Doug Martin had 116 yards from scrimmage and one touchdown and Dwayne Harris returned a punt 99 yards for a score as the Oakland Raiders beat the Denver Broncos 27-14 on Monday at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum.
Harris' play was one of the more bizarre ones of the entire year, as he picked up the live ball following the Broncos' failed attempt to down it and went to the house:
Rookie wide receiver Courtland Sutton had six catches for 65 yards and one touchdown for Denver, who lost its third straight and fell to 6-9. Oakland is now 4-11.
This contest may have been the Raiders' final game in Oakland, as the team is moving to Las Vegas in 2020 and doesn't have a home for 2019 yet.
Broncos Should Make Lincoln Riley an Offer He Can't Refuse
Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk reported last Thursday that the Broncos were expected to fire head coach Vance Joseph at the end of the season.
If that rumor is true, then the Broncos should do everything they can to convince Oklahoma head coach Lincoln Riley to lead Denver.
Riley is on numerous lists touting hot head coaching candidates for 2019, including ones from Sports Illustrated, ESPN and Bleacher Report. He's gone 24-3 in two seasons at OU and has led the Sooners to back-to-back College Football Playoff appearances.
The quarterbacks under his tutelage as head coach (Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray) both won Heismans, and OU finished third and first in points per game in Division I-FBS in 2017 and 2018, respectively.
Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports reported that the Broncos were interested in pursuing Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh, but the Ravens announced that they are retaining him and working on an extension.
Riley would be a perfect fit for a Broncos team whose offense was largely stagnant this year. In a pass-friendly league, the Broncos' aerial attack ranked just 22nd in efficiency through 15 weeks, per Football Outsiders. They were also just 24th in passing yards per attempt.
Although Riley has no professional coaching experience, he's one of the best offensive minds in football, period. Furthermore, Mark Bullock of the Washington Post wrote in a September 4 piece that numerous teams (including the Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles and offensively dominant Kansas City Chiefs) have adopted college concepts. Riley could help the Broncos adapt to the changing game.
Riley has said he doesn't have the "itch" to make the move to the pros yet. Perhaps he doesn't and stays at OU, but the Broncos should at least make their best pitch to Riley and see what he says.
Broncos Much Closer To Being Postseason Team Than Record Implies
The Broncos looked lifeless in their 27-14 loss, but that one game shouldn't erase what has been a rather unlucky season.
First, Denver is playing short-handed without one of their best offensive players (wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders) and one of their best defensive players (cornerback Chris Harris Jr.). The Broncos also traded starting wideout Demaryius Thomas.
Second, Denver ranked seventh in overall team efficiency leading into Week 16, according to Football Outsiders. The Broncos were ranked ahead of some playoff-bound teams, including the New England Patriots and the Seattle Seahawks.
Third, the Broncos endured a brutal schedule this year. Ten of their 16 games this season are against teams with .500 records or better, with nine coming against teams currently in the playoff picture. They faced the 11-4 Kansas City Chiefs twice and the 12-3 Los Angeles Rams once. By season's end, they'll have two games on their ledger against the 11-4 Los Angeles Chargers as well.
They did well against those teams too, with the Broncos beating the Bolts, dropping a game to the Rams by three and falling to the Chiefs by 11 combined points in two contests.
Fourth, some key pieces for the Broncos are clearly there. Von Miller and Bradley Chubb are a fearsome pass-rushing duo, running back Philip Lindsay is a diamond in the rough and rookie wideouts Courtland Sutton and DaeSean Hamilton have intriguing potential as evidenced by their performances against the Raiders tonight (Hamilton had six catches for 40 yards and a score).
The issue from the personnel side is the quarterback spot, as veteran Case Keenum has struggled with his new team following an excellent 2017 campaign with the Minnesota Vikings.
Keenum has one year left on his deal, but it's hard seeing the 30-year-old being the long-term solution in Denver after a year where he ranked just 30th in adjusted passing yards per attempt among qualified quarterbacks in the league.
The Broncos have struggled finding a replacement for Peyton Manning after the future Hall of Famer retired after the 2015 season, but if the team strikes gold this offseason at the position and finds an innovative, offensive-minded head coach who can jumpstart this team, then the Broncos could be a Super Bowl sleeper pick next year.
Both teams play their final 2018 games Sunday at 4:25 p.m. ET. Oakland will face the Kansas City Chiefs, and Denver will host the Los Angeles Chargers. The Chiefs and Bolts are tied for the AFC West lead at 11-4, with Kansas City holding the tiebreaker edge.