Latavius Murray isn’t very nostalgic. With the Raiders trying to chase down a spot in the playoffs, the third-year running back would prefer to keep conversations in the here and now.
The problem is that Murray’s story can’t be fully told without a trip down memory lane.
Having missed all of his rookie season with a foot injury, the 2013 sixth-round draft pick was languishing on the bench behind Darren McFadden and Maurice Jones-Drew on a winless Raiders team in 2014 when the coaching staff decided to make a change early during a Week 12 game against the Kansas City Chiefs.
Murray made his impact felt quickly, scoring on a 90-yard touchdown run that helped propel Oakland to a much-needed win and propelled Murray to a spot among the top running backs in the NFL this year.
While the play marked a pivotal juncture in Murray’s young career, he’s been reluctant to talk about it much this week. Oakland hosts Kansas City on Sunday in a key game for both AFC West rivals.
“I know what I have to do this year. I know [the Chiefs] aren’t worried about it either. I know the history but this is a new year, a new game and both new groups,” Murray said Thursday.
Murray is second in the AFC — one yard behind Chris Ivory of the New York Jets — and seventh overall with 765 yards. That’s already more than any Oakland running back since 2010, which was also the last season the Raiders had a 1,000-yard rusher.
Provided he stays healthy, Murray is on pace to finish with more than 1,100 yards, which would make him just the seventh player in franchise history to do so.
The Raiders likely will need every bit of it if they are to make it to the playoffs for the first time since 2002.
Oakland has rushed for 584 yards in its five wins this season and has called 25 running plays or more in all but one of those games. Conversely, the Raiders have been held to 473 yards on the ground in the six losses and have not had more than 22 rushing attempts in four of them.
Part of that has been due to the success of quarterback Derek Carr and the Raiders’ eighth-ranked passing game, although offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave insists he wants a balance to the offense.
“We want to generate points and light up that scoreboard whether it be run, pass or a mix of both,” Musgrave said. “We’re continually looking to strike that balance because we have really good people on offense that have a lot to contribute. To be our best we want to be balanced. That’s the best way to win.”
The Raiders seemed to get the running game back on track last week against Tennessee but have an uphill challenge this week against Kansas City. The Chiefs are ninth in stopping the run.
“It’s tough in the league running the ball,” Murray said. “It’s not easy but at the same time I think a lot of times it’s something that maybe we can do, something we can correct. It’s a matter of us doing our job. Not taking away any credit from defenses but a lot of times if we’re doing our job, we’ll make things happen.”
Notes: Center Rodney Hudson (ankle) practiced for the first time in nearly two weeks but his playing status remains uncertain. Safety Charles Woodson (shoulder) also practiced following his customary day off Wednesday.