ALAMEDA, Calif — At the time that teams typically make their move to take control of games, the Raiders have been at their worst this season. Until they can figure out how to better command the second half, specifically the third quarter, they will struggle to win games.
Help could be on the way, though, as wide receiver Hunter Renfrow is on target to play on Sunday against the Los Angeles Chargers after missing the last three games with a rib injury. Renfrow at least adds an element of dependability, a commodity that has been hard to come by for a Raiders team struggling to create second-half consistency.
The rookie out of Clemson had developed into a reliable target for Raiders quarterback Derek Carr over the first 11 games with 36 catches for 396 yards. He was especially important on third downs, a situation that the Raiders are having a hard time converting in the third and fourth quarters recently.
Of Renfrow’s 36 catches, 16 came on third downs resulting in 13.5 yards per catch and 13 first downs. His production on money downs should help, Carr said.
“If we want to throw it to him, he does a great job winning,” Carr said of Renfrow. “But we also know teams know that. You can use him whether you want to throw it to him or use him as a diversion. … Just having that element back, just adds, again, to your offense.”
Theoretically, that could help the Raiders get things squared away in the second half. The numbers recently have been staggeringly bad. Through 13 games the Raiders have been outscored 101-20 in the third quarter, including 34-0 over their recent four-game losing streak. The third quarter swoons have led to an almost Jekyll and Hyde-like turnaround from the first half to the second half.
The Raiders have gained 716 yards in first halves compared to 565 in the second. The 5.97 yards per play they average through the first two quarters drops to 4.71 yards per play in the second. That includes a dip from 4.51 yards per run play to 3.04.
It is most blatant on third down, where the Raiders have converted 14 of 25 third downs in the first half over the last four games compared to just 4 of 24 in the second.
The Raiders have offered a host of explanations for what is going wrong in the second half , especially in the last four games. After Sunday’s 20-16 loss to Jacksonville, Jon Gruden pointed out that the Raiders had only three possessions in the second half.
Fair enough. Fewer chances leads to fewer points.
But that doesn’t explain how the Raiders can have the same 120 offensive plays over the first half and second halves over the last four games but wind up with such drastically different results.
“A lot of it is probably my fault, I’m sure,” Gruden said. “We got to pick up our execution.”
Through 13 first halves this year, Carr has a 106.3 passer rating with 13 touchdown passes compared to three interceptions. He dips to a 91.2 passer rating with six touchdowns and five interceptions in the second half.
The Raiders are averaging 6.7 yards per play on first downs in the first half, including 5.3 yards on run plays. That drops to 5.51 on first-down plays in the second half and 4.21 on run plays. The impact that lack of success has on first downs limits Gruden’s options on second and third downs.
“We’ve taken a long look at it,” Gruden said. “A lot of it is us and some of it is good defense. But a lot of it is situational. When we’re in obvious passing situations, it’s hard to convert. So it’s a combination of a lot of things and it falls back on me.”
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