Christmas Came Early: Raiders Run Wild on Broncos in Upset Win at Denver

Bleacher ReportSenior Analyst IDecember 20, 2009

DENVER - DECEMBER 20:  Michael Bush #29 of the Oakland Raiders carries the ball into the endzone for a touchdown against the Denver Broncos at Invesco Field at Mile High on December 20, 2009 in Denver, Colorado.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
Jeff Gross/Getty Images

Okay... what just happened?

The Raiders have once again shown an uncanny ability against play-off caliber teams with a 20-19 upset of the Denver Broncos, while laying eggs against losing teams like the Washington Redskins.

More importantly, the Raiders have pulled off many upsets in Denver since 2001, despite the overall season record.  Anytime the Raiders beat the Broncos though, especially at Denver, I'm happy with the season. 

This win also served as nice payback for the rout by the Broncos in Oakland earlier this season.

Next week, the Raiders face the Browns at Cleveland, where the Browns have made explosive plays in recent weeks with returner Joshua Cribbs and running-back Jerome Harrison.

Between four runners, the Raiders piled-up 241 running-yards and a touchdown by Michael Bush against the revamped Broncos defense.  The Raiders would also hold the potent Denver pass-rush to only one sack that came late in the game.

Bush finished the day with a 7.4 average on 18 carries with 133 running yards, a touchdown, a catch for a key first-down, and a long of 40 yards. 

Darren McFadden finished the day with a 6.1 average per carry, 74 yards on 12 carries, and a long of 28 yards. 

Even Charlie Frye would have a big run of 26 yards that symbolized a change in momentum for the Raiders after Frye had thrown an early interception.

The Raider defense allowed two early field-goals by the Broncos, but then shut-out the offense of star rookie runner Knowshon Moreno, while Kyle Orton would later string together key plays in the second half. 

The Raider offense took the opportunity to take a 13-6 lead at the half.

Many Raider defenders would make key plays with safety Tyvon Branch as the lead tackler, Michael Huff with a critical play near the end of the game, and defensive-end Greg Ellis providing three tackles, two sacks, and a critical forced fumble that put Denver in quicksand before the final play of the game. 

Important of note is that two rookie defenders, Matt Shaughnessy and Mike Mitchell, would have a good share of critical plays. 

I note that, because Shaughnessy and Mitchell were viewed as reach-picks in the 2009 NFL Draft, but appear to be revelations for the Raiders to build with.  Mitchell was invisible statistically, but applied critical pressure on the offense.

The Broncos would respond in the second half with a field goal to start the half, and would score a touchdown after a fumble recovery a few drives later.

The Raider defense would come down with a key goal-line stand after a 63-yard play by receiver Brandon Stokley that put Denver within five yards of the end-zone, which was fitting after the Denver defense had stopped the Raiders on downs within five yards of the goal-line a few drives earlier.

Even when starting Raiders quarterback Charlie Frye left with a concussion, the Raiders were resilient with the much maligned JaMarcus Russell back in action for the Raiders, whom would lead the winning-drive for a final score of 20-19.

After being sacked six times in Oakland by the 'Skins, Russell responded with a long nail-biting drive that was capped off with a touchdown pass to Chaz Schilens. During that drive, tight-end Tony Stewart emerged with three critical catches to keep the drive alive.

Of course, Denver is the site of Russell's two most brilliant wins, of his few wins as starter, when Russell and the Raiders upset the Broncos at Denver in 2008.

The future for Russell in Oakland still seems uncertain, nevertheless, this could be a valuable moment for the Raiders and Russell, as this performance could either enhance Russell's chance of future success with the Raiders...or his trade value.

The Panthers, Bills, Rams, Seahawks and possibly others could be interested in a trade for Russell at the right price.  I would say that if Russell is unwilling to restructure his contract that the Raiders should trade him, or keep him with a better contract.

I think that the big picture of Russell's success today is that the Raiders can contend when they have a quarterback who's in it to win it.  Russell seems to be seeing the light on this issue, but since other quarterbacks have performed highly for the Raiders, it would suggest that the Raiders should restructure Russell's hefty contract or trade him.