With fast, field-stretching receivers Denarius Moore and Jacoby Ford unable to play Monday night against the Chargers, Oakland quarterback Carson Palmer had to alter his approach.
Instead of looking downfield for big gains, Palmer had to focus on shorter routes.
Though he completed 32 of 46 throws for 297 yards, 21 of those completions were to running backs and tight ends.
Running back Darren McFadden, in fact, could do little on the ground – picking up just 32 yards on 15 carries – but caught a career-high 13 passes for 86 yards.
The 13 catches were just one shy of the franchise record for catches in a game, set by wide receiver Tim Brown in 1997, according to Jerry McDonald of the Bay Area News Group.
Weeks ago, offensive coordinator Greg Knapp and new head coach Dennis Allen said they would try to get the ball into McFadden’s hands any way they could to take advantage of his breakaway abilities, and said he would be used more as a receiver in 2012.
Without Moore and Ford Monday night, Palmer went to McFadden as his No.1 option to make something happen.
“He’s an explosive playmaker for us, so we’re going to use it,” Allen told reporters after Monday night’s loss. “But we’ll go back and we’ll look at the tape and we’ll see if there are some things where maybe we can utilize some other people. It’s football. We’re going to use him.”
Of the Raiders’ 64 offensive snaps, noted Paul Gutierrez of CSNBayArea.com, McFadden was involved in 33 of them – 13 catches, 15 carries and five passes throw in his direction.
But Monday’s emphasis on passes to McFadden out of the backfield are worrisome to some Raiders observers who believe it may be a bad sign that the offense is heading in a wrong direction and that the new West Coast scheme of Knapp’s is too conservative and not innovative enough.
Writer Zenophon Abraham of examiner.com, for instance, said the offensive play calling Monday night was reminiscent of Knapp’s previous stint as offensive coordinator for the Raiders in 2008, and that the team’s offense is doomed to more of the same as the 2012 season unfolds. After one game, in fact, he wrote, “Coach Knapp must be replaced, along with the overall approach of this new Raiders offense.”
Palmer, however, said the Raiders had to take the approach they did because of the way the San Diego defense was playing. And, if the Raiders had executed better, the game could have been won, he said.
“Their two safeties played deep,” Palmer told Vic Tafur of the San Francisco Chronicle. “I took a couple of shots deep, some 50-50 opportunities, but we didn’t make them. … Greg Knapp put us in position to make plays but we didn’t.”
Now, the Raiders will try to regroup this week – and hope Moore and Ford can soon return – for Sunday’s game at Miami against the Dolphins.