ALAMEDA (CBS / AP) — The first convincing victory of the season was enough for coach Dennis Allen to give his Oakland Raiders players a welcome day off midway through the season.
The 26-16 victory in Kansas City gave the Raiders two straight wins following a narrow loss at undefeated Atlanta as they are showing signs of hitting their stride following a rough opening month.
The once-dormant running game has picked up, the penalties are way down and Oakland (3-4) is doing a much better job of generating, as well as preventing, big plays.
But Allen is still far from satisfied with his team’s performance, seeing many areas for improvement. The most notable one is in the red zone, where the Raiders managed just one touchdown in six trips Sunday and are the second-worst team in the NFL at converting trips inside the 20 into touchdowns.
“There’s a lot of things we weren’t happy with yesterday,” Allen said Monday. “You can’t look at the margin and say, well, because you won by more, you played better. We got to look at, we were able to win a football game. There’s still a lot of things that we got to get better at, a lot of things we got to correct. We got a short time to get it done.”
Oakland’s first two wins—in September against Pittsburgh and last week in overtime against Jacksonville—came on field goals on the final play of the game.
There was no such drama against the Chiefs as the Raiders broke out to a 14-point lead in the third quarter and were never threatened the rest of the way, which led Allen to reward his players with their first victory Monday of the season.
With the big lead, the Raiders were able to run the ball effectively late, gaining 95 yards in the fourth quarter after having just 110 yards rushing in the fourth quarter the first six games.
“There’s times during the season where players need a mental break and a physical break,” he said. “I felt like, we had the bye, we’ve gone through three straight tough weeks, it was time to give them a little bit of a mental break as much as it was anything else. So, they’ll be back in here Wednesday. There was a lot of them in here today already looking at the tape.”
A week after starting flat and needing to rally to beat a Jacksonville team missing star running back Maurice Jones-Drew and starting quarterback Blaine Gabbert for most of the game, the Raiders were in control most of the time against the Chiefs after Carson Palmer threw an interception on the first play from scrimmage.
Oakland didn’t commit another turnover the rest of the way, capitalized on four giveaways by Kansas City, committed only two penalties for the first time in two years and held Chiefs big-play running back Jamaal Charles to 4 yards on five carries.
The biggest change the past three weeks since Oakland went into the bye with a 1-3 record has been a significant increase in big plays on offense, while limiting those same plays defensively.
Allen defines an “explosive” play as a run of at least 12 yards or a pass play of at least 16. After allowing two more explosive gains per game before the bye, the Raiders are plus-four per game since then.
“I think two of the most critical variables in winning football games are explosive plays, whether it be gaining explosive gains or eliminating explosive plays defensively, and then the turnover/takeaway ratio. We call that the double-positive,” Allen said. “If you win both those areas you generally win football games in the National Football League.”
NOTES: CB Ron Bartell, who broke his shoulder blade in the opener, will practice for the first time on Wednesday and is on schedule to be activated from short-term injured reserve Nov. 11 against Baltimore. … Among the notable injuries from the game were a turf toe for RB Mike Goodson and ankle injury for C Stefen Wisniewski. …. LB Aaron Curry will practice again this week and could be activated from the physically unable to perform list for the game against Tampa Bay. He has to be activated by next Wednesday or he can’t play for the Raiders this season.
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