Old problems still haunt Raiders
AP Sports Writer
ALAMEDA, Calif. (AP) – Almost from the moment he took over in Oakland, coach Hue Jackson vowed to fix the Raiders’ perpetually leaky run defense and curb their propensity for penalties.
With three games left in his inaugural season, both problems are as big as ever and could end up extending Oakland’s postseason drought to nine seasons.
The Raiders are on a record-setting penalty pace and are allowing the most yards per carry in franchise history, problems that need to be fixed immediately if Oakland (7-6) hopes to reverse its recent slide in time to make a playoff push. The Raiders host the Detroit Lions (8-5) on Sunday.
Oakland has a league-worst 130 penalties for 1,116 yards – slightly ahead of the record pace set by the 1998 Kansas City Chiefs – with the problems running from overaggressive personal fouls to unfocused pre-snap penalties.
“I am doing everything I know how to do, and I have called other people that I know in order to fix this,” Jackson said. “It’s going to take some time, and I hope everybody understands that. There is no magical stuff that I can throw on this team and say ‘No more penalties.’ That’s not how it works.”
That’s also the case with the run defense, which has been as bad as ever in recent weeks. The Raiders are allowing 5.2 yards per carry – the second-highest mark in the NFL since the 1970 merger, trailing only the 2006 Super Bowl champion Indianapolis Colts at 5.3.
Only eight teams since the 1970 merger have allowed 5 yards per carry for a season, a mark reached only once previously in Raiders history in 1962 – the year before Al Davis joined the franchise.
“It’s nothing that’s out of the ordinary,” middle linebacker Rolando McClain said. “It’s things we can fix and we’re going to have to fix in order to be a good defense. If we want to play in the playoffs, play against some of these good team, we can’t make the mistakes we’ve been making.”
While injuries to big-play offensive players in Oakland have garnered most of the attention, the defense has been affected as well.
McClain missed one game with a sprained ankle and also has had his practice time curtailed. Safety Michael Huff has also missed significant practice time.
Defensive tackle Richard Seymour has been slowed by a bum knee in recent weeks that has limited his practice time and turned him into a situational player at times. Seymour, the anchor of the defense early in the year, has only one tackle the past five games.
“Your health is very important, especially when you are playing on the inside,” Seymour said. “You got to be able to fight off guys and be explosive, and personally I haven’t had that the last couple of weeks. But I am getting better.”
The Raiders appeared to have the running game under control earlier in the season, holding three straight opponents under 4 yards per carry during a stretch in October.
But starting with a 299-yard game by Tim Tebow and the Denver Broncos on Nov. 6, the run defense has been as porous as ever. Oakland has allowed 169 yards per game and 5.9 yards per carry over the past six weeks, giving up seven touchdowns and 36 runs of at least 10 yards.
“What we have to do is play consistently and put our eyes in the right place and communicate and finish plays,” Jackson said. “It seems hard. It shouldn’t be. At the end of the day, that’s what it comes down to. There’s been spurts of us playing really good against the run, us playing really good defensively. We just haven’t done it consistent enough over a period of time and that’s what we need to do.”
The problems have been stark the past two weeks with Reggie Bush getting just his third career 100-yard game two weeks ago in Miami’s 34-14 victory and Ryan Grant scoring his first two touchdowns since the 1999 season last week in Green Bay’s 46-16 victory.
Defensive coordinator Chuck Bresnahan said it was a matter of not “setting the edge” against the Dolphins and being in the wrong gap on Grant’s 47-yard TD run on the second play from scrimmage.
“If you do that, the next guy to make the play is the safety and we didn’t get that done, so the ball goes to the end zone,” Bresnahan said. “So it’s different each time but it’s easily corrected seeing it on tape. Doing it on the field’s a whole different story, so that’s again an emphasis point this week.”
Notes: The Raiders sold out their seventh straight game, their most in any season since moving back to Oakland in 1995. … WR Denarius Moore practiced for a second straight day after missing the previous three games with a sprained right foot and is expected to play Sunday. … RB Darren McFadden (right foot) and receiver Jacoby Ford (left foot) remain sidelined and are unlikely to play this week. … CB Chris Johnson is still away from the team dealing with his sister’s funeral in Texas earlier this week and will likely sit out this week.
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