The offensive gameplan

Figuring out the Oakland Raiders offense will take more than a week. It was obvious change needed to happen – but that also included who would see the ball more.

If the first game of John Shoop's tenure as offensive coordinator of the Oakland Raiders is any indication, running backs will be getting extra duty.

Especially ReShard Lee.

Lee, in his third-year out of Middle Tennessee State, had 99 yards from scrimmage in a 23-14 loss to the Houston Texans. He had six rushes for 42 yards and five receptions for 57 yards, both career highs.

It was the second highest figure for an Oakland running back this season, trailing only the 141 yards by LaMont Jordan (128 rushing, 13 receiving) against Cleveland on Oct. 1.

Jordan is out for the season with a torn medial collateral ligament, with Justin Fargas struggling as the lead running back and versatile Zack Crockett in reserve.

Like Crockett, Lee can play either halfback or fullback.

Lee had five of the eight receptions that went to running backs against Houston, a big change from the 11 games under former coordinator Tom Walsh in which backs were utilized mostly in pass protection.

Jordan, who caught 70 passes in 12 games last season, had only 10 receptions in nine games before being injured.

Although the execution overall left a lot to be desired, Lee felt the same way as most of teammates -- Shoop should improve Oakland's anemic offense.

"He brings a different asset to the game. He's an energetic guy. He wants the guys to be energetic and be happy about what they are doing, and focus on what you're doing at the same time," Lee said. "So when he brings the energy, it kind of trickles down."

Lee had a crucial mistake against Houston. On a second-and-17 play on Oakland's first drive, he broke free on a 13-yard gain only to have Texans safety C.C. Brown knock it loose. Cornerback Demarcus Faggins picked it up and ran 58 yards for the game's opening touchdown.

Lee was grateful the Raiders kept him in the game afterward.

"Every running back's going to fumble sometimes, but I'm not saying that's something you want to do," Lee said. "I'm going to keep playing hard, and hopefully things will keep happening."

Raiders coach Art Shell acknowledged it was a crucial error, while at the same time crediting Houston.

"He's trying to make a big play, doing well, he got into traffic and the guy made a heck of a play chopping at his arm with the ball in it and the ball came out," Shell said. "It was an unfortunate thing."

The Raiders coach sounds as if Lee's role could expand.

"ReShard is a special kid," Shell said. "He runs the ball well, he's an excellent blocker and can catch the ball out of the backfield," Shell said. "He was a quarterback in high school so he can throw the ball also. He has skills tat are very good, skills that we need."

Bengals chasing the playoffs:

The NFL's complicated tiebreakers confirmed after Week 13 play what the Bengals say they've known for weeks: They control their playoff destiny.

The Bengals won three games in a 12-game span and enjoyed an off-day Sunday watching two of their AFC wildcard opponents lose. Kansas City lost at Cleveland in overtime. Denver lost to Seattle.

The Bengals are one of five 7-5 teams in the AFC and stood as the top wildcard team and fifth overall seed. They would play at New England - the division leader with the worst record - Jan. 6 or 7.

"It's nice to know we have a shot at it and it's in our hands, but it doesn't mean anything right now. We still have a game this weekend and three more after that," quarterback Carson Palmer said after players participated in a light practice at Paul Brown Stadium.

The Bengals will play host Sunday to 2-10 Oakland.

"We always felt we would control our own destiny," safety Madieu Williams said. "Now, it's apparent, but we have to take it one game at a time. Our focus is on the Raiders."

The first tiebreaking step is to eliminate multiple qualifiers from the same division, according to Elias Sports Bureau. Of the five teams, only Kansas City and Denver are in the same division (West), and Denver would be eliminated from this particular scenario on the criteria of division record.

But as the situation stood Monday, the Broncos would be out, and only the Bengals, Chiefs, Jaguars and Jets would be alive for two wildcard spots. The applicable tiebreaker would then become conference record. The Bengals would be first among the four and claim the first wildcard, with the Jets taking the second wildcard. Cincinnati is 5-3 against AFC foes, the Jets are 5-4, Jacksonville is 4-4, and Kansas City is 3-5.

"There are four games left," guard Eric Steinbach said. "This is what separates you. Our focus is on Oakland. We just have to worry about the Bengals."


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