Film session: Changes work for Raiders' Palmer vs. Steelers
If it seemed like Carson Palmer knew exactly what the Steelers were going to do during the Oakland Raiders' 34-31 win Sunday, he most likely did — and the film showed just that.
Palmer audibled, or made an adjustment, at the line of scrimmage 11 times out of 57 offensive plays the Raiders ran, including nine in the decisive second half.
It shouldn't be much of a surprise that Palmer was so successful making adjustments at the line of scrimmage against the Steelers.
Palmer played against a Dick LeBeau-led Steelers' defense 13 times while in Cincinnati, and surely recognized tendencies throughout the game that the former overall No. 1 pick used to his advantage.
Depending on the front, a coverage or a pressure, Palmer would get a read of the defense (sometimes with a hard cadence) and adjust the play accordingly.
The most notable audible came on Darren McFadden's 64-yard touchdown run in the first quarter. Palmer used a hard count that made Chris Carter, Lawrence Timmons and Brett Keisel show what defense they were in.
Palmer backed away and called a run for McFadden that went for the Raiders' first score.
Palmer would audible only one other time in the first half, but the second half was a different story. He checked into passes five times that went for 56 yards and four runs that gained 29 yards.
All together, Palmer's checks accounted for 147 of the Raiders' 321 yards.
• Credit has to go to the Raiders for coming up with a unique way of drawing Keisel offsides late in the first half on a fourth-and-2 at the Steelers' 6. It gave the Raiders a new set of downs that led to Darrius Heyward-Bey's TD. A hard cadence by Palmer properly timed with horizontal shifts by tight end Richard Gordon on the line of scrimmage and fullback Marcel Reece in the backfield confused Keisel enough for him to jump into the neutral zone and point out what he thought was a false start. Once guard Cooper Carlisle reacted to Keisel's movement, the penalty was correctly called.
• Right tackle Willie Smith's cut block that injured Ziggy Hood late in the game appeared to be an illegal chop block, but it wasn't. The rule states that a defensive lineman can be cut if engaged by another player as long as the cut doesn't come from more than one position away. Hood was engaged by right guard Mike Brisiel at the time, making Smith's cut legal.
• The running game may not have been working, but that didn't stop the Steelers from using play-action fakes. They came into the game 30th in the league in rushing and had only two carries for 10 yards when three play-action passes in a span of six plays led to receptions of 11 and 14 yards, along with a 4-yard touchdown pass to Heath Miller.
• Offensive coordinator Todd Haley went to the wide receiver screen/smoke routes often to compensate for their lack of success running the ball. Ben Roethlisberger completed seven passes to receivers on the outside that went for 55 yards and a touchdown.
• The Steelers have had their trouble with zone blocking, especially giving up the long play to teams that employ that scheme. It happened last year against the Baltimore Ravens and Houston Texans and again Sunday against the Raiders when McFadden ran virtually untouched 64 yards for a touchdown out of a zone-blocking scheme. After that, the Steelers did well against it. The Raiders used that blocking technique eight more times for only 16 yards.
• Steve McLendon played just three snaps Sunday. Others notable snap counts: Cortez Allen (30), Cameron Heyward (five), Jonathan Dwyer (eight) and Chris Rainey (nine).