How Do Raiders Beat The Bolts? Just Run It, Baby!

Win-and-in. Outside of their last postseason birth in 2016, when the Las Vegas Raiders clinched in Week 15, those three words haven’t actually pertained to the Silver and Black since 2011.

Back then, a Hue Jackson and Carson Palmer-led squad were one home win away from breaking their postseason drought. As if it’s some sort of requirement when trying to extend their season, the Raiders also played the Chargers on that January day. To jog your memory further, a win in that game would have given the Raiders their first AFC West crown since 2002. Instead, their defense couldn’t stop Philip Rivers (when could they ever, really?) and their special teams unit gave up a 105-yard kickoff return to Richard Goodman. By the final whistle, Norv Turner’s team had pulled off the upset, keeping Oakland out of the dance once again.

Four days later, Reggie McKenzie was hired as the team’s general manager. Then, just five days after that, Jackson was let go after one season. The total rebuild began.

10 years later…

Over 10 years after that fateful day, Rich Bisaccia’s 9-7 Raiders are set to square off with the 9-7 Chargers. The winner takes a wild card. So how can the Raiders avoid a repeat of history on Sunday?

It’s simple: attack the Bolts’ biggest weakness, their run defense. Free Josh Jacobs. Free Peyton Barber, Jalen Richard, or hell, even Sutton Smith! If a guy wearing black can even remotely run the rock, let ’em do it.

It’s All In The Numbers 

Despite being coached by the young, charismatic defensive guru Brandon Staley, the Chargers have been a wildly poor defensive group this season. Los Angeles is ranked 23rd in team defense, allowing 27 points a game, the fifth worst in the NFL. While their pass defense has talented play-makers in Asante Samuel Jr. and Derwin James, their defensive line centers around Joey Bosa, and well, that’s kind of it. Linval Joseph is past his prime, and Jerry Tillery is a solid young lineman that lacks size. Throw in a new defensive scheme and a lack of depth, and it’s no surprise this unit allows nearly 137 yards per contest on the ground. That places them 30th in the league in that category, ahead of only the Texans and Steelers.

This has been a season-long issue, one that the Raiders were unable to exploit in their Week 4 meeting. Yet the opponents who have recognized it and attacked it have found good results when facing the Chargers.

Houston, You’ve Proven The Problem 

The best example comes from the Bolts’ most recent defeat, against one of the league’s worst teams. The Houston Texans, sporting “General” Davis Mills under center and Rex Burkhead as their lead back, have the NFL’s worst offense and the worst rushing attack (85 yards a game). But in an effort to keep Justin Herbert off the field, the team committed to running the rock in Week 16. The result was impressive, if not ridiculous. On 36 total carries, Houston ran for nearly 200 yards (189) and scored two touchdowns (both courtesy of the 31-year-old Burkhead).

In turn, the usually dormant Texan aerial attack came to life. Despite not having Brandin Cooks, Mills had arguably the best game of his rookie campaign, throwing for 254 yards, two touchdowns, and a passer rating of 130. The Texans’ game-plan on Christmas Day was perfect, as they won the time of possession battle (34-25) and the turnover battle (2-0) en route to a resounding 41-29 victory.

Copy the Blueprint 

If a 4-12 Texans team littered with holes can use this strategy with such success, so can the Raiders on Sunday night. During their recent winning streak, Vegas has rediscovered and recommitted to their running philosophy. They’ve averaged just over 114 yards a game in these last three victories, highlighted by Josh Jacobs’ huge 129-yard game against Denver. The offensive line is hitting a groove again with Jacobs running like somebody pissed him off. In addition, both Peyton Barber and Marcus Mariota provide a nice change of pace. Even Derek can take off with good results.

The Raiders excel in play-action scenarios, and their old coach always dreamed of them being a group that controls the clock. The first step to doing either of those well, though, is to run the ball, and run it with conviction. Given all the struggles this offense has had in jolting their rushing attack awake, kudos to Greg Olson for not quitting on it.

This is a different Raiders offense

This Raiders offense is not the same one the Chargers saw on October 4th. In reality, this group may actually be better. Their offensive line is set and sound today; Alex Leatherwood isn’t getting bullied at tackle, and Andre James isn’t doing dumb things at center. As for the skill guys, Jacobs has found his 2019-self running the ball. Meanwhile, Hunter Renfrow has hit elite status in the slot and Zay Jones is being utilized correctly. Throw in the probable return of Darren Waller, and this group shouldn’t struggle to surpass 14 points this time around. If Carr can continue to game-manage well, preventing Herbert from touching the grass, and the defense can continue its recent surge, the Raiders will be in good shape when the lights come on.

Win-and-in. Say it, repeat it, tattoo it on your forehead. It’s as easy as it gets, especially if the Silver and Black can “Just Run, Baby!

*Top Photo: Chris Unger/Getty Images

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It’s going to take a team effort to beat the Chargers but the spotlight is definitely on Derek car. I’ve always though he is a good QB but not a championship one. He’s great on the fairway but 4 putts on the green. He is is chance to prove myself, and many others wrong.

Patrock D

While it will take a team effort to beat the Chargers but the spotlight is on Carr of certain. I’ve always thought he was a good QB but not a championship one. He’s great on the fairway but 4 putts on the green. Now he has the opportunity to prove myself, and all his doubters wrong,


Things are a little more complex to be sure. While the Chargers are the 30th ranked run defense, the Raiders are the 29th ranked run offense. And the running game isn’t going so great during the win streak, either, with YPCs the last three weeks of 3.9, 4.0, and 3.1. That isn’t going to win many games over the course of the season. In contrast, the Raiders have one of the best passing offenses. The answer, of course, is to be unpredictable. I don’t have faith that the Raiders offensive line can cram it down the Chargers’ throat, but they… Read more »

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