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Raiders' offense lacks imagination

Published: Monday, Dec. 24, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 5C

NFL schedules dictate that each team receives one bye week per season. Defensive coordinators fortunate enough to face the Raiders practically steal another.

Whether it is Carson Palmer or Matt Leinart at quarterback, the Raiders present such a simple challenge that opposing staffs get what amounts to a bonus bye week. Facing Oakland requires only brief preparation, and there is little need to be concerned about halftime adjustments.

The lack of creativity and absence of flexibility were evident again Sunday during a 17-6 loss to the Carolina Panthers. The offense made a few plays on talent but generally stalled. And, for the second week in a row, it failed to reach the end zone.

Offensive coordinator Greg Knapp gets – and deserves – most of the blame. It's his playbook. The former Sacramento State quarterback and assistant coach calls most of the plays. His preferred rushing scheme – the zone-blocking system – stifles his most explosive player, running back Darren McFadden. Knapp, though, is standing by his principles. He is simply using what he knows.

Head coach Dennis Allen has no such excuse – unless he is simply committed to the man he hired. And for at least one more game, that is Knapp.

Allen's coaching roots are on defense, and through 15 games this season, he has shown no aptitude for offense. What may be more troubling is his game management and comfort with outdated guidelines.

With 5:24 left and the Raiders trailing 14-6, Oakland faced fourth and four from the Carolina 24. If Allen is playing to win, as I believe, he knows he needs a touchdown and a two-point conversion to tie. A field goal, a defensive stop and a touchdown would yield a lead.

Rather than summon his most reliable scorer, kicker Sebastian Janikowski, for a 41-yard field-goal attempt and allow plenty of time to find a touchdown, Allen opted for Knapp and the backup quarterback. The play failed. Leinart's pass was deflected, essentially ending the game.

When Oakland got the ball back, the deficit had grown to 11. Carolina coach Ron Rivera, whose job is said to be in jeopardy, made the semi-bold choice of turning to his kicker and was rewarded with a clinching 51-yard field goal.

This is the second time in four games that Allen, at a crucial point, puzzlingly placed higher value on the playbook than the clock. He made a similar ill-fated decision in the Dec. 2 loss to Cleveland.

There was a time when this was the typical late-game call. But somewhere along the way, minds opened up, and some coaches realized that negotiating the clock can be more important than trusting your offensive coordinator and quarterback to concoct something marvelous.

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.

Read more articles by Monte Poole

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