Frustrated Raiders defense seeks takeaways

If the Raiders are going to have any hopes of snapping out of their current funk, the spark is likely going to have to come from the defense.

But for a team that has struggled to stop the run and has only generated 14 sacks this season, that might be easier said than done.

Oakland heads into Minnesota ranked 16th overall on defense, a far cry from the No. 3 ranking the Raiders held at the end of 2006. Five times this season, Rob Ryan's unit has failed to protect a lead, including last week against Chicago when the Bears scored 14 points over the final 3 1/2 minutes to win 17-6.

"Everybody is frustrated right now," Ryan said Thursday. "You have to have all 11 people and all the coaches coaching right and all the 11 players playing right, or that's going to happen to you. It's been unfortunate that we've given up some plays in the fourth quarter. We gotta get better.

"We've had moments here. The biggest difference is we've given up some big plays that we usually don't do. We have the philosophy of making teams go the long, hard way. When you make teams do that, you don't see many touchdowns."

Part of the problem, however, is that Oakland's repeated failures on offense have frequently left the defense in a bad position. When the defense has caught a break, it's been usually undone by, as Ryan referenced, a big play.

Prior to Sunday's loss to the Bears, the Raiders had given up 29 plays of 10 yards or more in third-down situations. Of those, 11 went for 20 or more yards, seven went for 30 or more, five gained 40 or more, and two topped 50.

Oakland's defense has also failed to produce in the turnover department after getting off to a promising start earlier in the season. The Raiders have 11 interceptions and zero fumble recoveries, the only NFL team without one. Only New Orleans, Miami and the Jets have fewer takeaways.

"Obviously we're not forcing enough of them," Ryan said. "It's strange. I've never been through one like this. We emphasize it like everybody else does. One of our big things is, it's all about the ball. Our guys believe in that. It's not just clinic talk. Unfortunately the damn ball hasn't bounced to us."

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