Any Given Sunday
The weekend's biggest upset goes under the Football Outsiders lens.

Any Given Sunday: Jets over Raiders

Oakland Raiders QB Derek Carr
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

Something that we mentioned the last time the Jets were in this column, when they beat the Cowboys, is that the Jets can stop the run. The Cowboys paid no heed to that, and they combined that with some typical Jason Garrett things and managed to lose a close game. We doubled down on the Jets run defense in this week's Upset Watch column for ESPN+ as well, noting that the Raiders had a good run offense and that things could perhaps be a bit different for them if that were stopped.

The Jets, to their credit, did the stopping again. Oakland ran the ball 22 times for just 68 yards. Oakland ran the ball on a fourth-and-1 and was stuffed. The Raiders ran on first down 12 different times and averaged 2.6 yards per carry. Jon Gruden's outfit has zigged where the NFL has zagged in that Gruden caters to fullback football and loves big blocking tight ends. Those extra bodies were hapless against Gang Green.

Let's take a look at four plays where the Jets shut down the run.

Our first play comes with Gabe Jackson (66) and Tarell Basham (93) at the center of the action, with Basham simply not getting into the meat hooks and able to keep outside leverage. When Josh Jacobs (28) stops to cut back, he runs right into Basham.

Our second play has Brandon Copeland's (51) hands getting big leverage on second-level blocker Rodney Hudson (61), rocking Hudson back to create a path to the back. When Jacobs goes outside, Trent Brown's man Henry Anderson can't be held any longer so he helps with the finish.

Our last two plays come on third- and fourth-and-2 down 20-3, essentially ending the game. Kyle Phillips (98) skirts past Brown (77) on the third play, forcing Jacobs to cut outside. Copeland off the edge beats the two tight ends inside and stuffs Jacobs.

Finally, Alec Ingold (45) gets his chance with Folorunso Fatukasi (94) shooting past Richie Incognito (66) on the line of scrimmage. Ingold had a defined cutback lane, but ran into the problem where he is a fullback. He pressed outside, was cleaned up by defensive backs, and the Oakland threat was over.

The Jets came into the game as DVOA's No. 2 rushing defense, behind only Tampa Bay. They had stuffed more plays than any other unit, and while I wouldn't go showering praise on the job the defense as a whole has done, they definitely have a calling card up front. It's impressive that they've managed to be that without a healthy season from C.J. Mosley (or any linebacker, for that matter).

Does that mean they could stop the Baltimore Ravens? Probably not. But we do know that run defense is more predictive of the next year's total defense than pass defense is, so perhaps it can be the first step the Jets can take in rebuilding towards their first good defense since the Rex Ryan era.

Where the Game Swung

Well, it didn't. You see, first it was over. Then it was really over.

The only major swings in this rollercoaster ride are the following:

  • Oakland's missed field goal in the second quarter cost them 8.5% Game-Winning Chance (GWC).
  • Braxton Berrios' 26-yard return plus an unnecessary roughness that set the Jets up at the Oakland 25 cost the Raiders 7.0% GWC.
  • Berrios' 69-yard catch early in the third quarter gained 9.2% GWC and set the Jets up with a first-and-goal from the 1 that they soon converted.

Other than that, GWC sees a game with little difference from down-to-down. It was, instead, a tidal wave that swiftly overwhelmed the Raiders. Thanks as always to Business Daddy EdjSports for their beautiful metric.

By the (D)VOA

We just ran a list in last week's DVOA ratings commentary of the worst games of the 2019 season. Well get ready folks, because your Oakland Raiders have shattered that bar. These numbers have changed from last week based on changes in opponent adjustments, and are based on opponent adjustments before Monday Night Football.

1. OAK, Week 12, 34-3 to NYJ (-123.8%)
2. CAR, Week 11, 29-3 to ATL (-110.7%)
3. WAS, Week 11, 34-17 to NYJ (-107.1%)
4. WAS, Week 4, 24-3 to NYG (-104.9%)
5. HOU, Week 11, 41-7 to BAL (-93.2%)
6. CLE, Week 5, 31-3 to SF (-88.5%)
7. MIA, Week 4, 30-10 to LAC (-87.0%)
8. CIN, Week 4, 27-3 to PIT (-82.8%)
9. DEN, Week 12, 20-3 to BUF (-82.8%)
10. MIA, Week 12, 41-28 to CLE (-82.8%)

This is the new worst game of the 2019 season:

OAK -59.6% 58.4% -5.9% -123.8%
NYJ 31.1% -54.4% 6.7% 92.2%
OAK -63.8% 39.0% -5.9% -108.7%
NYJ 46.2% -43.7% 6.7% 96.5%

This game -- just this game on its own -- was enough to drop the Raiders from 11th to 24th in DVOA. 

Derek Carr and the Power of Protection

Raiders signal-caller Derek Carr is an interesting quarterback to write about because he is extremely similar to Chad Pennington statistically, but comes in almost the exact opposite package as Pennington. Now that I've offended both Raiders and Jets fans with this comparison, let's talk a little bit about it.

Pennington was a high-completion percentage passer for the 2000s NFL. He completed 68.9% of his passes in his first extended action, and had just one season below a 63.6% completion rate where he threw more than 260 passes. Under Gruden, Carr has morphed into almost exclusively a checkdown specialist. Carr threw just four passes further than 15 yards against the Jets and completed none of them. Oakland's average pass goes just 6.9 yards past the line of scrimmage, fourth-lowest in the NFL. So, despite having one of the prettiest deep balls in the NFL, the Raiders don't actually have a receiver that easily creates that sort of separation often or the kind of offensive design that leads to those plays. What they have is the ultimate game manager.

This year, the Raiders have thrived because of better offensive line play. Only Dak Prescott's Cowboys have allowed fewer sacks than Oakland, and it has been a huge decrease from last year's 51-sack debacle. Carr has used that time not to work deeper balls, but to become hyper-efficient at the balls he does throw. When you limit sacks and pressure -- the Raiders went from a 28.3% pressure rate in 2018 to a fourth-place 24.4% through Week 11's games (subscription required) -- you begin to eliminate the negative plays that stall out an offense. Combine that with the consistently positive results of Gruden's passing game and you have a recipe for always going forward. As analytics scholars have noted, if you average 3.9 yards per play, you will never have to punt:

The problem Gruden had solved (well, up until this game) is how they would distract the defense from dialing in on the short passing game. Oakland hadn't run for less than 78 yards in a game all year, and Jacobs has been an instant hit in the backfield.

Alas, when the Raiders haven't been able to run, that has often led to situations where the defense can spend resources hunting at the line of scrimmage. In the games where Oakland finds less than 90 rushing yards, Carr has thrown for 214, 200, and now 140 yards. They did actually win one of those games. (Whatever curses the Chargers is more powerful than anything the Raiders can do.)

The Antonio Brown situation in Oakland is an intriguing what-could-have-been, because on paper that's the exact kind of guy they need to stretch the field. Tyrell Williams is a nice player, but was never going to be a No. 1 wideout. Darren Waller has thrived over the middle. But the offense misses the kind of guy that would unlock that area of the field consistently, and obviously whatever Gruden was trying to do with Amari Cooper wasn't the answer there either.

Derek Carr Under Pressure
Year DVOA Under Pressure DVOA w/o Pressure Difference Rank (out of)
2018 -110.5% 28.7% -173.0% 34 (34)
2017 -78.3% 49.4% -127.7% 26 (35)
2016 -55.5% -45.7% -101.1% 15 (34)

Carr has consistently been one of the worst quarterbacks in the NFL at dealing with pressure, which limits the scope of the passing game even when things are good. (In the one year of his last three when he was merely average dealing with pressure, everyone thought he had taken the leap.) He has also somehow stuffed three careers into six years: a quarterback who had no prayer under Dennis Allen; the MVP candidate of 2016 with Bill Musgrave; and this new form of what he is with Gruden.

Sometimes a team gets lucky enough to build one of those Andy-Dalton-in-2015 boxes around a solid quarterback where it all just works. Obviously there's a lot of regression to fight, but if the Raiders find a star receiver who can unlock the deep game, that just could be them in 2020.


2 comments, Last at 27 Nov 2019, 12:15pm

1 Carr

"Carr threw just four passes further than 15 yards against the Jets and completed none of them". He can't catch the passes as well as throw them - at least two were straightforward drops in space, off the hands, as were many of the shorter ones. It was just a bad game from start to finish, spiralling out of control I do wonder about the drop from 11 to 24 in DVOA though, doesnt such a drop at this stage of the season undermine confidence in the DVOA calculation? How much was due to the 4th quarter when Carr & Jacobs came out, and Glennon proceeded to fumble 4 snaps?

It also doesnt help a poor defense, when they finally get to Darnold and are called for one of the most ridiculous roughing the passer penalties that even the Raiders have received. Landing with the weight on the QB when you didnt even land on the QB!  That took away a 3rd down stop and Darnold scored on the next play.  After that, when the secondary made their inevitable blown coverage it was going to kill the game -  Raiders did have the SS, the only starting CB who's played more than 4 games, and the nickel defender out.... 

2 this was a worst-case scenario for this offense

I went to the game. It rained on and off all afternoon and was maybe 45 degrees; the field seemed to be somewhat soggy. New York had a few explosive plays and a great game plan (and also caught a tipped pass). The refs made a couple of questionable calls, and Oakland still doesn't have a defense that can pull out a win when the offense stalls.