Remember when the Raiders talked about returning to their running game roots of 2000, when they led the NFL in rushing?
Now the only running Oakland's offense is doing is running away from its ground attack. The Raiders running game plummeted from No. 1 in 2000 to No. 22 a year ago. Oakland current ranks 17th in the NFL with 108.3 rushing yards per contest but even that figure is misleading. If you eliminate the Raiders 221 rushing yards in a season-opening 30-17 win over Seattle, they average a paltry 85.8 yards per game.
"I don't get hung up on not running the ball," Raiders head coach Bill Callahan said. "That's not a problem for us offensively. I got to state that again. Running the ball is not a problem for us offensively."
Injuries have played somewhat of a factor. Charlie Garner (hamstring) has been less than full strength while Tyrone Wheatley and Randy Jordan are on the shelf. Terry Kirby, broken tibia and fibula, is out for the season. Regardless, the Raiders have been woeful on the ground lately, combining for 29 carries and 102 yards the last two games, both losses.
"We're getting more plays on first-and-10 that are better than some of the runs that you could possibly get because we spread the field, we change the substitution patterns, we've taken off the field some of their best players, we've put their nickel players on the field, their sub-package on the field," Callahan said. "It really allows us an upper hand in that respect."
Conventional wisdom suggests that passing the ball is the way to win but having a genuine threat with the ground game is vital. Through seven weeks, teams that pass the ball 30 or more times are 59-79 while teams that run the ball 30 or more times are 56-21. The Raiders do not necessarily need to return to their 2000 form of running the ball but they cannot be nonexistent either.