Oakland Raiders: Jamaal Charles

Breaking down screen play breakdowns

December, 19, 2013
12/19/13
7:41
PM ET
ALAMEDA, Calif. -- So what, exactly, was going through the mind of Oakland Raiders defensive coordinator Jason Tarver on Sunday on each Kansas City Chiefs screen pass that went for a touchdown, from 49, 39 and 16 yards, respectively?

[+] EnlargeJamaal Charles
Denny Medley/USA TODAY SportsJamaal Charles would not cooperate with the Raiders' plan of taking the ballcarrier down.
"Get the guy on the ground," Tarver said Thursday. "It's very simple. We've got to tackle the guy with the ball. We've got to do a better job of tackling in space."

Jamaal Charles, though, would not cooperate. Rather, he took Alex Smith's passes behind the line of scrimmage and bolted.

Asked after the 56-31 defeat how such a seemingly simple play could be so effective, Raiders free safety Charles Woodson laughed awkwardly.

"I have no clue," he said. "I have no clue. You've seen screens get out of the gate before, but to have a team go back to it and beat you almost every time, there's no explanation for it. It shouldn't happen; it did happen but it shouldn't.

"I don't know, man. That's hard, man, to watch a guy run up and down the field like that, basically untouched."

Charles finished with eight catches for 195 yards and four touchdowns. He also carried the ball eight times for 20 yards and scored that way, too, to tie a Kansas City franchise mark for TDs in a game.

And for the Raiders to make sure the San Diego Chargers do not take a page from the Chiefs' playbook, they have to figure out the how's and why's of the Chiefs' screen game.

"The first play of the game, we're in a match-zone defense and, yeah, that's a play where they may get a few yards, but we've got three guys [linebacker Kevin Burnett, strong safety Brandian Ross and cornerback Phillip Adams] there with one blocker, we've got to make that play," Tarver said.

On the Chiefs' next possession, they were facing a 3rd-and-19 at the Raiders' 39-yard line.

"We have a pressure, but the pressure sets so that if the back goes out one way we've got him," Tarver said. "And if he goes the other way we've got him. And we just didn't do it right. That's [happened] very few times this year. We just didn't do it right."

The third screen-for-a-touchdown came midway through the second quarter, on 1st and 10 from the Oakland 16-yard line.

"It was a vision defense where, we've got to show up," Tarver said. "Our three players that can be in that area, they've got to show up quicker. That's it. If they get four or five yards, that OK. It's these ones where they get in space before anybody shows up. So any call can work on it."

Just not last weekend.
Jamaal Charles and Rod StreaterGetty ImagesJamaal Charles, left, and the Chiefs hope to avoid an upset against Rod Streater and the Raiders.
ALAMEDA, Calif. -- The last time the Oakland Raiders and Kansas City Chiefs met, Terrelle Pryor was under center for the Raiders and his legs did the running quarterback little good as he was sacked nine times in a 24-7 Chiefs victory at Arrowhead Stadium on Oct. 13, a game in which Oakland held a 7-0 lead in the second quarter and trailed by only a 14-7 count late in the fourth quarter. Matt McGloin, who is more of a pocket passer, is now the Raiders quarterback, and he has received a baptism by fire in going 1-3 for Oakland (4-9).

The Chiefs (10-3), meanwhile, ended a three-game losing streak last week by thumping Washington 45-10 and have their eyes set on a playoff berth, which they can clinch by beating the Raiders and/or getting some help elsewhere.

Chiefs reporter Adam Teicher and Raiders reporter Paul Gutierrez break down the upcoming matchup at the O.co Coliseum.

Gutierrez: Hey Adam, the Raiders are looking desperately at every angle to win a football game and end a three-game losing streak. Though they hung with the Chiefs in Kansas City for more than a half earlier this season, many are wondering if the Chiefs could sit a few starters this weekend, especially since that playoff spot will have been clinched before kickoff in Oakland if the Miami Dolphins lose earlier in the day against the New England Patriots. Do you envision that possibly happening, or is Game 14 too soon for coach Andy Reid and Co. to start thinking that way?

Teicher: Reid hasn’t tipped his hand on this, but it’s difficult to picture him backing off this early, or at least until they no longer can win the AFC West championship. And no matter what happens, the Chiefs can’t be eliminated from winning the division title before Sunday’s kickoff. As it looks, the Chiefs will have plenty of time over the final two games to provide rest to some of their key players. If this is any clue, the Chiefs had a 38-10 lead late in the third quarter last week against Washington, but all of their key players, including running back Jamaal Charles and quarterback Alex Smith, were still in the lineup. So I would expect that on Sunday, the Chiefs will do what they feel they have to do to win this game.

McGloin will start against the Chiefs for the first time. Give us a little scouting report with the things he has and hasn’t done well, and what he might be capable of that could give an aggressive defense like Kansas City’s some trouble.

Gutierrez: McGloin is the anti-Pryor -- that is, he is the prototypical pocket passer who is most comfortable running a West Coast offense, even if he is a little on the short end at 6-foot in his cleats. His biggest backers compare the undrafted rookie to a poor man’s Drew Brees. Pretty heady stuff. Still, what the Raiders lose in athleticism in going from Pryor to McGloin they gain in pocket presence. McGloin learns from his mistakes quickly, and his coaches say he rarely, if ever, makes the same mistake twice. He has made a few, though: a jump ball in the end zone to the 5-9 Jacoby Ford that was picked off on Thanksgiving in Dallas, trying to force a pass deep in his own territory that was picked off by the New York Jets’ Ed Reed. Where he might be able to give the Chiefs’ aggressive defense fits is his ability to stay in the pocket until the last possible moment, take the hit and still get the ball off, as he did for a 27-yard go-ahead touchdown pass against the Tennessee Titans.

Against Pryor, the Chiefs had nine sacks. But they had only two total in their previous five games before getting Washington’s quarterbacks six times this past weekend. Was it merely a matter of flipping the switch for the Chiefs' pass rush?

Teicher: It was a combination of things, really. The main thing is that they got a big lead early and were able to get after Robert Griffin III and Kirk Cousins without having to truly honor Washington’s running game. They were able to make the Redskins one-dimensional that way. Another factor is that the Redskins are a mess. I think a lot of teams are capable of making their pass protection look bad. Also, I think the Chiefs were due. While their pass rush isn’t as good as it looked in the last game against the Raiders or in many of the other early season games, it is too good to go long stretches without getting a sack. Opposing quarterbacks had changed their game to get rid of the ball quickly against the Chiefs. Washington’s quarterbacks didn’t use that strategy much.

The Chiefs allow some big pass plays every week because of the aggressive style they play. Denarius Moore was Oakland's deep threat the last time these teams met. Is he healthy enough to play this week and, whether he is or not, do the Raiders have any other big-play receivers who can give the Chiefs something to worry about?

Gutierrez: Moore has not played since Nov. 17, but he did practice Wednesday for the first time since injuring a shoulder in Houston. And, perhaps coincidentally, that was the last time the Raiders won a game. When healthy, he is definitely their most electric playmaker, but Oakland might have found something in a couple of undrafted guys -- Andre Holmes, who lit up the Dallas Cowboys for seven catches and 136 yards on Thanksgiving, and Rod Streater, who is 213 yards away from becoming the first Raiders receiver to turn in a 1,000-yard season since Randy Moss in 2005. They are both much larger targets than Moore, but not as fast or explosive.

Despite finishing with the league’s worst record last season at 2-14, the Chiefs still had six Pro Bowlers, so the talent was obviously there. And with the 9-0 start this season, it seems obvious the biggest change was in coaching. But at the risk of offending Smith, is it really that simplistic?

Teicher: With the exception of general manager, coaching staff and quarterback, the Chiefs aren’t much different in key spots than they were last season, when they finished 2-14. So most of the credit for their turnaround has to go to GM John Dorsey, Reid and Smith. Dorsey's best offseason moves came through free agency, when the Chiefs added productive role players like tight end Anthony Fasano, defensive end Mike DeVito and cornerback Sean Smith. Reid has done a nice job with the X's and O's, but perhaps his best move was to turn around a rotten, losing culture and get everyone within the organization to fall in behind him. Alex Smith has picked up his game of late. He’s going down the field more with the ball, and the passing game has perked up. He has been solid enough not to ruin a good thing for the Chiefs. Smith has committed just six turnovers this season. Matt Cassel and Brady Quinn combined to turn it over 27 times last season.

The Chiefs had one of their worst offensive games of the season against Oakland the last time. Since then, the Raiders have been allowing a lot of yards and a lot of points. Is there an easy explanation for what has happened to their defense?

Gutierrez: An easy explanation? Sure, the defense is simply worn down ... and a lack of depth behind the starting 11 has made the drop off all the more stunning. Especially in the past three games. Against the Tennessee Titans, the Raiders' defense allowed an 80-yard drive in six minutes that culminated with a 10-yard touchdown pass on third-and-goal with 10 seconds remaining to give the Titans a 23-19 victory. On Thanksgiving Day, the Raiders blew a 21-7 first-half lead in Dallas, and last week against the Jets, they “peed down" their legs, per the loquacious Charles Woodson, in forcing only two punts all day, the last after the game was decided. Then there is this: Over those past three games, the Raiders have allowed those opponents to convert an NFL-worst 54.6 percent of their third downs. If Dennis Allen’s seat is warm, it’s because the defense -- his purported forte -- has been so bad of late.

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