Running Back Jalen Richard
Fifty-seven yards on the ground just isn't going to cut it, especially in the playoffs.
After racking up over 100 yards on the ground in four consecutive games, the Oakland Raiders trio of running backs were limited to just 57 yards on 15 carries in Sunday's loss to the Denver Broncos, and that inability to get things rolling on the ground proved to be detrimental to the offense as a whole.
Head Coach Jack Del Rio continually preaches the importance of offensive balance – something that has been evident in nearly all of the Raiders 12 wins this season – but with the running game looking uncharacteristically out of sorts against the Broncos, there really wasn't much balance to find Sunday afternoon in Colorado, and as a result, the team was only able to manufacture six points in the loss to the Broncos.
"Like I said postgame, give props to Denver," said rookie running back DeAndré Washington. "They did a good job bottling us up, but that's over with now. We're looking forward to the Texans."
The Silver and Black's running backs will have their work cut out for them once again Saturday afternoon when they square off against a Houston Texans defense that held them to just 35 rushing yards in the team's Week 11 meeting in Mexico City.
Texans defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel's group was the best statistical defense in the NFL in 2016, allowing just 99.7 rushing yards per game en route to claiming the AFC South title, and has made life difficult for opposing ball carriers all season.
"They have a good front," Latavius Murray said. "They have a good defense, good playmakers. We'll have to figure out ways, obviously, to attack their weaknesses so we can be successful."
"[They just] have playmakers across the board," added Washington. "They do a good job. They don't make a lot of mistakes, and they wait for you to make mistakes, and they capitalize off that."
The run game has been a constant for the Silver and Black in recent weeks, and getting the Raiders three-headed monster rolling against the Texans becomes all the more important with Derek Carr not under center.
Whether it's Connor Cook or Matt McGloin handling the quarterbacking duties Saturday afternoon at NRG Stadium, having the running game firing on cylinders will be at a premium if the Raiders want to find postseason success.
"It's going to be huge," Washington said when discussing the importance of the run game. "Just take some pressure off whoever's back there at quarterback, so it's definitely going to be huge, and we need to get it established early and often."
However, even without their MVP candidate under center, the Raiders trio of backs isn't feeling any added pressure to get it in gear against the Texans.
"There's been pressure on us all year," Jalen Richard said. "That's how we keep our offense balanced, being able to run the ball, and keep people guessing where they can't just sit and want to drop back everybody, they have to come down and protect the ball. We had a little added pressure on us when DC went down. Obviously, everybody last game knew that we were going to try to run the ball, and we just couldn't, and Denver knew we wanted to run the ball, and they had a good game plan, and we just really couldn't connect on the passes to free up some running lanes."
The Raiders now find themselves in a unique situation as they prepare to head to Houston; they're just days away from playing in their first postseason game in 14 years, but will be heading into the matchup without the services of their emotional and physical leader. That being said, the Raiders know the opportunity that lies ahead of them, as well as what the stakes are the next time they take the field.
"It's exactly how it is; win or go home," said Washington. "There's really no pressure, but you understand what's at stake, I think everybody is willing to sacrifice 110 percent to go out there and do whatever it takes to win. It's win or go home."