Originally posted on Thoughts from the Dark Side  |  Last updated 9/29/12

One of the – if not the – biggest plays of the week 3 contest versus the Steelers was the first running play of the Raiders where Darren McFadden scampered virtually untouched 64 yards down the field and into the end zone for their first rushing touchdown of the season.

The play was significant for a number of reasons – it tied up the score, shifted momentum and gave confidence to the team – but it also showed for the first time this season how potent the Raiders run game can be when the zone blocking scheme is operating in sync.

When the play starts, the team is out in a 3 WR, 1 TE and 1 RB formation.  There are two receivers to the left of the formation, the weak side (no TE on that side), one is spit out wide and the other is in the slot.

The right of the formation is the strong side meaning that the TE is set on that side. In this case, the TE is true to his name and is tight to the RT.  There is another receiver split wide on the right side.  McFadden is the only player in the backfield.

Here’s a look at the lineup, pre-snap.

At the snap, the offensive line all moves to the right in unison.  There are some keys that this is zone blocking versus power blocking.  The offensive linemen look for their blocks as they move which indicates they are not locked onto a certain man but instead for the players that will enter into their particular area.

Look at the shot below.  No one has entered into LG Cooper Carlisle’s zone.  Veldheer has engaged with the defensive end and there are two LBs that are coming around to seal the backside if McFadden tries to cut back.

Now, look at the shot below.  The arrow shows Carlisle who has recognized that no one is going to hit his hole, so he tries to create a cutback lane for McFadden by taking on the DE that Veldheer had initially engaged.  This shot shows the point where Veldheer is passing the DE – who I believe is RDE Brett Keisel – off to Carlisle.  Carlisle stonewalls Keisel and creates a good size hole.

Also note in the picture how Wizniewski is one on one with a player.  That is the NT, number 98 Casey Hampton.  Hampton is 325 lbs, so he has ten pounds on Wisniewski but Wiz handles him and keeps him away from McFadden.  His ability to take on a nose tackle one on one really separates him from last year’s center, Samson Satele.

In the third picture, below, Carlisle has fully engaged with the DE Keisel and Veldheer has peeled off to protect McFadden from backside pursuit from the linebacker that is trying to come around to get McFadden if he bounces it outside or just chase him down from behind if he dances at the line.  McFadden plants his foot and heads for the hole that has opened.

In the next shot you can see that McFadden has made it through the line – and it’s a huge hole – untouched.  He now comes face to face with the safety that has come up to stop the play.  There are no blockers that have been able to get to the second level so this contest comes down to the two players.

And, McFadden is one of the most explosive players in the league. He jukes a couple of times and then makes the cut around the Safety.  He isn’t contacted until a corner cuts across the field and hits him right before he enters the end zone.

All in all, an excellently executed play and the blocking – with Carlisle and Wiz leading the way and Veldheer with excellent support – made the play happen.  If the Raiders offensive line can continue to execute this well on Sunday, Denver’s defense will have fits trying to stop the run.

For more Raiders news & analysis, follow me on Twitter @AsherMathews

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