Oakland dogged by post-bye losses
10/27/2013 12:00 AM
10/27/2013 8:50 AM
ALAMEDA – Ten times since 2002 the Raiders have resumed play following a bye rested, ready and ultimately unable to win.
They've lost by a lot – 35-3 to Pittsburgh in 2010 and 34-3 to New Orleans in 2008. They've lost by a little – 24-21 to Cleveland in 2006 and 23-20 to Atlanta last season.
But always, the Raiders have lost when extra time for rest and preparation would suggest they'd increased their odds of success.
None of it matters to Raiders coach Dennis Allen, whose team hosts the Pittsburgh Steelers today at O.co Coliseum.
"I think we're all aware of that, but like I told the players, the past has no relevance to the future," Allen said. "Any of the outcomes that have happened after a bye won't dictate how we go out and play Pittsburgh."
The last time the Raiders won following a bye was in 2002, when Rich Gannon, who will be in the CBS television booth today, led a 52-25 win over the Tennessee Titans.
The Steelers are 2-4, having won their last two games following this season's bye.
After the week off since a 34-27 loss to the Minnesota Vikings in London, they're taking better care of the ball and playing better defense.
Whether or not Pittsburgh benefited from its bye isn't something coach Mike Tomlin has spent a lot of time thinking about.
"We don't have any control over when we get a bye. We'll take it whenever it comes," Tomlin said. "Obviously, byes are good, but 0-4 byes aren't real comfortable."
The Raiders, like the Steelers, are 2-4 and hoping to gain traction. They're also like the Steelers in that they're a heavy-blitzing, defense-oriented team that relies on a quarterback who likes to extend plays with his feet and a running game that needs to be more consistent.
Unlike the Raiders' Terrelle Pryor, who leads his team with 285 rushing yards, Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is looking to get off a pass rather than break away on a run.
Oakland's ability to bring the 6-foot-5, 241-pound Roethlisberger to the ground before he can find open receivers such as Antonio Brown (47 receptions, 548 yards, two touchdowns) will be important.
"He's so strong he's not down if someone is hanging on him," Raiders defensive coordinator Jason Tarver said. "You have to keep taking your shots and fighting and scratching because that's what he does."
In terms of defending Pryor, Tomlin wants the Steelers to be aggressive but not to the point of overrunning the play and letting him loose on a breakaway run.
"They key is we remain aggressive, yet smart," Tomlin said. "You're concerned about constricting and containing a guy capable of providing explosion plays, but you can't allow that to take away your edge in terms of how you play."
One way the Raiders can help Pryor is having more success on what Allen calls "core" runs, the basic portion of the offense. Running back Darren McFadden has done his best work this season getting yardage in big chunks rather than in steady increments.
McFadden (267 rushing yards, two touchdowns), two weeks removed from a hamstring strain, likes the idea of running into the teeth of the Pittsburgh defense.
"You always know Pittsburgh is going to play hard-nosed defense," McFadden said. "That will be the case (today), but we have some things we want to do, so hopefully we can make some plays against them.
"A physical game fits my style. I love running in these games."
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