Oakland Raiders vs. Denver Broncos: Mile High Massacre
Justin Smith – Oct 1, 2012
After an inspired comeback against a tough Pittsburgh Steelers squad, the Oakland Raiders had some momentum going into Invesco Field at Mile High to play the Denver Broncos yesterday.
With the San Diego Chargers looking vulnerable last week and the Raiders, Broncos and Chiefs all sitting at 1-2 it was important to channel that momentum into a big AFC West divisional performance.
That momentum lasted all of about three minutes game time as the Broncos scored on their opening drive en route to a 37-6 pasting of the Raiders that honestly, wasn’t nearly that close.
The Raiders hold the dubious distinction of allowing each of their first four opponents - the Chargers, Dolphins, Steelers, and Broncos - to score touchdowns on their first offensive possessions of the game. Falling behind 7-0 with barely five minutes gone in the first quarter isn’t conducive to winning football – and the Raiders 1-3 record clearly reflects that.
The Broncos wanted to come out firing after watching Ben Roethlisberger throw the ball all over the field against the Raiders secondary and pass rush without fear of reprisal and Manning getting increasingly annoyed with questions about his arm strength and ability as a quarterback. Come out firing they did, and they never stopped.
Clearly with something to show his critics, Manning was on a mission from the jump and rarely let up as he finished a staggering 30/38 for 364 yards and 3 touchdowns and, of course, no picks or sacks.
Bloodlessly dissecting the Raider defense like a skilful surgeon with a scalpel in each hand should put an end to any questions about his arm strength or viability even though the Raiders lack of pass defense can’t be dismissed.
The Raiders are in serious trouble. Their victory over Pittsburgh was nice and showcased what the Raiders can do when the run game works and the offense carries the day; but the run game simply doesn’t work and hasn’t save for one big touchdown run in four games.
The Broncos bottled up Darren McFadden from the get-go, keying in on him and flying to the ball with more energy on one play than the Raiders showed all game.
That forced Carson Palmer to throw, which worked out pretty well in the first half. Palmer hit on 70% of his throws and had 142 yards at halftime. The problem was the Raiders only had six points, having again failed to come away with a touchdown in a goal to go situation and leaving points on the field with poor execution and play calling.
The Broncos made the first half interesting by trying to give a game they were thoroughly dominating in all phases back to the Raiders. Moving the ball between the 20’s but not scoring any points, the Raiders were struggling to run the ball and to stop the Broncos on offense and it was looking like it could get very ugly very quickly.
After the Broncos scored their opening drive touchdown the Raiders responded with a field goal, and the Broncos came back with a field goal of their own. After stopping the Raiders again and up 10-3 the Broncos were driving with ease when Manning hit Demaryius Thomas with a beautifully executed screen pass. Thomas got an excellent block and cut upfield; he was gone. We’ve all seen that movie before.
However at around the Raiders' 20 yard line, a white streak came from the side in the form of Tyvon Branch. Taking an excellent angle and using every bit of his 4.4 speed, Branch closed in on Thomas like a steam engine. Thomas saw this, and tried to switch the ball into his off hand to better protect it as per standard procedure.
HD TV is awesome for so many reasons, not the least of which is the clear shot of Thomas’ eyes focussing on Branch bearing down on him as he switches hands – causing him to botch the transition and fumble it forward. The Raiders recovered, and what likely would’ve been seven more points and a 17-3 lead ended up a Raider possession.
After pinning the Raiders deep in their zone and stymieing them once again, the Broncos marched down to their own goal to go situation, Manning finding Jacob Tamme at will whenever he needed a first down – seriously, how many times can the guy leak out into the flat on third and short before you adjust, Jason Tarver – and anyone else he chose, really, at any other time he chose.
After being forced into a fourth and one during which Phil Simms openly questioned why they didn’t go for it against a Raider defense that hadn’t stopped them all day, they called a timeout and set up for a field goal.
FAKE! One of the only passes thrown by a Bronco to fall incomplete all day killed the drive and took another potential three points off the board, keeping it 10-3 when it probably should’ve been 20-3—at least.
The Raiders marched down the field on some nice, accurate passing from Palmer and some good route running and ball hawking by much missed receiver Denarius Moore, and got themselves into position to score a touchdown and tie the game.
Only the Raiders couldn’t execute – again – in a goal to go situation, settled for a field goal, and went in to the lockerroom down only 10-6. They were feeling good to escape relatively unscathed, and would get the ball back in the third quarter to boot.
Things were looking promising.
The Raiders took the opening possession of the second half three plays. On the third play it looked as if Moore may have had the first down, but coach Dennis Allen, who had won his only two previous challenges this season, including a clever one earlier in this game, decided to punt the ball away and declined to challenge what probably would’ve been a first down.
It was 10-6 when Denver got the ball. They marched 79 yards in 9 plays for an easy touchdown with Manning going 5/5 on the drive – this during a stretch of 11 straight completions for him.
The Raiders quickly went three and out again, and after the Broncos deflected Lechler’s punt to get the ball on the Raider 18 yard line, McGahee ran the ball four straight times and an exhausted Raider defense – who’d been sucking air since midway through the second quarter due to the offensive ineptitude and Manning’s proficiency in the no huddle – couldn’t stop him from scoring another touchdown. Two scores in about three minutes; 24-3, Denver.
This is how the rest of the game went, as after those three minutes lapsed my eyes glassed over and I could scarcely pay clear attention, and I have no interest in detailing a massacre when my loved ones are on the receiving end.
The Raiders went three and out twice more, got one more first down, and turned it over on downs at the end. The Broncos scored on all three of their remaining possessions, another touchdown and two field goals, and the game ended 37-6.
That means that of the Broncos ten possessions, they scored seven times. They scored four touchdowns and three field goals; Matt Prater owners are probably doing pretty well in their Fantasy Leagues this week.
However, it also means that on the only three possessions where the Broncos didn’t score, they gave points away rather than the Raiders stopping them. If Thomas doesn’t lose that ball and the Broncos go for it on fourth and short and get it, the flow of the game say that’s two more touchdowns and an even uglier score.
The Raiders, had the Broncos not stopped themselves, would’ve allowed scores on all ten of their opponent’s possessions. Heck, against Pittsburgh last weekend the Raiders defense only got off the field on two separate occasions because of a Pittsburgh turnover.
This defense cannot stop anyone at any time. At the beginning of the season it looked as though the run defense was improved, but Reggie Bush and McGahee have neatly shelved that notion.
Roethlisberger and Manning, combined in the last two weeks against the Raiders undermanned secondary and pathetic pass rush: 66/87 (76%) for 722 yards and 7 touchdowns and no INTs, for an average QB Rating of 126.6.
Oh, and neither was sacked. In fact, Manning had enough time, and was so untouched, in the pocket that he could’ve studied for medical school with exposed nerve endings and graduated Suma Cum Laude from John’s Hopkins without feeling a thing.
The promise that pervaded this team at one time and was briefly rekindled last weekend has been thoroughly trounced, and it’s tough to see things getting better for this squad unless the defense can stop somebody and get off the field on third down.
The Raiders have a bye this week, and a lot of their issues lie with injuries to key players. But their problems go far deeper than a few injured players, though it has exposed the lack of depth on this team, and that was always a major concern.
After years of big contracts and salary cap mismanagement this franchise is unfortunately stuck in a position where they can’t really make big moves to improve the roster when it vastly needs improvement.
Carson Palmer has been really the lone bright spot this season, as at least it looks like if the running game can get any traction and the defense can stop anybody at all, he can lead the offense to points. He’s shown that; but he’s not getting any help. Brandon Myers, Rod Streater and Marcel Reese are all showing they are capable as well; but the defense needs major help.
The Raiders have a lot of problems to fix and not many tools to fix them with. With a date in Atlanta looming after the bye 1-4 is very realistic and it may be time to admit this team wasn’t quite where we in Raider Nation hoped they were despite some talented players.
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