After watching the first half of a football game with Latavius Murray in, you’re certain the Raiders and Murray will win.
Once the second half is underway, and the run game has quickly become anemic, answers don’t show up right away. But the numbers tell a unique tale with Murray, figures that look real bad through his best season yet.
The quarterly breakdown for Murray: 1st quarter 76 attempts, 333 yards, 4.4 yards per carry; 2nd quarter 74 attempts, 313 yards, 4.3 yards per carry; 3rd quarter 77 attempts, 324 yards, 4.2 yards per carry; 4th quarter 37 attempts, 83 yards, 2.2 yards per carry.
There’s something to mention before delving further. Murray has the best receiving numbers in the fourth quarter, 15 grabs for 80 yards and 12 yards being the largest gain. That shows some consistency.
But in the run game, where the sample drops sharply in the fourth quarter, doesn’t really add to the confidence the Raiders had a year ago that Murray could be a feature back.
On more than one occasion I chided the Raiders staff on Twitter from above the sidelines in the press box for not running enough late in the game.
I found it odd.
More often than not, I would watch the first two quarters and think that all they’d need to do was run the ball to, at very least, stay in a game.
I would look at the final box, and see that Murray didn’t do much at all on the ground later in the day. I couldn’t understand it, the defenses usually hadn’t changed, though the Raiders would cut back on the ground and pound.
So I ask myself two important questions: Is Murray’s body getting too banged up, the massive six-foot-three target for defenders to bang on for 30 minutes every Sunday, to keep the early pace?
Is he wearing down faster than a smaller back would, and losing his ability to cut? Maybe both?
Or is it as simple as the sample being so small that he was unable to break away on a big run, thusly closing in on his numbers from earlier in the game?
Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio never gave a clear answer. Murray didn’t give much more than the super-general, and never came close to answering directly when asked.
That’s not taking a shot at him — he didn’t really say much when asked about being the AFC rushing champion, either.
I don’t have an answer to give. I’ve analyzed it, looked at film closely, and can’t figure it out. But it’s something that the Raiders are certainly thinking about as the offseason progresses, and as they evaluate their current roster.
Jason Leskiw is SFBay’s Oakland Raiders beat writer and member of the Professional Football Writers of America. Follow @SFBay and @LeskiwSFBay on Twitter and at SFBay.ca for full coverage of the Oakland Raiders.