out Derek Anderson, Kyle Orton, Tim Tebow or Matt Cassel, all the weapons in the world mean nothing!
The Chiefs run a mix of the ZBS and power scheme, (something Knapp should consider). It's not unusual to see a stretch play, followed by a traditional trap or lead play. This is part of what makes them so successful—teams don't know what to expect.
Oakland has been greatly improved against the run this season. Ranked 12th against the run this year, (as opposed to 27th in 2011) Oakland has shown that their emphasis on stopping the run is being taken very seriously. This may be the best thing head coach, Dennis Allen has done this season.
Therefore, it will be important for Matt Shaughnessy and Lamarr Houston to be stout at setting the edge and maintaining containment. Charles is extremely fast and can accelerate. He is very adept at bouncing runs outside and finding the corner to break big runs. Shaughnessy and Houston holding down the edges will be paramount to the Raiders' defense having success against the Chiefs' rushing attack.
Confuse and pressure Quinn.
Even though he's not known as a great quarterback...or even a good one, Brady Quinn can be very efficient and accurate. He's not going to throw the ball 50 yards in the air, but he is pretty good at finding the open guy, putting the ball in a position for the receiver to make the catch in stride and giving them a chance to make a big play.
The Raiders have to find the pass rush they had in Atlanta and force Quinn to make snap decisions. Getting pressure in his face, collapsing the pocket and creating miss-matches up front will make Quinn uncomfortable and force him to make mistakes. This could lead to three-and-outs and turnovers.
Another way to cause problems for Quinn is to mix up the coverages well and create disruption in the Chiefs' routes. Often times defensive coordinator, Jason Tarver has called plays that required the Raiders' cornerbacks to play off the receiver, allowing them a free release. This must stop!
Of course, Tarver is not known for running a lot of man-to-man coverage, but there is nothing preventing the Raiders' cornerbacks from jamming the receivers at the line of scrimmage, then settling into their zone. Letting Bowe, Baldwin and Steve Breaston to get off the line uncontested and maintain the timing of their routes plays right into the Chiefs' hands.
If the Chiefs' receivers are allowed to roam free and catch the ball in space, they can make big plays with run after the catch. This puts a lot more pressure on safeties Tyvon Branch and Matt Giordano—two players who have struggled in coverage this season. Disrupting the timing of the play, and getting them off their spots will help the entire secondary, and provide the front seven more time to get to Quinn.
The keys for scoring on the Chiefs' defense comes down to one thing: Running the ball effectively. Make that happen and Carson Palmer will have more time to survey the field, more space to set his feet and deliver an accurate pass and more room in the secondary for the receivers to work.
The keys to stopping the Chiefs' offense are simple too: Stop Jamaal Charles and the running game with good edge play and containment, pressuring and confusing Brady Quinn, and disrupting the routes and timing of the wide receivers.
Make no mistake, this is a game the Raiders should win. Play like they did in Atlanta and the second half of the Steelers and Jaguars games, and Oakland should run away with this one. However, play like they did in Miami and the first half against the Jaguars, and it will be a long, disappointing day for Raider Nation.
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