After eking out an overtime win in Tampa Bay, I wasn’t sure what to expect when the Oakland Raiders squared off against divisional rivals, the Denver Broncos, in Oakland, in their first home Sunday Night Football game. If I had any concerns, they were unfounded, as the Raiders took control of the game from beginning to end, with a 30-20 victory, and for now, sole possession of 1st place in the AFC West.
It was a reverse of the loss to the Kansas City Chiefs our previous home game, we out coached and out played Denver, plain and simple.
What I find amusing is that the Mile High Report was tweeting complaining about officiating. Like Denver didn’t get away with any holds while Trevor Siemian was in the end zone ? They never held Khalil Mack or Bruce Irvin? I am pretty sure they did, more than once. I know on their 3rd possession on their 3rd down play I saw some illegal hands to the face by Donald Stephenson on Khalil Mack without a flag. On our 3rd possession after the whistle blew the Broncos picked up and threw down Jalen Richard on a run play. We got called for a false start after Von Miller jumped into the neutral zone, and Michael Crabtree reacted. But after 200 yards on 23 penalties, this Raiders team can sometimes work past them.
There was big talk about how they were missing Aqib Talib and back up nose tackle Darius Kilgo. We were missing starting corner back Sean Smith and defensive tackle Stacy McGee. I’d say that evens out.
So what I have seen/heard/read about the loss from some arenas is that we got away with a lot of holding, and if they had all their starters, and if, if, if. What some arenas are offering is excuses. Other arenas are of the mind that the Bronco brain trust was just ill-prepared. Maybe they counted on another 23 penalties for 200 yards. Maybe they thought the 6 wins, even with all the yards given up, was just dumb luck on our part. Maybe they forgot that jack Del Rio has some firsthand knowledge of some of the players still on the Denver team. Maybe they didn’t think they needed to really have a game plan, figuring we’d just shoot ourselves in the foot.
The thing is, none of their excuses explain the abject failure of their offense. Basically they got one touchdown because our guys just failed to tackle, the other was busted coverage. I could be wrong, but I think David Amerson was supposed to stick with Jordan Norwood. Their missing defensive players had nothing to do with all their 3 and outs. That was because they had only a rookie running back Devontae Booker. They also could have used Kapri Bibbs and Juwan Thompson. Out of their 12 rushes, Booker ran 10 times, Bibbs twice. They had 33 rushing yards. In comparison, our rookie RB Deandre Washington on 10 carries had 35 yards rushing. So being a rookie has nothing to do with it.
Both teams needed to establish a running game, and one team did. Post game, Latavius Murray said that the Denver defense had a weakness, and it was that they gave up yards on the ground. Murray had 114 yards, rookie Jalen Richard had 62 yards. Sum total for the offense? 218 yards. For Murray, it’s the most yards he has rushed since playing against the Cleveland Browns on 9/27/15 (139 yards), and his only game with 3 touchdowns. He was definitely a force this game with 127 total yards from scrimmage. It wasn’t just the offensive line opening up holes, either. Towards the end zone we made judicious use of Jamize Olawale as a lead blocker for Murray. One run Andre Holmes made such a good block even the booth monkeys had to mention it. But our backs were just breaking tackles, bouncing off players, throwing a stiff arm or two, all while protecting that ball. Oh, there was even a leap and extension in there somewhere.
Derek Carr was nowhere near as prolific this game as he was against Tampa Bay. He went 20 of31, for 184 yards, taking 2 sacks for only 5 yards lost combined. If one asks T.J.Ward, neither of our non-elite receivers broke 100 yards. But that wasn’t our game plan. Our plan was to run the ball. Carr spread the ball around, with 9 different players catching the rock, including a nice catch on a ball that got popped up in the air by Jalen Richard, and beautiful one handed grab by Andre Holmes. Both of these went for first downs. Seth Roberts broke through tackles to get a first down. We just moved the ball.
That was the difference in this game and other games. We forced our will on the Broncos.
We wanted to pin them deep on punts? Enter Marquette King and him telling Andre Holmes where he was going to put the ball. We wanted to keep the ball away from the Bronco offense, we held on to the ball for 41:28. W wanted to the move the ball, we went to the ground, running at them and through them. When we passed, we went after their weakest links, the smart thing to do. They wanted to shut down Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree? We utilized Holmes and Roberts, and our running backs.
We didn’t have to resort to trick plays. Granted, 3 of 6 in the red zone isn’t great. Converting only 36% of our 3rd down attempts is nothing to write home about. However 3 of the 9 non-conversions were in the red zone and went for 9 points on the board on 4th down. One of the others was a missed field goal. We had 12 possessions and punted 4 times. As I mentioned earlier, 2 of those punts were downed around the 2 yard line. We had only 1 possession where we went 3 and out.
This what a potential championship team does. A team hell bent on enforcing their will does not get stupid unsportsmanlike conduct penalties for taunting. They keep looking forward to the next play, and then the next game. Focus on what needs to be improved and work on it.
What I like even more about this team? This was a huge win for Raiders. A loss would put them in 3rd place, the win puts them in sole possession of first place in the AFC West. They won. They were in the lead the entire game. Even given that, there was no swagger , bragging, or talk of division titles by the players. They talked about needing the bye week and then getting back to work, about getting better, about improving their play, and winning more games. They know they can’t lay off and take it easy. They know there’s a lot of season left.
Now if the coaches can keep preparing the team with a game plan like this one, tailored to the team we are facing, utilizing the players to their skill sets, we won’t take what other teams are willing to give us, we will be able to take what we want.
We have our bye week next, then an extra day as we face the Houston Texans in Mexico City. It’s just a matter of will, and us enforcing ours to go 8-2.
Win, lose, or tie, RAIDERS til I DIE!