The Denver Broncos have slipped to third place in the AFC West after being embarrassed on national television by the Oakland Raiders, who dominated all four quarters of the game en route to a 30-20 victory at home in the Black Hole.
Don't let the final score fool you — the game wasn't as close as the ten point difference indicates. The Broncos were outplayed in almost every phase of the game, and had absolutely no answer for the Raiders' rushing attack that gaped and gashed their way through their "elite" defense to the tune of 218 yards.
Jack Del Rio concocted a tremendous game plan, and outcoached and outsmarted Gary Kubiak for the entire game. It's quite clear that Del Rio and his coaching staff put in a lot of time to formulate a recipe for success, whereas the Broncos' were unprepared and physically dominated on almost every single snap.
Kudos to Oakland for how they handled this game, shame on the Broncos, in particular their coaching staff for laying yet another egg on national television to a division rival. The lack of adjustments and creativity shown tonight will be remembered by fans, and unless you get your act together and show some modicum of efficacy, you won't have to worry about defending your Super Bowl title, you may just want to focus on doing whatever it takes to actually make the playoffs.
Once again, the Broncos' offense flamed out early and accrued only 14 yards in their first four drives — all of which resulted in three and outs. The pathetic display by the offense put the defense in a precarious positions throughout the course of the first quarter, with the Raiders starting each drive in or near Denver territory.
The Raiders dominated the first quarter of play, gaining 137 yards and had the ball for over twelve minutes, but were only able to notch six points off of two Sebastian Janikowski field goals.
The first touchdown of the game came early in the second quarter, when Derek Carr led the Raiders offense down the field on a nine play, 57 yard drive which was capped off with a one yard Latavius Murray run that barely crossed the goal line, but was good enough to give the Raiders a 13-0 lead.
With their fifth possession of the game, Denver's offense finally started to click. Siemian began to find his rhythm, connecting with Demaryius Thomas on a 23 yard pass that gave them the spark they desperately needed. A few plays later, Siemian found Jordan Norwood down the field on a 36 yard bootleg pass that went for a score, bringing the game to 13-7.
Oakland fired back quickly, using their rushing attack to gash the Broncos defense for several big gains and were quickly within striking distance once more. Their drive came to a screeching halt and resulted in no points when Janikowski missed a 48 yard field goal attempt that sailed wide right and gave the Broncos their best starting field position of the night at their own 38 yard line.
They weren't able to take advantage of it, and once more the the Broncos offense fizzled into obscurity. The lack of sustainable drives by the offense clearly tired the defense, who was then routed on a 6 play, 75 yard drive which resulted in a 1 yard touchdown run by Murray to put the Raiders up 20-7 with just 1:25 to play in the first half.
But the Broncos wouldn't go away quietly and responded quickly with a scoring drive of their own, marching 43 yards down the field and called upon Brandon McManus who was able to drill a 55 yard field goal that brought the score to 20-10 at halftime.
The third quarter was a series of back and forth drives from both teams that resulted in no points after fifteen minutes of play. The Broncos were able to drive the ball into Raiders territory in the final minutes of the quarter, providing them with the opportunity to make the game a bit closer. That opportunity was met when McManus notched his second field goal of the game from 44 yards out and got the Broncos within a touchdown.
In order for the Broncos to have a fighting chance and have a shot at a comeback victory, they would need to stop Oakland's offense and force a turnover or punt. Alas, the Raiders were able to fire back with a scoring drive of their own, taking four minutes off the clock and conducted a ten play drive that went for 58 yards which resulted in a Janikowski field goal that gave the Raiders a 23-13 lead.
Following the Raiders' score, the Broncos' offense had their sights on a scoring drive, but those aspirations came to a stop when outside linebacker Bruce Irvin was able to sack and strip Siemian, causing a fumble that resulted in the games' first turnover with just seven and a half minutes to play.
Four plays later, Murray was able to secure his third touchdown of the game and put the Raiders up 30-13. His score was the final nail in the coffin and ended any hopes that the Broncos would come back with a miraculous victory.
Denver was able to get a garbage time touchdown on the ensuing drive, when Siemian connected with Kapri Bibbs on a 69 yard screen pass that went the distance, but it wasn't enough to dig them out of the substantial hole they put themselves in, as the Broncos went on to lose to the Raiders by a final score of 30-20.
Hart's Quick Hits
- Public Service Announcement: The Denver Broncos' run defense is absolutely putrid and there are two main reasons for that. Sylvester Williams and Jared Crick. There is a reason why the team failed to pick up Williams' fifth-year option — he's just another guy out on the field. Could someone please tell my why Darius Kilgo was inactive for tonight's game, despite being demonstrably better through the first half of the season than Williams was in run defense?
Moreover, regardless of constant lauding and praise from Gary Kubiak, Crick is consistently washed out of running plays and is decimated over and over again on runs to his side. The team desperately needs to add a defensive end and nose tackle in free agency or the draft this off-season if they want to have any hopes on fixing one of their biggest issues on the defensive side of the ball.
The Raiders consistently used six offensive lineman in jumbo packages to take advantage of the Broncos porous defensive line, and it was depressing to not see Wade Phillips switch up his defensive packages, perhaps moving to a 4-4 alignment in order to combat their constant success in the run game. I can't remember the last time the Broncos allowed over 200 yards on the ground, but it's the second week in a row that the team has allowed a 100 yard rusher.
- There is no doubt that the execution of the play calls has been bad all season long, but can we finally acknowledge that Rick Dennison and Gary Kubiak have done a horrendous job calling plays, especially to start off the game?
Trevor Siemian hasn't been the greatest, but it's hard to expect him to be a top performer when they put him in bad positions, such as having him throw the ball four to five times without any run support to start each and every game. Dennison and Kubiak have to do better in regard to committing to the run in order to help out their second-year quarterback.
Their game plans lack consistency. They lack creativity and they are woefully outdated and entirely predictable. Heck, they have been that way since the 2015 season, but nobody really cared to talk about it because the team ended up winning the Super Bowl anyways. But guess what? It's time to start talking about it and it's time to demand better from the entire coaching staff.
- The Broncos were only 3/11 on third downs, which is an area they have been poor at all season long. You won't win many games with that lack of efficiency in key situations.
- The Raiders owned the time of possession category by a whopping 23 minute advantage. They had the ball for 41 minutes and 28 seconds, whereas the Broncos had the ball for only 18 minutes and 32 seconds. That problem is going to happen when you can't establish the run or even convert a first down in the first quarter. Simply inexcusable. Totally unacceptable.
- Remember A.J. Derby? The guy John Elway thought was worth a fifth-rounder in a trade that smelled of desperation? He didn't even have a catch this game. By the way, is Jeff Heuerman still missing? Can we officially call him a bust? I think so. Denver needs a significant upgrade at the tight end position. Hopefully their scouting department is smart enough to realize the caliber of talent available in this draft, but I won't hold my breath that they will be able to figure that out.
- The Broncos are 6-3 on the season, but have only beat one team with a winning record: the Houston Texans.
- Defensive end Derek Wolfe was carted off the field in the second half and was ruled out for the rest of the game after suffering an elbow injury in the third quarter.