Coming off their bye week, it’s business as usual for the Raiders heading into their matchup this weekend against the undefeated Atlanta Falcons.
Oakland is a team that seems in constant rebuilding mode and is a decade removed from its last winning season and on its third coach, Dennis Allen, in three years.
“Obviously, we didn’t start the season out like we hoped,” said the 39-year-old Allen, the league’s youngest head coach. “We’re not where we want to be right now.”
Especially when it comes to running the football.
Darren McFadden, who was supposed to be the centerpiece of Oakland’s offense, has been held to less than 35 yards in three games and is averaging just 3.5 yards per carry, far below his career average coming into the season. The Raiders are last in the NFL at just 60.8 yards per game, their zone blocking schemes facing heavy criticism from fans and the media.
Allen hopes an off week helped cure some of the problems.
“We spent a lot of time working on ourselves,” the rookie coach said. “It’s a process of getting the guys to understand what we’re trying to do and how we want them to do it.”
The Falcons have been vulnerable against the run, surrendering an average of nearly 143 yards to rank 27th. The defense has been very opportunistic under new coordinator Mike Nolan — coming up with nine interceptions and recovering five fumbles — but knows it must toughen up in the trenches.
“That’s something we have to do. That’s not even an option,” Falcons strong safety William Moore said. “To me, personally, it’s embarrassing to be ranked where we’re ranked. I know the type of guys we’ve got. I definitely know we can turn it around, but it’s got to be now. There are some tough offenses, some tough running backs we’re going to be facing.”
Raiders quarterback Carson Palmer said it’s vital for the Raiders to run the ball as a counter to Atlanta’s quick-strike offense.
“You want to control the clock a little bit and get your defense as much rest as possible,” Palmer said. “Running the ball is what we want to do. Obviously we want to do it better than we have and that’s why we continue to work at it.
But it’s what gets the play-action game going, it’s what gets explosive plays, because Darren can score from anywhere.”
The Falcons have relied less on their running game than in past years. Matt Ryan threw a staggering 52 passes in a comeback victory over Washington and is on a career-high pace for attempts, which really shouldn’t be a surprise given his options. Roddy White and Julio Jones form a dynamic pair of receivers, and tight end Tony Gonzalez just keeps chugging right along at age 36.