Raiders' Run Defense Has Been Torn Apart

After terrible defensive efforts vs. Steelers and Vikings, Oakland may get some relief Sunday against the Lions

First, the good news: The Detroit Lions have the worst running game in the NFL.

When the 4-5 Raiders travel to Michigan this coming Sunday to take on the 2-7 Lions, they’ll face a team that is averaging just 66.9 yards per game on the ground and only 3.4 yards per attempt.

Rookie Ameer Abdullah is the Lions’ No. 1 back, with only 240 yards and a 3.5-yards per carry average.

Finally, after a two-game spiral, the Raiders’ defense may catch a break. Because over the past two games, Oakland’s run defenders – once ranked among the best in the NFL – have been torn apart.

In Sunday’s loss to the Minnesota Vikings, it was All-Pro Adrian Peterson who did the damage, running for 203 yards, 80 of those coming on a late sprint for a touchdown. The week before, the Raiders’ defense was trampled by DeAngelo Williams, who ran for 170 yards.

It’s been a frustrating time for Oakland’s defense, which finally got reinforcements this past weekend with the return of starting safety Nate Allen and cornerback TJ Carrie, yet couldn’t stop Minnesota from running the football. The Vikes ran for 263 yards as a team.

“Every week we come in, we emphasize something that we need to work on,” veteran Raiders safety Charles Woodson told Levi Damien of SB Nation. “This week was the passing game, and we did well (against) passing, but we allowed them to run all over us for 200-plus yards or whatever it was. You put your finger over one leak and something else pops up, so we’ve got to find a way to eliminate more than just one phase of the game.”

Raiders linebacker Malcolm Smith told reporters that he and his defensive mates still need to focus on their fundamentals to stop opposing running games. And, with Peterson perhaps the best back in the league, one mistake can lead to a disaster.

“You have to be sharp the whole game with him,” said Smith. “Obviously, he made us pay. We just have to be sharper, more detailed and just finish better. Obviously, that’s been kind of our downfall.”

As Oakland prepares this week for the Lions, the Raiders have fallen from the No. 2 run defense in the NFL just weeks ago to the 23rd-ranked run defense. Opponents now are averaging 115 yards per game and 4.7 yards per carry. If the Raiders hope to make a push for the playoffs, the defense is going to have to find some answers to stopping the run.

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