SAN DIEGO – The Raiders offense is on the right track.
The unit runs well and gains passing yards in chunks. The Raiders’ yards per game is up over the past four weeks. So is their scoring. That still isn’t winning football games.
The defense, to be sure, has tanked. It’s chiefly responsible for this four-game slide out of contention, but the offense has to shoulder some blame.
After committing 12 turnovers in four games, that has to happen. The Raiders were never worse than Sunday against Kansas City, when they forfeited possession seven times.
“We’ve got to protect the football,” Raiders head coach Dennis Allen said. “We’ve got to do a better job at doing that. And that’s been a point of emphasis this week because we have moved the ball well and we have scored a lot of points in the last few weeks, but we’ve got to protect the football. We can’t put our defense in tough situations.”
That’s happened quite often. McGloin has turned the ball over four times within his own 20-yard line. The turnovers are killing positive momentum with a young group that is growing behind an increasingly stable offensive line.
“We’re so close to putting this whole thing together,” said tight end Mychal Rivera, who has thrived working with McGloin. “We have talent at the skill positions. We can run the ball well and we have guys who can work to get catches out of the air. If only we held on to the football more. That’s the missing thing, and it takes away from the good we’re doing.”
It’s been a point of emphasis this even more than it normally is. The team desperately needs a win, and turnovers are detracting from that effort. The Raiders have a minus-9 turnover differential during this four-game slide.
“It’s hard to turn the ball over seven times and to score 31 points or to get 460 yards of offense like we did against Kansas City,” offensive coordinator Greg Olson said. “That’s very difficult to do, to have that many turnovers. The message for us is to understand what we’ve preached all season, and emphasized, and it has to be emphasized more, is to hold onto the football and protecting our football and how important the football is to winning football games, to being able to win. We’ve been able to move the ball really the past two weeks against two very good defenses in the Jets and the Chiefs, and yet we’ve had self-inflicted errors that have killed this football team.”
Self-inflicted turnovers are the hardest to handle. Olson defines those as errors stemming from poor decisions, not defensive successes. McGloin made a few last week. Center Stefen Wisniewski had one with a poor snap from the shotgun. The Raiders can ill-afford any more, especially if the game turns into a shootout.
“I’ve always said you’ll never go through a season without any turnovers,” Olson said “That’s not going to happen. To me, the unforced errors, as you have in basketball, and turnovers, the same thing in football, those were unforced errors, some of the balls that we threw there, and we have to clean that up.”