Raiders' run defense finally improves

Published: Friday, Nov. 2, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 4C
Last Modified: Sunday, Nov. 4, 2012 - 9:46 am

ALAMEDA – Having talked about stopping the run for most of the past decade, the Raiders are doing something about it.

Perennial bottom-feeders in rushing defense, the Raiders are ranked 11th in fewest rushing yards per game (102.1) and ninth in yards per carry (3.9).

That's rarefied air for a team that gave up a whopping 5.1 yards per carry – the most in the league – and was ranked 27th against the run at 136.1 yards per game last season.

Since finishing third in rushing defense in their AFC title season of 2002, the Raiders have finished no better than 22nd in the past nine seasons. They've been 29th twice, 31st twice and 32nd once.

After the Raiders gave up 263 yards and four touchdowns on the ground to Miami in Week 2, those used to watching them struggle against the run braced for more of the same. Instead, except for giving up 165 yards and a lot of second-half yardage in Denver, the Raiders have done an about-face.

"In the Dolphins game, we didn't have great run defense, and we had an attitude about it," linebacker Philip Wheeler said. "We don't want nothing like that to happen again."

Over the past three games, the Raiders have given up 67 yards per game and 3.2 yards per carry against Atlanta, Jacksonville and Kansas City.

A skeptic would point to extenuating circumstances in the past two games, as Jacksonville lost running back Maurice Jones-Drew after just two carries to a foot sprain and Kansas City inexplicably gave their best running back Jamaal Charles just five carries (for four yards) despite no apparent injury.

The Raiders, hoping to even their record at 4-4, can go a long way toward proving their improved run defense is no fluke against a Tampa Bay team led by rookie running back Doug Martin, the 11th-ranked rusher in the NFL with 543 yards (4.2 per carry).

Tampa Bay coach Greg Schiano said by conference call that the heart of the Raiders defense is "they've got those two defensive tackles, (Tommy) Kelly and (Richard) Seymour. I think the front is a huge challenge."

Under coach Dennis Allen and defensive coordinator Jason Tarver, the Raiders blitz more frequently and stress communication, with each player understanding his own assignment as well as those around him.

"We have a new scheme, and I think it took us a few weeks to get to where we could run it really effectively," defensive tackle Desmond Bryant said.

Janikowski honored – Sebastian Janikowski was named the AFC Special Teams Player of the Month, the third time he has won the award since the start of the 2011 season.

During October, Janikowski was 10 of 11 on field-goal attempts, with the lone miss a 64-yard try at the end of regulation against Jacksonville, a game that he won with a 40-yarder in overtime.

TV extension – The Raiders received a one-day extension to sell more tickets and prevent a blackout of Sunday's 1:05 p.m. game against Tampa Bay.

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