ALAMEDA — If the Raiders are going to make a run in the second half of the season they will have to become a much better second-half team.
The Raiders overcame a frustratingly familiar pattern in their 21-18 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers. They followed a dynamic first-half offensive performance with a lackluster second and relied on a rapidly improving defense to hold on for the win.
The task for Oakland (3-4) now as the Raiders hit the soft part of their schedule is figuring out how to carry that first-half success over to the final 30 minutes.
“We've got to execute better,” coach Dennis Allen said. “We've got some opportunities to make some plays and we don't make the plays that are available to us.'”
The problem has been especially stark in recent weeks when the Raiders have dominated games for the first 30 minutes only to fall apart in the second half. That has cost them chances to win games against Washington and Kansas City.
Oakland has outscored its last four opponents 59-20 in the first half, generating 196.3 yards of offense to build the leads. For some reason, that all changes in the second half, whether it's conservative play calling, adjustments by the opponent at halftime or a lack of execution.
The Raiders have been outscored 63-10 in the second half in those four games, averaging 91.3 yards, taking 16 sacks and committing six turnovers.
“We got to find a way to keep on punching, keeping drives alive in the second half,” quarterback Terrelle Pryor said.
For the season, Oakland ranks seventh in the NFL in yards per play in the first half at 5.9 and 29th in the second half at 4.4.
The problem was at its worst against the Steelers when the Raiders were held to 35 yards and one first down after taking a 21-3 halftime lead and had to hang on for the win. It was the fewest yards any team has amassed in the second half of a win in more than three years.
“It's not always how pretty does it look,” Allen said. “The ultimate goal is to win the football game. We had a defense that was playing outstanding in the football game, that was taking the ball away, that was creating a lot of pressure on the quarterback, that wasn't giving up a lot of points, and the only chance that they had to get back in the game was for us to make mistakes and give them those opportunities.”
The Raiders play their next six games against teams without winning records, starting at home on Sunday against Philadelphia (3-4). Then come trips to the New York Giants (2-6) and Houston (2-5) followed by a home game against Tennessee (3-4), a Thanksgiving Day game in Dallas (4-4) and a visit to the New York Jets (4-4).
This stretch is crucial because Oakland finishes with three difficult division games against Kansas City (8-0), San Diego (4-3) and Denver (7-1).
“We've got an opportunity with Philadelphia coming in here, if we can play well, get our record back to .500 and maybe we can create a little bit of momentum,” Allen said.
The Raiders have been competitive against teams at their level or below when Pryor has been healthy. Their only losses when Pryor has played have been on the road against three of the top teams in the AFC: Indianapolis, Denver and Kansas City.
Pryor has beaten Jacksonville, San Diego and Pittsburgh at home, while the Raiders lost at home to Washington when Pryor sat out with a concussion and Matt Flynn started.
NOTES: LT Jared Veldheer was scheduled to meet with his doctor in Los Angeles on Monday to determine the time frame for when he can return to practice from a torn left triceps. … LB Miles Burris is expected to practice for the first time Wednesday after offseason knee surgery. The team will have three weeks after that to activate him from the physically unable to perform list. … OL Menelik Watson, who has been sidelined all season by knee and calf injuries, is also expected to practice Wednesday. … The Raiders waived OL Jack Cornell.