Oakland Raiders Have Plenty To Be Happy About in Win over Denver Broncos
The Oakland Raiders will lose no more than nine games this season!
They just might win nine and get into the playoffs.
I say just might because the playoffs aren't that likely a destination after wins this week by the Chargers and Chiefs. But the Raiders are already having their best season in seven years.
Just the fact that they're still in the race this late in the season is huge for Raider Nation. The Raider's victory over the Denver Broncos wasn't so smooth at first, but it keeps them in the race.
Turn the page to see how they did it.
Special Teams Bounced Back
After losing last week's game, the special teams was back and better than ever. Kickoff coverage specialist Sam Williams put a hit on a Bronco return man that showed why the Raiders let Isaiah Ekejuba go.
Sebastian Janikowski was perfect in his field goal attempts, with makes from 49, 47 and 35 yards. The muddy field was less than ideal for such a good game kicking the ball, too.
Shane Lechler once again showed that he's the best punter on the planet by killing two inside the 10-yard line. One of those beautiful punts set up a safety by Raider linebacker Quentin Groves.
Nick Miller helped improve the Raider's offensive field position with a 9.3-yard return average. That's more than double what the Raiders averaged returning punts going into Sunday.
Miller's day included a 22-yard punt return that drew an extra 15 yards from a facemask penalty.
Pressure on the Rookie Signal Caller
One look at Tim Tebow Sunday told me that the Raiders have to deal with him for years to come. He flashed early in the game with his 40-yard touchdown run and a 33-yard touchdown pass.
But the Raiders would eventually adjust to the young scrambler, and he was limited in the second half. Much of it was due to the fact the Broncos didn't want to put a whole lot in the youngster's hands.
The Raiders only had two sacks in the game, but Tebow was pressured all day, as well. The Raiders blitzed him early but got there with four for a good portion of the game.
More importantly, the Raiders contained Tebow in the second half.
Matt Shaughnessy All Over Tebow
Of the Raiders' two sacks, defensive right end Matt Shaughnessy had 1.5. He especially made Tebow feel his presence with the many pressures he had, as well.
Shaughnessy also did a good job setting the edge in the running game. It now looks like Shaughnessy is becoming the star that Richard Seymour, among others, said he would be.
Raider Nation is waiting to see his continued progress.
Stopped the Run
If you take away the 40-yard run by quarterback Tim Tebow, the Broncos had only 66 yards on 33 carries. Even with the 40-yard run, the Broncos had 106 yards rushing on the day, with a 3.2 average.
That means that there weren't too many big plays, and the Broncos didn't control the ball much. Therefore, the Raiders were never out of the game and had plenty of opportunities to get the offense going.
The Broncos couldn't get the running game going because the Raider defensive line played in the Bronco backfield. Seymour spearheaded the penetration by the Raider defensive line until straining his hamstring.
But the tone was already set for the defensive line.
That was key because the Raiders usually win when they stop the run.
Valuable Rookie Is Back
A big part of why Bronco running backs did nothing on the ground is the return of Rolando McClain to the Raider lineup. McClain took advantage of double teams to Seymour and fellow defensive tackle Tommy Kelly to run around and make plays.
McClain's totals were seven tackles and one for a loss.
It makes you wonder how the Jaguar game would have gone had he played.
Ran the Ball
The Raiders ran the ball for 264 yards with a 6.4 yard average on Sunday. Center Samson Satele did struggle against Charger nose tackle Jamal Williams, but the offensive line did their job.
Raider left guard Robert Gallery was especially in beast mode all day. The Raider running game led to a advantage in time of possession of 36 minutes for the Raiders to 23 minutes for the Broncos.
Speedy receiver Jacoby Ford chipped into the running game with a 71-yard run on a reverse.
McFadden Doing It Again
Darren McFadden rushed for over 100 yards twice in a row with Sunday's performance. He also went over the 1,000 mark to do away with any thoughts of him being a bust.
McFadden had 119 yards on 20 carries Sunday, showing once again why he was the Raiders first-round pick in 2008. After a fast start, he sustained a stinger in the game, which held his rushing totals down.
However, the tone was already set, and the Raiders were able to throw more in the second half as a result of it. The play-action the Raiders ran off of the run made it much easier for Campbell to find open receivers.
Asomugha Makes Broncos Play One Receiver Short
Kevin Terrell/Getty Images
Brandon Lloyd got going early in the game with a 33-yard touchdown and some other big receptions. Meanwhile, the less-than 100 percent Nnamdi Asomugha shut down the receiver to his side.
Lloyd had four catches for 79 yards on the day and didn't have any in the fourth quarter. You can easily guess who covered Lloyd in the fourth quarter on Sunday.
Tebow wasn't as good with his best receiver taken out of the game.
No quarterback is.
Zach Miller Is Back
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
Zach Miller is now back to his playmaking self after dealing with plantar fasciitis. He had 30-yard touchdown pass unjustly taken away by an illegal formation penalty.
But the replay showed that the formation was legal, with enough men on the line of scrimmage. Miller didn't have a great statistical day, but a big, 27-yard catch and a huge 5-yard catch to convert a fourth down.
Miller's presence alone opened up things for others.
Marcel Reece Comes Up Big
Marcel Reece struck again on Sunday.
He was the big beneficiary of Miller, taking coverage with him on a 73-yard catch and run for a touchdown. Reece showed the ability to use his speed to run after the catch rather than go deep this time.
The play made up for a deep ball that went through his hands earlier in the game. There's no way a defense can defend Reece, McFadden and Miller underneath the fast receivers at the same time.
McFadden struck in Week 14 and Reece struck in Week 15.
Pick your poison.
Don't Forget About Michael Bush
Reece, Ford and McFadden had all of the wow plays with long runs and catch and runs. However, Michael Bush's short runs went just as long a way toward the Raider's victory.
Bush converted short-yardage runs for first downs and had to two short runs for touchdowns. With his seven touchdowns, he is a big reason why the Raiders have improved dramatically in the red zone.
Along with the return of Miller and Chaz Schilens, he should spell the end of the Raider's red-zone issues.
Raiders Now Campbell's Team
Jason Campbell got off to a bad start on Sunday with two first-half interceptions. He deserved only one, but the aforementioned illegal formation penalty put him back on the field after throwing what should have been a touchdown pass to Miller.
But Campbell, knowing the Raiders are now his team, righted his wrongs, leading the Raiders to victory. Campbell finally adjusted to the bad weather and went 5-of-7 for 121 yards and a touchdown in the fourth quarter.
Making a win out of a bad day is what Raider quarterbacks do.
The Oakland Raiders have shown that they are a team on the rise. Their playoff hopes are pretty slim, but there is still much for Raider Nation to celebrate.
The double-digit loss season streak is now over, and this is a very young team. They're two players away from being a Super Bowl contender, at that.
There shouldn't be a blackout for this coming Sunday's game against the Colts. No matter what happens, Raider fans have to be pleased with the direction the team is going in.
But you never know what might happen these last two games.