Bad news for the Raiders: The New England Patriots showed last week that they want to run the football.
If there’s one thing Oakland has shown it can’t do so far in going 0-2, it’s stop the run. Through two games, the Raiders have given up 400 yards on the ground. And, according to ESPN Stats and Information, most of those yards have come on straight-ahead rushes through the heart of the Raiders defense. In their loss to the Houston Texans in Week 2, the Raiders gave up 151 yards rushing between the tackles.
As ESPN.com’s Bill Williamson noted this week, the Raiders’ failure to stop the run has been the biggest factor in both losses.
“It affected every aspects of the game,” Williamson wrote about Sunday’s loss to Houston, in which Arian Foster ran for 138 yards on 28 carries. “This is why the Texans held the ball for more than 38 minutes and why the Raiders’ offense couldn’t get in a rhythm. Simply, the Raiders have to get tougher against the run if they want a chance to win.”
Certainly, that means defensive tackles Pat Sims and Antonio Smith need to get more push inside. It also means the Raiders sorely miss middle linebacker Nick Roach, who hasn’t played in the first two games after a solid first season in Oakland in 2013. Roach suffered a concussion in an Aug. 22 exhibition game at Green Bay and has not yet been cleared to play.
The Patriots, meanwhile, leaned on their ground attack in a 30-7 victory over the Vikings in Week 2, often using backup offensive tackle Cameron Fleming (6-foot-6, 325 pounds) as a blocking tight end (in place of Rob Gronkowski, a terrific receiver).
New England rushed 37 times for 150 yards, with Stevan Ridley (101 yards) getting most of the gains.
Offensive tackle Nate Solder told ESPN.com’s Mike Reiss that he and his linemates loved the fact that the coaching staff “put a lot of beef out there” and committed to running the ball.
“We loved the play calling today,” Solder said after the victory. “I don’t know what’s going to happen in the future, but if we can establish a good run game, that’s definitely a goal of ours.”
So expect the Patriots to line up with their extra beef on Sunday and come straight at the Raiders. Until Oakland can show it can plug its leaky ground defense, there’s no reason to expect anything else.