Last week, when discussing the struggles of the running game, Raiders’ offensive coordinator Greg Knapp preached patience, noting the need for the fans and media alike to “keep things in perspective.” Specifically, Knapp cited issues with the offensive line, as well as limitations with the installation of the new zone blocking system.

On Sunday, running back Darren McFadden proved his offensive coordinator correct–to some extent–after racking up gains of 64 and 16 yards. Though only two of his 18 rushes, McFadden’s long runs showed great improvement over previous weeks, most notably in the performance of the offensive line.

Run #1: Darren McFadden right tackle for 64 yards, touchdown

Pre-Snap Alignment

Pre-Snap Alignment

The Steelers don’t seem to be expecting the run here, though I could be wrong. Still, Ryan Mundy as the only deep safety seems like a bad idea, especially given that he’s been known to take bad angles. Think: Tim Tebow to Demaryius Thomas. Think: slant routes. Think: Wild Card playoff game.

McFadden hitting the hole, as they say.

This is a truly impressive push by the Raiders offensive line–a unit, as you know, that has been struggling mightily. You can see Mundy begin his pursuit of McFadden, and it might already be apparent from this angle that McFadden will run past him. The “Green Arrow” is the route that Mundy should have taken; the “Red Arrow” is the route he chose.

Mundy not tackling McFadden

Either Mundy has horrible depth of field, which would explain his continued struggle to choose correct angles, or McFadden is insanely fast. It’s probably a combination of both. In Mundy’s defense, were I in the same situation, I too would have wiffed on the tackle. Now, if that deep safety were Troy Polamalu, I think McFadden gets tackled.

Mundy’s miscalculation aside, the play was impressive. The offensive line created a hole that even JaMarcus Russell could strut through. See:

Aren’t you worried about getting your fur dirty, JaMarcus?

Still, the greater blocking might have been done by the wideouts on this play: Rod Streater and Darrius Heyward-Bay (DHB).

Who knew DHB could block?

DHB puts on a blocking clinic, as did Streater. I didn’t take a snapshot of Streater’s blocking, so you’ll have to take my word for it.

Run #2: Darren McFadden left tackle for 16 yards (tackle by Chris Carter)

This one is hardly as impressive. McFadden uses his speed to get around the edge. Had Moore held his block a little longer (a la DHB), McFadden might have had another score.

Pre-snap Alignment

Nothing too alarming–unlike the last. It looks like Palmer and the Raiders opt to run away from the tight end,  figuring McFadden would be able to outrun the defenders.

Clark’s bad angle

Similar to Mundy, Ryan Clark takes a poor angle, likely underestimating the speed of McFadden. Moore doesn’t hold his block, which slows up McFadden enough to allow Cris Carter to make the tackle.

Aside from these two runs, McFadden wasn’t able to do much against the Steelers. In fact, if you subtract these gains, McFadden had only 33 yards on 16 carries, good for 2.06 yards per carry. This is problematic given that both Football Outsiders and ProFootball Focus rank the Steelers as the No. 21 run defense in the League. As I showed last week, the biggest of the problems is the offensive line. ProFootball Focus confirms this.

Center:

Guards:

Tackles:

As with the pass rush, PFF confirms empirical observation. Had it not been for bad angles taken by Pittsburgh players, I don’t think McFadden has the game he did. Certainly, those bad angles were partially the result of McFadden’s speed, but a defense should able to account for that–as Denver and Miami had.

Perhaps McFadden and the offensive line are starting to click. Perhaps they needed just a little time, as Greg Knapp suggested. In any case, we should know this week, as the Raiders face Denver’s staunch run defense–ranked 1st by PFF.