6 Things We Learned About Oakland Raiders in 38-24 Loss to Denver Broncos
This was going to be one nasty article after a frustrating, 38-24 loss to the division-rival Denver Broncos. Looking at it the way I was when the game first ended, I said to myself, "The Raiders just got beat by a college football team with a good college quarterback and good college running back! McGahee is a bum now so what's he doing looking like Earl Campbell against us when the Raiders stopped Arian Foster?"
Then after thinking about it before writing this article, I decided that there's still no real reason to panic now. As horribly as this game ended for the Raiders, there are some positive things the Raiders can take away from it.
Turn the page to see the good and bad the Raiders can take away from this game.
I am a huge fan of Raiders head coach Hue Jackson but I had to wonder what he was thinking today. I'm not going to blame the game plan for Tebow or the penalties on him because the players didn't execute it and the players on the team know the rules.
Penalties didn't lose the game anyway because they had one more yard worth in penalties in their Week 1 win in Denver. What I'm questioning Jackson for is his non-use of Raiders receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey and getting away from a running game that's working.
Heyward-Bey has been the most consistent Raiders receiver all year and he was only targeted once. He was more in sync with quarterback Carson Palmer two weeks ago than Denarius Moore was today.
I never thought I would say this about Heyward-Bey but Jackson needs to use him more. Many think Jackson sacrificed the future for now with the recent trade he made but I think he sacrificed now for the future with the way he called plays today.
I know Darren McFadden wasn't available but Michael Bush had 96 yards on only 19 carries. He had 73 yards in the first half and it's no accident that the Raiders were up 17-7 at halftime.
Watching this game was like watching a Pop Warner game where the quarterback is the coach's son. Jackson seemed so determined to get Palmer going, he forgot he had a game to win today.
Up 17-7 at halftime behind the running game, Jackson should have stayed with it.
The Raiders threw the ball 35 times and ran it 26 times today and it should have been the opposite.
At times, the Raiders have lived by special teams and died by special teams. Today, it was death by special teams for the second time this season, when the Raiders gave up a punt-return for a touchdown.
It's not just the second time this season, it's the second time against the Broncos. It looks to me like the main issue today was tackling. Rookie Taiwan Jones had a chance to make the tackle on Broncos punt returner Eddie Royal for a minimal gain.
Royal broke Jones' tackle and raced 85-yards for a touchdown.
I have to question Jones being the fastest Raider as he lost the foot-race to Royal after missing the tackle. I'm not putting the return all on Jones because some guys did relax and get out of their lanes.
The Raiders have to clean up their punt coverage now in order to get anywhere this year.
Defense Not the Same Without McClain
Wow—the Raiders served up 298 yards rushing to the Broncos today after allowing just 38 yards rushing the first time they met in Week 1. The Broncos were much different this time and the Raiders didn't appear to be ready for it.
The first time the two teams played, the Broncos had Kyle Orton at quarterback, and tried to line up in the I-formation and power-run on the Raiders. That hasn't worked on the Raiders all year as when the Raiders have given up big rushing totals, it has been against the spread.
The Broncos gave the Raiders a dose of the spread option and the defense appeared to be lost. Another thing that made it difficult for the Raiders to play against the run was middle linebacker Rolando McClain being out with an ankle injury
Not only is McClain the guy for the Raiders, but he played against Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow in college just three years ago. I believe he would have had the defense in place and definitely would have hit the gap the Willis McGahee ran through on his 60-yard touchdown run.
McClain's presence was missed in more way than one today.
Offense Not the Same Without McFadden
Bush did a good job in McFadden's stead today, but the offense isn't the same without McFadden. The reason why the Raiders win with McFadden is because he makes those big plays to make up for the Raiders ineptitude on third down.
He gets a lot of 10 and 20-yard runs to move the chains as well as 70-yard runs for touchdowns. This is what makes opposing defenses commit that eighth-man in the box because they know McFadden will beat them.
With Bush, it's three and four-yard runs with a 10-20 every once in a while. With that, the opposing team's plan is to make the Raiders nickel and dime their way down the field because they're going to make a stop on third down at some point.
With McFadden in the game, Raiders receivers will see more eight-man fronts with man coverage on the outside.
That gives Palmer opportunities to win games.
Raiders Have Their Quarterback
The Raiders now have their franchise quarterback in Palmer.
Sure, he threw three interceptions but we have to remember this is a guy that hasn't quite caught up with the NFL yet. But we did see some flashes of what he brings—a live arm that can put a ball in spots most quarterbacks can't.
Palmer just wasn't consistent and shouldn't have been depended on to do so much today. Outside of the three interceptions he threw, Palmer was 19-35 for 332 yards and three touchdowns.
I actually expected more from Palmer on Thursday in his third game against the San Diego Chargers from the beginning. I just thought that he would win right away with the running game that had the Raiders 4-2 before Palmer arrived.
Again, I must say that the Raiders could have won this game if they didn't try to make Palmer win the game.
He just wasn't ready to do that yet.
I look forward to seeing where he is on Thursday.
Still Tied for First
While the Raiders collapsed in the second half, the Chargers lost to the Packers, and the Chiefs lost to the Miami Dolphins. That puts all three teams at 4-4 and in a tie for first place in the division. As I mentioned in the previous slide, there's a showdown coming on Thursday to help break that tie.
The remaining schedule favors the Raiders, so they can take a big step toward gaining control of the AFC West with a win on Thursday. As much as I hated today's loss, they have just as much of a chance to win the AFC West as they did before the game.
All today's loss did was make Thursday's game even bigger.
Do not prejudge the move for Palmer.
He's played in a game and a half with a new team and he's starting to show us what's to come. The Raiders shouldn't even look at the film from this game because they are done with college quarterbacks this year and they have very little time to get ready for the Chargers.
While the game is for first place in the AFC West, the Raiders will have a sharpened Palmer and should have McFadden and McClain back. The Chargers will play traditional NFL football and I like our defense against a traditional offense much better.
Thursday is the day as the Raiders get yet another opportunity to play for first place in the AFC West.