Raiders offense vastly improved this season

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ALAMEDA, CALIF. (AP) - The Oakland Raiders have spent years acquiring speedy players they hoped could deliver touchdowns from almost any spot on the field.

Those speedsters finally delivered the game-breaking plays this season that have been lacking so much the past few years as Oakland finished up a seven-year run of losing at least 11 games a season.

Darren McFadden has developed into the big-play back Oakland expected when they selected him fourth overall in the 2008 draft, putting together one of the most productive seasons ever for a Raiders running back.

Rookie Jacoby Ford has flashed his sprinter speed on three kickoff returns for touchdowns, long passes and a 71-yard score on a reverse on the opening play two years ago.

Receiver Louis Murphy has three plays of at least 40 yards, and even fullback Marcel Reece has gotten into the mix with a couple of big plays from a position that usually focuses on blocking.

That has all added up an extremely productive offensive season for the Raiders (7-8), who despite the marked improvement will still miss the playoffs for an eighth straight year.

“We showed how strong we can be, how many points we can put up and how explosive we can be,” said tight end Zach Miller, who leads the team with 55 catches for 654 yards and five scores. “We didn’t do it consistently enough, but I thought when we did we had the capability of putting a lot of points on the board.”

The Raiders are seventh in the league in scoring with 379 points and need just 15 in the season finale at Kansas City on Sunday to double last year’s scoring output. They are on pace to finish in the top 10 on the franchise list in points and yards per game since the 1970 merger.

Oakland has scored more than 20 points 10 times already this season compared to just once a year ago when JaMarcus Russell spent the majority of the season as the starting quarterback.

“We’ve made leaps and bounds with this offense,” Murphy said. “We put up some big numbers, 500-plus yard games. We just weren’t able to come out with enough wins, which is the most important part. I think we can get much better with the guys we have on this team.”

While there is plenty to praise with Oakland’s offense this season, there is one involved party who is not exactly patting people on the back.

Offensive coordinator Hue Jackson was brought in during the offseason to take over play-calling duties from coach Tom Cable and immediately instilled the unit with energy and creativity that had been lacking. But he still sees so much more improvement needed.

“We didn’t improve fast enough,” Jackson said. “We want perfection. That’s what I expect from our football team. We expect to be challenging for the playoffs, challenging for our division year in and year out and we’re not getting that done. So to me, that’s a disappointment. There’s either first place or there’s last place and there’s no in between.”

Jackson points to a lack of consistency and potential big plays that were not executed as the biggest flaws on the unit. The Raiders failed to score a touchdown in a loss at San Francisco, sputtered against Pittsburgh and Miami, and had problems in the red zone for much of the season.

The Raiders have committed a league-worst 64 penalties on offense, including 28 false start penalties that too often led to stalled drives.

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