The Oakland Raiders ran the ball 33 times Sunday afternoon, and that’s more than okay with Kelechi Osemele.
“I think we were just all on the same page, and we finally got the opportunity to just flow,” said Osemele following the team’s 23-21 win over the Arizona Cardinals. “We were calling run after run, and so it just felt cohesive, and we just had the right intensity. We were just out there having fun. They started getting a little chippy, and talking and stuff like that, and that kind of got us going a little bit, and I think a combination of all those things is the end result.”
By game’s end, the Silver and Black tallied a season-high 152 yards on the ground, and the effort truly was a collective one. Veteran running back Doug Martin got the start and set the tone early on the ground for the Raiders, rushing for 52 yards in the first half, but an ankle tweak forced him to the sideline after halftime, and while Jalen Richard and DeAndré Washington went the rest of the way, there really wasn’t any type of drop in production.
“It’s awesome, man, to have that many weapons on offense is crazy,” Osemele said. “We have so much talent at the running back position, guys are stepping up with Marshawn [Lynch] being out, and not missing a step, and just taking advantage of the opportunity. It’s really great to see.”
While Richard finished the day as the team’s leading rusher with 61 yards – averaging 5.5 yards a pop – Washington saw his most work of 2018 against the Cardinals, carrying the ball 12 times for strong, gritty 39 yards.
“I told him [Doug] before the game, set the tone, and we got his back,” Washington recounted postgame. “Unfortunately, he got nicked up, and we were just able to keep things rolling. Like I said, we all have the capability of being a premier running back in this league, so it was just opportunity met preparation, and we were able to make plays.”
And make plays they did; not only did the ground game enjoy its most fruitful day of 2018, but the fact that Carr was able to continually hand the ball off for positive yardage resulted in the Raiders handily owning the time of possession advantage by nearly 13 minutes over Josh Rosen and the Cardinals.
“We have great running backs,” Gabe Jackson said. “All of them were ready to go.”
With 16 runs in the first half, and 17 after the intermission, the Raiders didn’t keep their offensive desires a secret; they wanted to run the ball, and considering they averaged 4.6 yards per carry on the afternoon, why think about going away from what worked?
“You see guys finishing,” Osemele said. “You see guys getting real hyped after running the guy downfield, knocking a guy on the field and stuff like that, so you just feel the energy. You don’t even know until the play – you see nine yards, five yards, six yards – but you really do, you feel it because you’re just being physical, man, and everyone was just being physical up front, guys had guys on the ground. A couple times I look over, I see Rodney [Hudson] on top of his guy, Gabe’s on top of his guy, a few times I’m on top of my guy. When you see that, you know you’re wearing them down, wearing them down, wearing them down throughout the game, and that’s just the result.”
As Osemele said, over the course of 60 minutes, the Raiders offensive line did indeed wear down the Arizona defensive front, and towards the end of the game that physical domination began to show.
“If you keep doing something, and somebody can’t stop it, there’s no better feeling than knowing you just dominated,” Jackson said. “Everybody had a part in it, and everybody fought.”
From Kolton Miller and Brandon Parker on the outside – even David Sharpe who stepped in on the left side for a few snaps – to the interior of the line, to the trio of running backs, the whole really was greater than the sum of its parts for the Raiders ground attack Sunday, and that dominance up front is why the team flew back to Northern California Sunday evening with a much-needed win in tow.
Not only did the win snap a five-game skid for Head Coach Jon Gruden and his squad, it injected a shot of energy into a locker room that hasn’t had many happy postgame moments thus far in 2018.
“It’s a beautiful thing as you can see,” Washington said as he described the feeling in the locker room. “The energy was crazy. I know the season hasn’t been going how we wanted, but a win is hard to come by in this league, so any way you can get it, we’ll take it.”
“[When] you get a win like that, it’s like a show of character,” added Osemele. “It’s a show of regardless of how bad the situation is, you have to persevere, especially in a game like that, where it’s close and you have to win it at the end.”
Next up for the Silver and Black is another road trip – this time to Baltimore – as they’ll square off against a Ravens team that allowed just 48 rushing yards in their Week 11 matchup with the Cincinnati Bengals.
Something will have to give next weekend at M&T Bank Stadium, but for now, the Raiders will enjoy their second, hard-fought win of 2018.