In the Dallas Cowboys' 31-24 victory over the Oakland Raiders on Thanksgiving, they showed the blueprint to contain the Raiders. Dallas went all out to shut down the Oakland's running game, putting more pressure on quarterback Matt McGloin to move the ball through the air. As the Raiders go forward in the season, other teams will have the same approach.
“I think it was probably more of a factor of they were totally committed to stopping the run,” Raiders head coach Dennis Allen said. “They loaded up the box and made it very difficult for us to run the ball effectively on a consistent basis. We did have some times in the game where he hit some pretty good runs on them, but that obviously was the plan: to limit our ability to run the football. We did have some big plays in the passing game, some explosive plays in the passing game because of some of the things they were doing to try to stop the run.”
The Raiders running game has been their backbone offensively this year averaging 133.1 yards per game, good for 5th in the NFL. With Dallas very aware of that, they loaded the box and limited running back Rashad Jennings to 35 yards on 17 carries which is a 2.1 yard average. Jennings did find the endzone twice on one yard rushing touchdowns. The Dallas game was the by far the lowest output he has had in five games.
With opposing defenses focused on stopped in the Raiders ground game, McGloin will be relied on to drive the offense. He has looked good his first three career NFL starts, leading the Raiders to a fourth quarter touchdown drive against the Tennessee Titans to take the lead. He marched the Raiders offense on Dallas with back to back touchdown drives in the first half. However, the Raiders also had three straight punts to begin the second half and into the fourth quarter where they only ran 10 total plays.
On Oakland's fourth drive of the second half, they had an opportunity to tie the game with a touchdown. McGloin found wide receiver Andre Holmes, who had a career best day with seven catches for 136 yards, for 35 yards to put the Raiders in position to get the score they needed. When the drive reached third down and nine from the Dallas 20 yard line, the Raiders dialed up a jump ball in the endzone to their smallest wideout in Jacoby Ford. What even made it more inexplicable was both Rob Streater and Holmes are big, physical receivers who were having solid game. Brandon Carr, who had great coverage on the play, stepped in front and made the interception. The Cowboys drove 79 yards, eating up six minutes and 43 seconds to kick a game clinching field goal.
Now that opposing defenses have been able to see McGloin on tape, this will be there game plan going forward. It is not because he has been terrible, the opposite is true. McGloin has played well and had some very impressive drives. The reason is the Raiders running game is their best aspect and if a defense can stop it, they will take their chances against an inexperienced passing attack. Allen said Terrelle Pryor could see more series as the season progresses. That could be a way to keep defenses off balance.
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