One thing missing in Darren McFadden's career is a big game in the deep south.
The former Southeastern Conference star at Arkansas hopes to rectify that when his Oakand Raiders play the unbeaten Atlanta Falcons on Sunday at the Georgia Dome.
"I love being down south and playing," McFadden said. "I get to see a lot of family and just being in that southern environment, I love it."
McFadden has only one 100-yard game in the south, and that came in a 38-31 loss to Jacksonville in 2010 in which he gained 123 yards on 16 carries and scored two touchdowns.
He has only won once in a southern locale, last season's 25-20 victory over Houston in which McFadden had 51 yards rushing.
The Falcons, given their struggles against the run, could provide some relief to a Raiders running game ranked 32nd and to McFadden, who has just 201 rushing yards on the season.
Atlanta is ranked 27th against the run (142.8 yards per game) and 27th in yards per carry (5.4).
Moreover, the Raiders are convinced their running game was starting to come around against Denver even if that fact was hidden in a 37-6 defeat on Sept. 30.
"We did actually have a more efficient run game, we just didn't have any breakout runs," offensive coordinator Greg Knapp said. "We had more consistency and less negative runs. It was good improvement for us."
Against Denver, the Raiders had 13 runs for positive yardage and only two were losses. However, Oakland finished with just 56 yards on 16 carries (3.5 yards per attempt).
"We see it out there," McFadden said. "Guys keep grinding, like I say. It's one of those things that you have to keep pushing and eventually it's going to start hitting, and it's something we feel like we've been doing lately."
Quarterback Carson Palmer, en route to a 4,000-yard passing season, hopes to be throwing a little less and handing off to McFadden more often.
"I know a lot of people outside this facility are discouraged in our run game," Palmer said. "We're going to continue to work at it. We're not going to stop running the football. If anything, we're going to run the football more."