By Ryan Leong
The Raiders have shown improvement winning two straight games for the first time this season, but the team knows it has to continue to do better and that means scoring more points. The running game is still struggling, ranked 30th out of 32. But there are some positive signs.
The Raiders had 95 of their 135 yards rushing in the final 15 minutes last week against the Kansas City Chiefs. Darren McFadden led the way on 29 carries for 114 yards, 73 of those in the fourth quarter. It was only McFadden’s second 100-yard rush game this season.
On the passing side, Carson Palmer had another solid game against Kansas City. He was 14-of-28 for 209 yards and two touchdowns. Denarius Moore had five catches for 96 yards including a 9-yard TD. Darrius Heyward-Bay had one catch for a 32-yard score. But there were at least four dropped balls which means plenty of missed opportunities.
As a result, head coach Dennis Allen is hoping to see more big plays. To him, that means a run of at least 12-yards or a pass play of 16-yards or more.
“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 in his Monday press conference. “If you win both those areas, you generally win football games in the National Football League.”
The 26-16 win over the Chiefs represented the first victory for the Raiders that was not a nail-biter. Allen rewarded his players by giving them Monday off.
On the other side of the ball, the Raiders defense had allowed at least 22 points in every game until their season low of 16 to Kansas City. In Weeks Two, Three and Four, the Raiders gave up at least 30 points in each contest for a total of 103. But in the last two wins, only 39 points were allowed. The key to the defense against the Chiefs is that it caused four turnovers, three of which were converted into half of the Raiders points.
Linebackers Philip Wheeler and Miles Burris have been stalwarts of the defense. The duo combined for 18 tackles against Kansas City. Rolando McClain has seen his playing time diminish but he had four tackles and a sack in Week Eight. The coaching staff have noticed decreased playing time has made McClain more productive.
No opposing running back has run for 100-yards since Week Four. This past Sunday, Jamaal Charles was held to only four yards on five carries.
One aspect of the Raiders play that has been vastly improved since the start of the season is the lack of penalties. In his only season as head coach in 2011, Hue Jackson promised that he would get the problem under control, even if it took all 16 games. Jackson was great at managing the offense but not at reducing penalties. The 2011 Raiders team went into the franchise record books for most penalties (163) and yards penalized (1,358).
Through seven games in 2012, the Raiders have committed only 42 penalties (tied for 26th for fewest committed) and been penalized for 331 yards (27th). They are on pace for 96 penalties for 757 yards this season.
Continued improvement in these areas should result in the Raiders posting more victories and helping their chances to compete for the AFC West title.
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Ryan Leong has reported on over 2,800 games in the Bay Area since 1998, covering the Sharks, Giants, A’s, Warriors, 49ers, Raiders and the local college teams for radio networks and wire services. Having the best seat in the house to watch sports has been a thrill and Ryan still enjoys going to the games giving fans some insight and perspective on the players and coaches. His work can be found on Examiner.com.