Oakland Raiders vs. Denver Broncos: Denver Grades, Notes and Quotes
Brock Osweiler was under pressure all afternoon as the Denver Broncos (10-3) dropped a home game to the Oakland Raiders (6-7), losing 15-12. The Broncos failed to score a touchdown in the game and looked inept offensively.
The Raiders had five sacks of Osweiler, all by Khalil Mack, and the Broncos lost to the Raiders for the first time in over four years.
Denver took a 12-0 lead into the locker room at halftime, but the offense couldn't get anything going in the second half. However, the story of the game was Denver's offensive line, which was completely dominated.
The Broncos will have to lick their wounds quickly, as they have a tough road test next Sunday against the Pittsburgh Steelers. The loss was almost a serious blow to Denver's bid to get home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.
Here, we will take a closer look at this game, including handing out grades for each positional unit for the Broncos.
Osweiler did not play a great game, but the fault shouldn't be placed on him. He was under pressure seemingly every time he dropped back to pass, and he also had receivers drop some passes that should have been caught. It was troubling to see Osweiler—a 6'8" quarterback—have so many passes knocked down at the line of scrimmage.
Running Back: D
C.J. Anderson never played in this game, and his absence was felt. Ronnie Hillman and Juwan Thompson were left to shoulder the load, and that didn't work out too well. Hillman carried the ball 12 times for 20 yards while Thompson had just eight yards on five carries.
Wide Receiver: B-
Though Demaryius Thomas had a team-high 10 catches, he had another critical drop late in the game that forced Denver to punt the ball away. A catch would have resulted in a first down. Osweiler completed just four other passes to the wide receiver position.
Tight Ends: B
Like Thomas, Vernon Davis put together a solid performance, catching seven passes for 74 yards. However, it was the play he didn't make that stuck out the most. With Denver down just a field goal, Osweiler faced a critical 4th-and-12. He found a wide-open Davis over the middle, but the pass was dropped. Oakland took over on downs and ran out the clock.
Offensive Line: F
This unit was simply horrendous in this game. They weren't able to open holes in the running game, nor were they able to keep Oakland defenders away from their quarterback. The Denver offensive line has been the weakness of this team all season, and it stuck out like a sore thumb on Sunday.
Defensive Line: B
Denver's defense played a solid game, starting with the defensive line. Derek Wolfe had a sack and a tackle for a loss. He defended well against the run. Malik Jackson knocked down two passes.
Von Miller was able to collect another sack, as was Shaquil Barrett. Starting in place of Danny Trevathan, Todd Davis had four tackles.
Derek Carr was held to seven yards passing in the first half, but he finished the game with 135. Denver had some trouble keeping up with Oakland's tight ends, as Mychal Rivera and Clive Walford combined for six catches, 96 yards and the game-winning touchdown. On that play, Denver bit hard on a fake bubble screen to Amari Cooper and Carr found Rivera wide open in the end zone.
Special Teams: C
Denver lost this game because the offensive line was so bad, but a couple of gaffes on special teams didn't help. Sanders muffed a punt deep in Denver territory that Oakland was able to recover to set up the winning score. Sanders is supposed to be the team's sure-handed return man, by the way.
Following that, Brandon McManus missed a field goal from 49 yards that would have tied the game. The kick banged off the left upright, ending Denver's last good chance to tie or take the lead.
Gary Kubiak and his staff deserve plenty of blame for this loss. They were dealing with injuries, but they didn't seem to have the team prepared to deal with those players who were missing.
Why wasn't Michael Schofield given some help in protection? Mack was blowing right by him, and no one ever shifted over to give him a hand.
Important Note No. 1: Did Denver Squander a Playoff Bye?
The Broncos had a prime opportunity to move up in the AFC playoff race after the Cincinnati Bengals were defeated by the Pittsburgh Steelers earlier on Sunday. The loss to Oakland negated that chance.
Though the New England Patriots have yet to complete their Week 14 contest, they temporarily move back up into the top spot. The loss to Oakland could also squander the win the team got over the Patriots two weeks ago.
Denver had a very good chance to be the top seed in the AFC, but with tough games coming up against Pittsburgh and Cincinnati, it will need much better performances than the one it put forth on Sunday. If not, it may not even have a first-round bye at season's end.
Denver's Win Streak vs. Oakland Snapped
Coming into Week 14, the Broncos had won the last eight games against Oakland, including a 16-10 victory back in Week 5.
The last time Oakland defeated Denver was on September 12, 2011, a 23-20 win in the season opener that year.
Denver will need to figure out what happened in this game and make some big adjustments. Though the Raiders are a team that has greatly improved, this loss seemed to undermine what the team has done in the last few weeks since Osweiler became the quarterback.
When Will Peyton Manning Be Back?
You hear often that the NFL is a week-to-week league. Though Osweiler has performed well in Peyton Manning's absence, it won't take long before questions are being asked throughout the media concerning the legendary quarterback's status.
When will Manning come back? How much longer can you hold him out? These are questions Kubiak is sure to field in the coming weeks, and though there is no reason to pull Osweiler at this point, difficult decisions are on the horizon.
Denver's performance against the Raiders is only going to make those talks heat up.
Quote No. 1: Gary Kubiak Assesses Team's Performance
Following his team's defeat, Kubiak addressed the media, via the team's official website. To begin his postgame press conference, Kubiak assessed the overall performance of his team.
We were really poor in the red zone. I think we had 225 yards at halftime; I think they had negative yardage, and you're up 12-0. We had a chance to really do some damage in the first half, didn't do it, and then helped them in the second half with two turnovers, I think four or five drops. We lost the line of scrimmage offensively in my opinion. We played great defense, just never finished the football game offensively or put ourselves in position to finish it.
Kubiak was then asked about the team's inability to run the ball and how that disrupted Osweiler, and he reiterated that his team lost the battle up front.
I thought Brock in the first half handled himself really good. We lost the line of scrimmage. I gotta go back and look at it, but there is no doubt we got pushed around. We did not run the ball well at all. They were in our backfield. I think we had 16 carries for 24 yards in the first half. We came out in the third quarter; I think we had four three-and-outs. We dropped a few balls, turned the ball over and just added to the struggling at the line of scrimmage. We had many chances to get it done...didn't get it done.
Quote No. 2: Brock Osweiler Takes Responsibility for Offensive Struggles
The Broncos failed to score a touchdown on Sunday, instead kicking four field goals. Following the game, Osweiler took responsibility for the offensive failures while he addressed the media, via the team's official website.
I believe each red-zone appearance, we were seeing different things. We were seeing different coverages; we were seeing different fronts. So I don't think any of it bleeds together. The biggest thing is, and it all starts and it stops with me. I have to find a way to get our offense into the end zone and scoring touchdowns. When a defense holds a team to 15 points, I believe you should win the football game and it's your job as an offense and as a quarterback, and I'll take full responsibility for it, but it's your job to score touchdowns and not kick field goals in the red area.
Osweiler was let down by some of his teammates on passes that should have been caught and by an offensive line that was highly ineffective, but he continues to show great leadership in his interviews.
Kubiak will need to work on finding ways to put more points on the board, as Denver has scored a total of 29 points in the last two games.
Quote No. 3: Demaryius Thomas
After the game, Demaryius Thomas spoke briefly with reporters in the locker room, courtesy of 9 News. He was first asked about his dropped passes in the game.
"It was the last one I tried to catch; I tried to catch it to my body, but that's no excuse. I should have made that play. That's the only one I know about," he said.
Thomas is likely referring to a pass in the fourth quarter with just over seven minutes to play. Denver faced a 3rd-and-4 from its own 20-yard line. Osweiler found Thomas for what would have been a first down, but he dropped it.
Thomas was then asked if he believes the offensive play-calling has been too conservative since Osweiler became the starting quarterback.
"I really don't know. I really can't say what it is. He's capable of doing everything, but I really don't know what it is."
Thomas is probably not the best person to answer this question since he continues to drop passes in critical moments. Though he has had a great career for the Broncos, fans have to be tiring of his questionable hands.