Across the Bay Area Sunday, Raiders fans no doubt were screaming at their TVs in the second half of Oakland’s game with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
After building a 21-3 lead over the Steelers at halftime, the Raiders’ offense disappeared. Just when it seemed as if Oakland would pull away for a win, the Raiders stopped moving the ball, giving the Steelers a chance to get back into the game. Fortunately for the Raiders, their defense was strong enough to hold on and preserve a 21-18 victory to improve the team’s record to 3-4.
But as Josh Dubow of the Associated Press wrote this week, if the Raiders are going to make a run in the second half of this season, they’re going to have to become a much better second-half team.
Inexplicably, a Raiders offense that has been effective in the first two quarters of games has gone dormant over the final 30 minutes.
“We’ve got to execute better,” Raiders head coach Dennis Allen said of the problem this week. “We’ve got some opportunities to make some plays and we don’t make the plays that are available to us.”
Against the Steelers, quarterback Terrelle Pryor generated just 35 yards of offense in the second half, which he said was frustrating.
“We got to find a way to keep on punching, keeping drives alive in the second half,” Pryor told reporters this week.
As Dubow noted, over their last four games the Raiders have outscored their opponents 59-20 while rolling up an average of 196.3 yards in the first half. In the second half of those games, they’ve been outscored 63-10, averaged just 91.3 yards and absorbed 16 sacks while committing six turnovers.
The Raiders were up 14-0 over Washington on Sept. 29 before losing 24-14. A week later they were up 17-0 on the Chargers and held on to win 27-17. Then they took a 7-0 lead over Kansas City – and were tied 7-7 at the half – before taking a 24-7 loss.
Against Pittsburgh, it appeared the Raiders’ play calling became ultra conservative in the third and fourth quarters, leading some to believe Oakland offensive coordinator Greg Olson is trying to shield Pryor from making mistakes with the game on the line.
Asked Paul Gutierrez of ESPN.com this week: “Is it the play-calling of offensive coordinator Greg Olson as the Raiders try to take the air out of the ball to milk the clock, or a simple lack of execution on said play calls?”
This Sunday, the Raiders begin a stretch of games against teams that have struggled, beginning with the 3-4 Eagles. Then come the Giants (2-6), Texans (2-5), Titans (3-4), Cowboys (4-4) and Jets (4-4). So, it’s possible the Raiders could win a game or two, thanks to a defense that’s been surprisingly solid and Pryor’s playmaking.
But to chalk up some W's, the Oakland offense is going to have to play better -- and be less conservative -- in the second half.
Said Allen: “We’ve got an opportunity with Philadelphia coming in here, if we can play well, get our record back to .500 and maybe we can create a little bit of momentum.”