One of the major concerns for the Oakland Raiders offense this season has been leaving points on the field by not converting touchdowns while inside the red zone. Despite the two game winning streak, Oakland still needs to get improvement with their efficiency in the red zone. Against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this Sunday, the Raiders will look to capitalize on their chances with seven points instead of three.
“We’ve had a number of opportunities, especially last week, to get down there,” Raiders quarterback Carson Palmer said. “One where we just kneeled it, but we had five opportunities and it’s not something we’re satisfied with. We won the game, but we’ve already started working on it. Normally you don’t work on red zone on Wednesday and we started talking about it as an offense.”
Last week against the Kansas City Chiefs, the Raiders drove into the red zone six times and settled for four Sebastian Janikowski field goals. Because of that effort, Janikowski was the AFC special teams player of the week. The lone touchdown came from a Palmer pass for Denarius Moore for a nine yard score. The other attempt was a kneel down to end the game. For the season, Oakland has only scored touchdowns on eight of their 23 red zone trips, which is next to last in the NFL. Having a tremendous kicker like Janikowski ensures the Raiders three points, but the team needs touchdowns.
“We want touchdowns,” Palmer said. “As much faith as we have in Seabass [Janikowski] that if you cross the 50, he’s in his range, we want to get seven points. We’ve been fortunate; our defense has played so well that we haven’t needed seven points every drive. There’s going to be those games where the other offense is on fire and you better score 70 percent of the time when you get down there if you want to win the game. We need to improve on it. We will.”
When they host the Buccaneers this Sunday, Oakland will be going against a defense that ranks sixth in the NFL in rushing defense allowing only 85.1 yards per game. Really good red zone offenses have the ability to run the ball, so the Raiders cannot give up on the running game because of Tampa Bay's stingy run defense. The Buccaneers are ranked 31st in the league in pass defense giving up 309.6 yards per game, so there will be opportunities for Palmer to take advantage of match-ups in the passing game.
“Without going too much into our game plan, we’re never going to just abandon the run,” Palmer said. “They are very good against the run and they’ve struggled a little against the pass. They’ve had some big plays happen to them over and over again.”
In order to consistently be able to score touchdowns in the red zone, the Raiders must do a better job of putting running back Darren McFadden in positions to run for touchdowns. He is known for his speed, but is underrated in his toughness and physical abilities. McFadden has one rushing touchdown this season inside the red zone. The offensive line must do a better job of opening holes when the defense is stacking the box expecting run. With the Raiders struggling to run inside the red zone, Moore has shined. The wide receiver has a dangerous combination of speed and quickness that allow him to get open in small spaces in the end zone. Oakland has also tried to use rookie receiver Juron Criner as a red zone weapon. His 6-3, 220 pound frame gives Palmer a big target for jump balls with one on one coverage. However, it has yet to be successful.
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