There will be no rest for the Raiders’ run defense.
After failing to stop Minnesota’s running attack last week — surrendering 211 yards on the ground in a 34-14 loss — Oakland’s defensive front gets another challenge this Sunday in Indianapolis against the Colts.
Through three games the Colts are averaging 30.3 rushing attempts and 149.7 yards per game (the sixth-best average in the NFL). Indianapolis is gaining a robust 4.9 yards per rush.
Marlon Mack, the league’s No. 3 rusher (with 299 yards and a 4.9 average) leads the Colts, and he exploded for 174 yards and a touchdown earlier this season against another AFC West team, the Los Angeles Chargers.
Raiders defensive coordinator Paul Guenther told Kyle Martin of the team’s website this week that Indianapolis runs a different blocking scheme than Minnesota (which is more of a zone-blocking team), but has an elite ground game with blockers such as first-team All-Pro guard Quenton Nelson up front.
"Their line is very good and very effective," said Guenther. "They have a lot of high draft picks up there, so it’ll be a real challenge for our run game again this week."
Guenther said the Raiders were hurt in the loss to the Vikings because of injuries to their linebacking corps, but he also said his defenders weren’t staying in their gaps, and that’s something Oakland must do Sunday — or the Colts will run wild, too.
Raiders defensive end Josh Mauro told Martin he and his linemates have been focusing on fundamentals this week, such as staying in their gaps and paying attention to technique.
"We’re going to keep preparing, trying to stay focused, and have a little more intensity in our preparation," he said.
Meanwhile, the Raiders’ offense — which played well in the season-opening win over Denver — has been lackluster in losses to the Chiefs and Vikings. In three games, the Raiders have only 15 "explosive plays" (10 or more yards rushing or 15 or more yards passing), according to Larry Hartstein, a senior analyst at SportsLine.
Hartstein this week told a reporter the Raiders offense under head coach Jon Gruden isn’t as wide open as some of the more successful NFL offenses are in 2019. Gruden has more of a ball-control attack.
"Gruden’s offense is stuck in the dark ages," he said. "Dink and dunk, dink and dunk. He wants to complete like 10 8-yard passes, and that’s not how the NFL works anymore."
Oddsmakers have made the 2-1 Colts six-point favorites over the 1-2 Raiders. Kickoff is set for 10 a.m.