Analysis

Raiders Will Try And Duplicate Packers’ Quick Start Against Vikings

Jon Gruden knows his way around that playbook.

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The Oakland Raiders will face Minnesota on Sunday with an offensive scheme not unlike that of Green Bay’s Matt LaFleur last week.

Watching the Vikings go down 21-0 last Sunday was a bit like watching a flood hit your home.

With the first touchdown (a 15-yard pass from Rodgers Aaron Rodgers to Jamaal Williams), taking only 2 minutes and 10 seconds, you saw a little water on the carpet.

With the second (a 12-yard strike from Rodgers to Geronimo Allison), you were scrambling for dry towels and taking everything off the floor 

The third, just minutes later (a two-yard run by Aaron Jones), threw you into less of a panic than a sad realization that there wasn’t much you could do.

There was already too much water on the floor.

Now Approaching From The Bay

Jon Gruden and his Oakland Raiders must have an eye on a similar type scenario when they face the Vikings at US Bank Stadium on Sunday.

Gruden, a true scion of the legendary West coast offense designed by its Godfather, Bill Walsh, knows he’s got a team that doesn’t match ideally with this Viking squad at home, but also recognizes ways around it.

If he’s going to get a win here, he’s got to strike early against Minnesota like the Packers did in Lambeau Field. That means, as Mike Zimmer said about Green Bay’s quick start, keeping the Vikings’ defense “off balance” in the first half.

However, Gruden must know that Zimmer and its unit has learned from its mistakes of last week. Zimmer also knows that the Raiders’ starting running back, Josh Jacobs, is hampered with both injury and illness. That will put a lot of pressure on Oakland quarterback Derek Carr, as well as Gruden, to find the cracks in a steely Vikings defense looking to impress their fans from the start.

Oaklands’ Short Game

Gruden has always been a fan and designer of the quick-step targeted short pass in tandem with a consistent running game.

In his years as the head coach in Oakland between 1998 and 2001, he used quarterback Rich Gannon, running back Charlie Garner, and superlative possession receivers Jerry Rice and Tim Brown to great success with a patient style of high percentage throws.

In Tampa Bay, he won a Super Bowl using Tony Dungy‘s defense and a ball-control offense led by quarterback Brad Johnson and running backs Mike Alstott and Warrick Dunn.

In keeping the Vikings “off balance” with their quick first touchdown strike last Sunday, Matt LaFleur and Aaron Rodgers opened the game with a long pass to beat run zone coverage, then used a run off tackle and two screens to make the score quickly 7-0

On the following kickoff, Minnesota then drove the field only to see Dan Bailey miss a 47-yard field goal.

Surprise, surprise.

The Packers then used three runs and six short passes to drive from their own 37 into the Viking endzone, making the score 14-0 as the second quarter started. From there, Cousins got strip-sacked on the next Vikings’ possession at his own 33, Green Bay recovered, and with two short passes and two runs, the Packers deftly made the game 21-0 in their favor

Burrowing Out Of The Snow

The term “off balance” applies to both sides of the ball sometimes. This may be what happened on the Cousins turnover.

Down by two touchdowns, the Vikings defense was obviously finding it difficult to grab the tether with a Packers’ offensive scheme, but now with added “game pressure” on QB Kirk Cousins–as well as actual physical pressure of the Green Bay defensive line–he coughed the ball up just outside his own red zone, further tipping the scales towards a Packer win.

Despite a brilliant game coached and played from the last Green Bay touchdown on by the Minnesota defense, 21 points was too much to overcome, especially after crucial mistakes by the Vikings’ offense and special teams unit.

Does Jon Gruden have the acumen and player talent to pull off the same kind of top-heavy win on Sunday?

Sure. The Vikings are a bit of a riddle at this early point of the 2019 season, and Gruden and Oakland are a team more than capable of an upset.  

The one thing that the Raiders should not have on Sunday is the element of surprise.

 

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