The Oakland Raiders defense has done a 180-degree turn from the 2012 version that was gashed by big play after big play.
A year ago, the Raiders defense ranked 28th overall, allowing 354.5 yards per game, and they were particularly porous against the run. Oakland surrendered 118.6 yards per game on the ground in 2012 and surrendered 13 runs of 20 or more yards.
This year, the Raiders are the only team in the NFL that hasn’t given up a run of at least 20 yards and rank sixth in the league against the run, surrendering only 89.9 yards a game.
That mark will get a stiff challenge on Sunday when the Philadelphia Eagles come to the O.co Coliseum. Eagles running back LeSean McCoy leads the NFL with 733 yards rushing and is picking up 4.7 yards a carry.
New Philadelphia coach Chip Kelly brought his fast-paced offense from the University of Oregon to the City of Brotherly Love and while there have been struggles, the Eagles have ripped off eight runs of at least 20 yards—three of them by McCoy.
“He does a great job with his patience in running the football and being able to pick his spots and pick the soft spots in the defense and get up inside or use his speed to get around the edge,” Raiders coach Dennis Allen told the San Francisco Chronicle.
McCoy is elusive, having danced his way to 29 missed tackles this season, according to Pro Football Focus (premium subscription required). The Raiders, meanwhile, have missed 63 tackles—25th in the league.
This is an important game for the Raiders, who can close the first half of their schedule at .500 with a win Sunday afternoon. While the AFC West is probably out of reach with the Kansas City Chiefs already at 8-0 and the Denver Broncos sitting this week with a 7-1 mark, the San Diego Chargers are currently second in the wild-card hunt at 4-3, just a game better than Oakland.