In an NFL where it is common practice to see teams throw for ridiculous numbers, there is still a place to use the running game to win. That was the formula the Oakland Raiders implemented in their 19-9 win against the Jacksonville Jaguars. In the last two seasons, when the Raiders can get running back Darren McFadden to the 100 yard rushing mark, they are very successful.
The Raiders are 4-0, when McFadden finds the century mark since last season. Against the Jacksonville Jaguars, McFadden carried 19 times for 129 yards including runs of 24, 28, and 30 yards. He displayed the explosiveness and burst that comes and goes through his injuries. With new offensive coordinator Greg Olson, the Raiders are back to a style of football that suits their most important offensive weapon.
“The coaches had a lot of faith in me; they put the ball in my hands and let me run with it,” McFadden said. “Give credit to the offensive line, they did a great job today. I love being able to run downhill. I feel like I’m a downhill runner and it’s something that this offense allows me to do.”
With Terrelle Pryor now the Raiders starting quarterback, the running game is the benefactor along with McFadden. Pryor is a threat to pull it down and take off on every play. His size, speed and strength combination is a huge concern for opposing defenses. In Sunday's win, the Raiders used the read option often and successfully. Several of McFadden's long runs came from the read option. It puts the defense in such a bad position having to worry about both McFadden and Pryor, leading to Oakland covering 226 yards on the ground.
“It’s going to open up a whole lot for the running back because you have to keep an eye on Terrelle [Pryor] also, and once you go out on the end and leave the middle open, it's good for the running back,” McFadden said of the read option success. “A couple plays they left the middle wide open and I was able to get up-and-down and get some big runs out of it.”
After two games, the Raiders lead the NFL in rushing averaging 198.5 yards per game. The running game will be the key this season for the Raiders and the proof is in the record when it comes to getting the best out of McFadden. The running game controls time of possession and takes a physical tool of the defense, while allowing the Oakland to stay fresh. Now, the Raiders just have to bring that consistent effort in the run game week in and week out, which has been the issue.
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