The Raiders rushed for 135 yards against the Kansas City Chiefs. A large chunk of that total came during the fourth quarter, and some of that came on several plays in which the Raiders mixed in some gap-scheme blocking.
So says offensive coordinator Greg Knapp, who has come under fire from fans for his implementation of the zone-blocking scheme upon his arrival before this season.
“It was a good balance of zone blocking and the gap scheme, so it paid off pretty good,” Knapp said Thursday. “We definitely increased our gap run-blocking scheme to get a better balance and keep defenses honest, and we’ve done it well, so we’ll keep that same kind of formula working. It’s a good change-up for us to have some kind of gap scheme with that outsize zone. But the big runs came from the outside zone for us in the fourth quarter.”
The Raiders primarily used a zone-blocking scheme early in the season. Knapp said he incorporated some gap-scheme blocking as a response to the lack of success running the ball.
No, it had nothing to do with the ruckus raised by fan calling for Knapp’s job because of his steadfast desire to stick with the ZBS.
“Yeah, we had to make an adjustment,” Knapp said, “and that was a good adjustment for us. It paid off, you betcha.”
Center Stefen Wisniewski said he welcomes the addition of the gap-blocking scheme into the mix.
“It is nice,” Wisniewski said. “That’s more of the stuff we ran last year, so most of us have a lot of experience in that, where we’re still learning the zone scheme. So it helps us because we’re familiar with it and also it’s a nice change-up. Teams aren’t sure what’s coming at them, and it makes us more likely to be successful.”
Wisniewski said it was nothing but zone-blocking scheme from the outset, which made sense given that’s Knapp’s and offensive line coach Frank Pollack’s pedigree. However, the coaches aren’t so rigid that they are averse to change.
“They’re starting to get to know us better, and we’re getting to know them,” Wisniewski said, “so they’re seeing that we can be successful doing both.”
— Knapp has coached and been around some pretty notable quarterbacks during his long NFL career: Steve Young, Michael Vick, Matt Schaub, Matt Hasselbeck come to mind.
You get the sense that Carson Palmer rates right near the top in Knapp’s book based on the portrait Knapp paints of his signal-caller.
“He’s been the rock,” Knapp said. “As you guys hear his quotes and the way he handles a tough loss, he puts it on himself. He’s a true pro, he’s a true leader. He’s really helped us in the pass game from the stance of, we’re a top five team in sacks allowed, but he’s getting the ball out pretty quick, too. He’s done a fine job for us managing the game in that pocket situation and not having frustration.
“He really keeps his cool throughout, through thick and thin. … . He’s special, guys. I don’t know how many guys you’ve been around, but he’s special. He doesn’t say much, but I’ll tell you, Carson Palmer’s special in the way he leads a team and the way he prepares for a game. He’s very, very good.”
High praise, indeed.
— Allen said cornerback Shawntae Spencer’s recovery from a right foot injury he suffered more than six weeks ago isn’t going as well as hoped for.
“He has not had any setbacks,” Allen said. “The progress has slowed a lot more than what we anticipated. We anticipated there would be more progress by this point in time, but it’s coming around a little slower than what we had hoped. It’s through no fault of his, just the nature of his injury.”
Spencer said last Friday that he still experiences some pain in his foot from time to time but that he remains hopeful of a return before long.
“I’m not in control of the timetable,” Spencer said. “Whatever they say, is whatever they say. So, I come to work, do whatever I got to do, do what they ask. Whenever doc clears me, he clears me.”
Spencer hasn’t practiced since he got hurt against the Miami Dolphins on Sept. 16. There is no timetable for him to return to practice.
— Buccaneers coach Greg Schiano caused quite a stir earlier this season when he instructed his players to get after Giants quarterback Eli Manning while Manning was performing a kneel down at the end of a victory over the Bucs.
Giants coach Tom Coughlin took exception to the questionable tactic, and he let Schiano know about it during the postgame handshake.
Knapp said he is aware of what transpired and that his players are prepared for the situation should it arise Sunday.
“We’ve alerted our guys, ‘Alright, this is what they’ve done, so don’t … ‘ ”
So, don’t get caught offguard.
“We make sure that we’re in the mode of aggressive blocking up front,” Knapp said. “Sometimes, that down is kind of a relaxed down. We’re making sure, no, don’t take it as a relaxed down. Very similar to when we set up the field goal against Jacksonville, when Carson went out there and just went over a step and took a knee. That kind of blocking scheme, where we’re making sure we don’t let any penetration come through the inside.”
Knapp said this is the first time in his coaching career where he has had to address the prospect of a team going all out during a kneeldown situation.
Allen smiled when asked if he was aware of the dustup between the Giants and Buccaneers.
“We’ll be ready,” Allen said. “Our job is to be ready for anything. So we’ll be ready for it.”
— The Buccaneers traded cornerback Aqib Talib to the New England Patriots on Thursday in the only reported trade before the league deadline.
In a roundabout way, that might preclude the Patriots from re-signing cornerback Sterling Moore — he cleared waivers today — and keep him available for the Raiders to sign.
— Sebastian Janikowski wasn’t in the locker room to talk about being named AFC Special Teams Player of the Month.
So, we turn to Allen for his thoughts on Janikowski receiving the honor.
“That obviously means he’s kicking it good,” Allen said. “He’s done a good job. It’s a comforting thing to know you can put him out there and feel confident that he’s going to kick it through. We’ve put him in a couple game-winning situations, and he’s come through both times. That’s really a comforting feeling for the coach to have to make that decision.”
Janikowski has converted 18 of 19 field-goal attempts this season, with his lone miss coming from 64 yards against the Jaguars. He kicked a 40-yarder in overtime to win that game for the Raiders.
— Remember when Allen said he and his coaches were going to break down the Raiders from “A to Z” during the bye week? Well, here’s Allen’s take on how much progress the Raiders made the past three games.
“We’ve got some things corrected,” Allen said. “We’ve been better in some areas but we still have a long way to go. We still have a lot of things we have to get better at. It doesn’t matter what your record is, that’s always the case. You have to continue to improve throughout this 16-game season.”
— Wide receiver Denarius Moore has scored a touchdown in each of the past three games. On more than one occasion, Moore scored because of his ability to elude defenders in the open field an find a way into the end zone.
That inate ability to get ino the end zone is something that isn’t easily taught, Knapp said/
“It’s awfully hard to coach,” Knapp said. “It’s awfully hard to coach. His YAC ability, yards after catch or contact, whatever you want to choose, he’s got a unique ability to be able to make the first one miss. He has a little bit of space and that makes it awfully hard on defense. It’s a special trait he has, and it’s awfully hard to coach.”