The Raiders are one day away from boarding a plane for Atlanta in advance of their game against the Falcons on Sunday. This time, they are hopeful of faring better than they did the first two times they left the friendly confines of the Oakland Coliseum.
In the first road game, the Raiders led the Miami Dolphins 10-7 at halftime, only to watch the Dolphins outscore them 28-3 in the second half. The Denver Broncos scored all 27 points in the second half in turning a 10-6 lead into a rout.
“We have to do a better job coming out after halftime and establishing something, whether that be offense, defense or in the kicking game,” Raiders coach Dennis Allen said.
The biggest culprit is the way the Raiders performed on third-down plays in both games, Allen said.
“When you don’t get off the field on third down on defense, you play a lot of plays. When you play a lot of plays, you get tired, you get worn down. Then, offensively we’ve got to find ways in the second half to sustain drives and that will help our defense.”
Defensive tackle Richard Seymour said he wishes he had the answers as to why the Raiders played well in the first half of the team’s first two road games and so poorly in the second half.
“In the first half of games, we’ve definitely been right where we needed to be,” Seymour said. “It’s still a ball game. The second half, we haven’t come out and executed as well.”
The Raiders worked hard on finding out ways to carry the momentum from the first half of road games into the second half, Seymour said.
“If I knew all of it, I would definitely pass the word along to my teammates and we would get it done,” Seymour said. “That’s some of the things we’re working through at this point. As a player, you have to look yourself in the mirror, first and foremost, and say, ‘I have to do a better job,’ and everyone has to take that same approach.”
— Allen said he is hopeful of seeing defensive end Andre Carter make his Raiders deubt on Sunday. However, he isn’t certain if that’s going to happen just yet.
“He’s getting closer every day,” Allen said. “He’s had 2 ½ weeks of work getting back into football shape. (Wednesday) was the first time he actually practiced in pads. I’m getting more comfortable with where he’s at.”
Carter said he’s ready to roll. It says here, the Raiders use Carter sparingly, predominantly on third-down passing downs or obvious passing situations.
— Allen, defensive coordinator Jason Tarver and offensive coordinator Greg Knapp are fond of talking about the need for more explosive plays on offense and cutting down on the number of such plays defensively.
The so-called “explosive plays” are runs of 12 yards or longer and passes of 16 yards or longer.
Through four games, the Raiders defense allowed 34 explosive plays — 25 passes, 9 runs. Three in each category resulted in touchdowns.
The Raiders offense amassed 26 explosive plays during the same games — 22 passes, 4 runs. Two of those plays resulted in touchdowns, both on runs.
— Knapp said he is confident that the Raiders run game is on the verge of breaking out, and it has more to do with the way the players are looking in practice than the fact the Falcons allow an average of 5.4 yards rushing through five games.
Allen sounded just as confident, when asked a day earlier about the status of the run game.
“It’s more from our self-examination,” Knapp said. “We’ve done a good job of really diagnosing, OK, what are our strengths and weaknesses in the run game? What should we do more of in our strengths?
“And then having two weeks of practice, we had two good days during the bye week and the bonus day on Monday, of our line working together and really doing a fine job. So I’m excited. I’m looking forward to it to see the results of the good work that’s been put in.”
Right offensive tackle Willie Smith said he and his linemates are looking forward to an offense geared more toward the run.
“Any lineman, you would love to run the ball,” Smith said. “Definitely we should run the ball more. Hopefully we’ll do that. I don’t know what the game plan is, but just keep working and whatever they call be ready to go out and perform it.”
Running back Darren McFadden is champing at the bit hearing about the call for more runs from quarterback Carson Palmer.
“Oh, yeah, I’m always up for that,” McFadden said. “You want to put it in my hands more, I’m loving it. It’s something a running back likes — the more carries, the better the chances are of getting big runs.”
— Defensive tackle Tommy Kelly missed practice today with a foot injury he suffered in practice a day earlier. Allen doesn’t seem too concernd about the severity of the injury.
“We chose to keep him out today,” Allen said. “I fully anticipate that he’ll practice tomorrow and be OK to play. But, again, we’ll evaluate that tomorrow and see where we’re at. He seems to think he’s going to be alright.”