ALAMEDA -- A constant theme throughout his 42-minute sit down with seven reporters last Friday was Reggie McKenzie lamenting the Raiders' trend of giving up big plays at, well, big moments.
"Big plays kill us on defense," McKenzie said. "It's hard to win when you're giving up big plays on defense."
The Raiders define an "explosive play" as one that gains at least 16 yards throughout the air, 12 yards on the ground. Such explosive plays, though, have actually defined the Raiders this season.
And really, you could say the Raiders' best game this season was in a loss, at Atlanta.
"If I could put my finger on it, I would fix it myself," McKenzie said. "But, when you look at tape, how we attacked Atlanta, how we stopped the run, how we did not give up big runs, when you count the number of big plays in that game, you can start with that, and how we played on defense. That's why we were in that game."
Indeed, the Raiders limited the Falcons to five explosive plays in that last-second, 23-20 loss, four passes and one run. And none of the plays ended as a touchdown.
"But since then, if you look at game by game, and see the big plays, now, our D-line is not getting knocked around the ball, we're stout up front," McKenzie said. "But when you talk about run game, run defense, the one thing that you worry about is getting knocked around up front. And our guys are not. But the bottom line is, the gaps. I mean, yeah, that's fixable, but you can't let it happen. So, that's part of it right there. That and a big pass play, especially on third down, when you think you can get off the field. Too many of those since then. Especially in November."
Defensive tackle Tommy Kelly used to refer to it as the stop, stop, boom phenomenon. And it continues to this day.
"After you stop them and have a great play, good play, then all of a sudden, Wham, seven points. Easy," McKenzie said. "Kind of knocked the wind out of you, especially a team like this. We’re not at that level where we can continue to overcome (that) time and time again."
In the Raiders' five-game losing streak, the defense has surrendered a total of 49 explosive plays, 32 passes and 17 runs. Of these plays, nine have been touchdowns, with five by air and four by ground.
"We just have to work together to understand why and how (it happens)," said Raiders defensive coordinator Jason Tarver. "We have to take better angles down the field, is some of it.
"They’ve happened in zone, they’ve happened in every call known to man. It’s a continuing process to have the guys understand where their help is and have guys understand how to take angles and go from there. Sometimes younger players, when they come out of the stack or different things, don’t necessarily take the correct angle based on what’s going on."
Conversely, the Raiders have had 34 explosive plays, 27 passes (five TDs) and seven runs over the last five games.
"We're not good enough to just give guys, let alone points, but just to give them big plays like that," McKenzie said. "I'm looking for the offense to not just move the ball but score some points, get better in red zone, get better on third down, keep the chains moving, score points. More consistent special teams play, especially in coverage. I'm looking for a lot of things, but I'm looking for some wins."
A look then, at the Raiders and explosive plays through 12 games…
Passes of 16 yards or more, runs of 12 yards or more
San Diego game (Lost, 22-14)
Raiders – (5) 5 passes, 0 runs
Chargers – (4) 4 passes, 0 runs
Miami game (Lost, 35-13)
Raiders -- (8) 8 passes (TD), 0 run
Dolphins – (10) 4 passes, 6 runs (3 TDs)
Pittsburgh game (Won, 34-31)
Raiders – (7) 5 passes, 2 runs (1 TD)
Steelers – (8) 8 passes (1 TD), 0 runs
Denver game (Lost, 37-6)
Raiders -- (6) 5 passes, 1 run
Broncos -- (12) 9 passes (2 TDs), 3 runs
Atlanta game (Lost, 23-20)
Raiders -- (11) 10 passes (1 TD), 1 run
Falcons -- (5) 4 passes, 1 run
Jacksonville game (Won, 26-23)
Raiders -- (6) 5 passes, 1 run
Jaguars -- (3) 3 passes, 0 runs
Kansas City game (Won, 26-16)
Raiders -- (9) 5 passes (1 TD), 4 runs
Chiefs -- (6) 2 passes, 4 runs
Tampa Bay game (Lost, 42-32)
Raiders -- (6) 6 passes (1 TD), 0 runs
Buccaneers -- (10) 4 passes (1 TD), 6 runs (3 TDs)
Baltimore game (Lost, 55-20)
Raiders -- (5) 5 passes (1 TD), 0 runs
Ravens -- (11) 10 passes (2 TDs), 1 run
New Orleans game (Lost, 38-17)
Raiders -- (12) 9 passes, 3 runs
Saints -- (10) 5 passes (1 TD), 5 runs (1 TD)
Cincinnati game (Lost, 34-10)
Raiders -- (4) 2 passes (1 TD), 2 runs
Bengals -- (8) 4 passes, 4 runs
Cleveland game (Lost, 20-17)
Raiders -- (7) 5 passes (2 TDs), 2 runs
Browns -- (10) 9 passes (1 TD), 1 run
Raiders -- (86) 70 passes (8 TD), 16 runs (1 TD)
Opponents – (97) 66 passes (8 TDs), 31 runs (7 TDs)