Raiders interim coach Antonio Pierce is committed to winning on the run
Mon, Nov 13, 2023
NFL News (AP)
HENDERSON, Nev. (AP) - The Raiders had just 33 yards rushing at halftime of Sunday night's game against the Jets, averaging 2.8 yards per carry.
Many coaches would've been tempted to try to win the game through the air in the second half, but not Las Vegas' Antonio Pierce. He doubled down on the running game in the second half, and it's a major reason the Raiders rallied to beat New York 16-12.
Led by Josh Jacobs, the Raiders rushed for 115 yards in the second half, averaging 5.8 yards a pop. Jacobs went from gaining 30 yards on 10 carries in the opening 30 minutes to picking up 86 yards on 17 attempts after halftime.
This isn't a one-off, either.
In the Raiders' two games since Pierce became the interim coach, he has emphasized the ground game. Jacobs rushed for 98 yards the week before against the New York Giants, giving him, 214 yards in two games with Pierce in control. He averaged 4 yards on 53 combined carries.
Jacobs gained 408 yards in his first eight weeks, averaging 3.1 yards.
The Raiders' commitment to the running game this season under previous coach Josh McDaniels was nebulous at best. Jacobs - the NFL's leading rusher last season who had nearly 400 touches running and receiving - didn't receive the workload the first eight games that he got in the past two.
"One of our messages early in the week that (we) told the team was that we needed to start to impose our will," Pierce said. "The only way you can do that is by one of two things - stopping the run on defense and running the ball on offense.
"In the second half, you saw what time it was, right? It was Josh Jacobs time, it was hammer time. And you saw the energy not only with our offensive line, our running back and our offense, but in our team. It changed our whole mentality in that third quarter, and I think that's where things started to shift in our favor."
The Raiders are making it a habit to win games with late defensive stops. Against the Jets, Robert Spillane turned away a scoring opportunity with an interception with 1:14 left. Then on the game's final play, Nate Hobbs thought he was in great position for an interception, but at least took up space so that the Hail Mary fell incomplete.
Las Vegas also clinched a victory over the Green Bay Packers on Amik Robertson's interception and all by sewed up a win over the New England Patriots on a sack for safety by Maxx Crosby and Bilal Nichols.
WHAT NEEDS WORK
Only the Chicago Bears have a worse turnover ratio than the Raiders. The problem holding on to the ball nearly cost Las Vegas. The Raiders were driving in the fourth quarter to potentially put away the Jets when Jacobs fumbled, prompting a stressful final five minutes for Las Vegas. An interception by Aidan O'Connell toward the end of the first quarter turned into a field goal for the Jets and 9-3 lead.
The short-handed offensive line. Not having LT Kolton Miller available because of a shoulder injury could've been devastating against the Jets' outstanding defense. Pro Football Focus ranks Miller the league's fourth-best tackle. But with Jermaine Eluemunor moving from the right side to replace Miller and Thayer Munford manning right tackle, the line held up. O'Connell was sacked just once in the second half and the run game helped the Raiders win.
Chunk plays. The Raiders entered the game having allowed 15 passes of 20 or more yards, best in the NFL. Zach Wilson, the Jets' beleaguered quarterback, was able to attack Las Vegas deep. Wilson completed four such passes, including two in the fourth quarter when the game was in doubt.
Pierce said he didn't have update on Miller because the players were given Monday off. ... CB Amik Robertson suffered a concussion early in the second quarter, but Pierce said Robertson was in good spirits after the game.
66.7 - That's the percentage of fourth downs the Raiders have converted into first down, tied for fourth in the NFL. Las Vegas converted both opportunities against New York. That included a fourth-and-1 from the Raiders 44 as they were trying to put away the Jets. They nearly did that before Jacobs fumbled on that same drive.
After beating both lowly New York teams, the Raiders get to show how good they really are with a trip Sunday to AFC-East leading Miami Dolphins. After that, the Raiders return home face the defending champion Kansas City Chiefs.
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