Oakland Raiders vs. Denver Broncos: Full Report Card Grades for Oakland
The Oakland Raiders shoved the AFC West bully into a cramped locker in front of the world on Sunday.
NFL leagues offices decided to match the Raiders with the defending Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos in a prime-time slot. Some analysts predicted a Raiders’ victory, but most didn’t see the Silver and Black dominating a team that’s won the division five consecutive seasons.
The Broncos field one of the best defenses in the league. Even without cornerback Aqib Talib, Denver limited the San Diego Chargers' top-three scoring offense to 19 points last week.
However, the Raiders accomplished something no other team has done against the Broncos this season: 200-plus rushing yards.
The coaching staff put together a flawless run-oriented game plan which controlled the entire contest from start to finish. Excluding quarterback scrambles, Oakland ran the ball 39 times for 215 yards.
Typically, most analysts attribute the Raiders’ offensive growth to the passing offense. In Week 9, Oakland switched gears and played bully ball en route to victory. The Raiders simply put their offensive line against the Broncos’ defensive line and won most of the battles. The aerial attack became an afterthought.
Oakland never struggled for first downs, notching 30 throughout the contest.
Defensively, the Raiders held the Broncos to fewer than 300 total yards and forced two crucial turnovers in the final quarter. Defensive end Khalil Mack strip-sacked quarterback Trevor Siemian and recovered the fumble. On the final drive, safety Reggie Nelson sealed the victory with an interception.
The Raiders walked off the field as the better team and a legitimate contender in the AFC, and on national television. How did each positional group perform in the Week 9 victory?
Quarterback Derek Carr didn’t drive his team to victory against a tough defense. He finished without a touchdown and threw for 184 yards on Sunday.
Nevertheless, he didn’t hurt his team or attempt to apply immense pressure on himself in a tough matchup. Carr chose his spots to deliver the ball with accuracy.
The Raiders logged 12 passing first downs, which either kept drives alive or milked the clock late in the final quarter. Despite the lack of productivity, Carr maintained his poise and didn’t come out jittery in front of the home crowd.
The running backs deserve a rare A-plus grade due to Latavius Murray's success in repeatedly crushing the defense with his one-cut, downhill power runs.
He lived up to his nickname “Tay Train” when stiff-arming Broncos defenders to the ground throughout the contest. Murray also rammed three carries past the goal line from one yard out.
Undrafted rookie Jalen Richard added eight rush attempts for 62 yards to the flawless ground attack. He contributed as a solid complement to Murray. The Raiders put the Broncos’ porous run defense on full display under the bright lights.
Wide Receiver and Tight End
Despite Talib’s absence, the Broncos didn’t allow the Raiders receivers to do too much additional damage.
Wideout Michael Crabtree didn’t record his first reception until the first drive in the fourth quarter. Only Amari Cooper caught more than three passes among Carr’s receiving options. Four of his six catches led to first downs.
For the most part, the receivers made timely catches in spots but lacked consistency. The Raiders didn’t generate a lot of production from the passing game, but it’s partially due to the success on the ground.
The running backs only tell half the story about the Raiders’ dominance. Denver sacked Carr twice, but the offensive line didn’t allow Broncos edge-rusher Von Miller to disrupt Carr’s rhythm or confine the ground attack.
In most cases, Murray followed offensive guard Kelechi Osemele for huge gains. The Raiders’ pricey offseason signing proved why he’s worth every dollar earned on his new deal.
Aside from a few substitutions at right tackle, Oakland remained steady up front and kept the opposition on their heels.
The Raiders allowed the fewest rushing yards in a single game this season. As a run-oriented team, Denver finished with an embarrassing 33 total rushing yards. Broncos rookie running back Devontae Booker never gained traction on the ground. He handled 10 rush attempts for 22 yards.
Rookie defensive lineman Darius Latham deserves recognition for engulfing the run in an increased role as Stacy McGee’s replacement.
Mack continued his midseason surge as a disruptive component up front, forcing the aforementioned critical turnover in the fourth quarter. Overall, he logged two sacks against the Broncos and has six in the last four games.
The defensive line made the linebackers’ jobs a little easier due to Booker's inability to reach the second level of the front seven. The linebackers don’t take home a lot of glory, but Malcolm Smith led the team with eight tackles without whiffing on critical stops.
Perry Riley, who wears the green dot on his helmet, has cemented the communication between the secondary and front seven. NBC broadcaster Cris Collinsworth talked about head coach Jack Del Rio's confidence in the veteran linebacker as the quarterback of the defense.
Aside from Broncos running back Kapri Bibbs’ 69-yard touchdown reception against a soft prevent defense, Siemian didn’t scorch the Raiders with several big plays. Still, the Broncos fooled the Raiders defensive backs on a play-action pass for a 36-yard touchdown.
None of the Broncos wideouts eclipsed 60 receiving yards. Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders combined for 10 catches and 103 yards. Neither made it to the end zone or opened space for their rushing offense. T.J. Carrie and D.J. Hayden played well in Sean Smith’s absence.
The Raiders won by 10 points, which makes kicker Sebastian Janikowski’s 48-yard miss a forgivable fault. He also converted on three kicks between 24 and 35 yards.
However, as the season progresses into late November and early December, blustery winds could become a factor. Janikowski’s struggles from the 45-50-yard range may encourage Del Rio to take more chances on fourth downs near midfield.
The ever-dancing and joyful punter Marquette King pinned the Broncos offense inside the 20-yard line twice. The punter's booming kicks further complicated Denver's ability to move downfield. King should make the Pro Bowl as a talented punter and top-notch entertainer.
The coaching staff put together a flawless offensive game plan that gashed the Broncos' front seven with ease. At some points, Denver anticipated the run but couldn’t stop the play. Offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave’s unit became the first to score 30 points on the Broncos defense.
Defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr.’s group continues to show improvement. The Raiders allowed fewer than 300 total yards and forced two more turnovers. Without McGee on the defensive line, Oakland didn’t allow Booker to run wild in between the tackles.
Maybe Del Rio spoke sternly to his team about penalties after racking up 23 in Week 8. The Raiders dropped to eight infractions in a relatively clean game against a well-coached, playoff-caliber opponent.
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