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Instant reactions: Broncos suffer Mile High meltdown

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The Denver Broncos dominated the first half of this afternoon's game against the Oakland Raiders, but self-destructed in the second half and had a Mile High meltdown and fell to the Raiders 15-12.

Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

The Denver Broncos offense moved the ball efficiently in the first half, but failed miserably in the latter course of the game. A lack of a running game, coupled with a handful of turnovers and a plethora of miscues by the offensive line ultimately led to their demise as they fell to the Oakland Raiders 15-12 at home.  The Broncos now drop to 10-3 on the season and will face a tough opponent in the Pittsburgh Steelers on the road next weekend.

It was a bitter loss for a team aspiring to secure the coveted #1 playoff seed in the AFC. Unfortunately, they certainly didn't play like a unit poised to carry the torch long into the tumultuous winter playoffs. They had many opportunities to defeat the Raiders, yet ended up being their own worst enemies. We can only hope that the Broncos take this loss personally and use it as fuel to improve upon their struggles in order to finish the remainder of the regular season strong.

Without further adieu, here are my takes from today's game:

Offense

  • Brock Osweiler didn't have a tremendous game, but it isn't easy to have success as a quarterback with a terrible offensive line and no support in the run game. Truth be told, Osweiler was very efficient in the first half, posting a stat line of 22/29 for 199 yards. Brock finished the game going 35/51 for 308 yards.  He didn't register a touchdown or interception, but a costly fumble that resulted in a safety in the third quarter. However, he does deserve criticism for his overthrow of Virgil Green in the end zone that cost the Broncos a touchdown.
  • From the onset of the game, you could see that the Broncos game plan in the passing attack was quick throws to help negate the pass protection deficiencies of the teams offensive line and to keep Oakland's young defenders, such as Khalil Mack at bay. Much to the chagrin of Broncos fans across the globe, the protection of the Broncos offensive line broke down severely in the second half and Mack went on to terrorize the Broncos offensive line (in particular Michael Schofield) and accumulate an astounding five sacks.

    In regard to Mack, it was one of the best performances I've seen from a young player.  On the flip side, Michael Schofield showed us that he doesn't have what it takes to play tackle in the NFL. His performance (or lack thereof) tonight was one of the worst I have witnessed in all my years watching professional football. It is crystal clear that he does not have the ability to play tackle efficiently in the NFL and is best suited for back-up duty. 

    It is time for the Broncos to bench Schofield and look in a different direction, perhaps moving Louis Vasquez to right tackle and plugging in Max Garcia at guard.  They can no longer afford to jeopardize the health of their quarterbacks or their offensive efficiency by having him on the field.

    Blame also deserves to be placed on the Broncos coaching staff, who failed to make any adjustments in order to help the second-year player.  As I had stated in my Scouting the Enemy post, having a tight end beside him to help ward off Mack and their edge rushers was essential.  It doesn't seem like the coaches thought that was necessary and at the end of the day, they paid dearly for their lack of adjustments on the offensive line.
  • If you wondered why the Broncos chose to trade for Vernon Davis several weeks ago, now you know why. The veteran tight end performed admirably in the Broncos loss hauling in seven catches for 74 yards. Despite dropping an easy pass on fourth down towards the end of the game, it is my sincere hope that the Broncos find a way to come to a contract extension with him this off-season in order to solidify our tight end corps for the future. He may be getting older, but he still has speed and the ability to stretch the field vertically which is important in Gary Kubiak's offense.
  • Demaryius Thomas caught 10 balls for 95 yards, but had a big turnover on a fumble and several costly drops that stalled the Broncos movement down the field. I love Thomas as a player, but it is time for him to step up and become more clutch in big games.
  • After three straight games rushing the ball for over 100 yards, Denver only amassed 34 yards on 21 carries. You won't win many games in the NFL with pitiful rushing performances like that.

Defense

  • The Broncos defense was awesome in the first half of the game.  The Raiders offense was held to -12 yards through the first two quarters and were only on the field for just a little bit more than six minutes.
  • Alas, Denver's defense showed vulnerability in the second half when Derek Carr led the Raiders down the field on a 9 play, 90 yard drive which resulted in a touchdown pass to Seth Roberts, who beat Bradley Roby badly. It was the first touchdown Roby has given up this season and only the second touchdown the Broncos had surrendered to a wide receiver in 13 games.
  • On the bright side, Amari Cooper did not register a single reception in today's game.  Credit should be given to the Broncos corners who shut him down completely.
  • Denver's bane defensively continues to be the the inability to cover tight ends. Big plays to Mychal Rivera and Clive Walford were the big reasons Oakland was able to move the ball in the second half and score.
  • Latavius Murray and the Raiders rushing attack was stuffed and as a unit only compiled 27 yards on 23 carries.

Special Teams

  • Brandon McManus was 4/5 on field goals, but his miss in the second half proved to be costly.
  • Denver needs to draft a return specialist in 2016. While I admire Emmanuel Sanders heart and desire to do whatever it takes to help the team win, costly fumbles on muffed punts are not acceptable.

Hart's Quick Hits

  • The Broncos controlled the clock for ten more minutes than the Raiders, but still lost the game. It is very rare to see a team who dominates the time of possession battle lose a game.
  • The Broncos had only lost one fumble in the six they had this season, but had four tonight and ended up losing two of them. Shooting yourselves in the foot with costly turnovers almost always ends up being a recipe for disaster.
  • After getting 17 first downs in the first half, it took the Broncos offense until the start of the fourth quarter to get their next first down.
  • The heart of the Broncos offensive struggles can be summed up by their lousy performance on third downs.  They were 4/18 in today's affair.
  • A big Mile High salute goes to Brock Osweiler who registered his first 300 yard performance of his career tonight.

What do you think Broncos Country? What are some of your takeaways from today' loss to Oakland?  Sound off in the comments section!