Assuming the offense does it thing again - extending drives, scoring points but this time avoiding turnovers - the key to beating the Raiders will be stopping Derek Carr and his handful of offensive weapons.
Carr, who passed for more than 300 yards but threw three interceptions against the Rams, is no slouch. But he’s also easily rattled.
With Carr’s ability to get the ball out quickly, sacking him isn’t always easy - but it’s not necessarily the end goal. Just “hurrying” Carr is often enough to play to the Broncos’ strengths.
Defensive coordinator Joe Woods pointed out that while it’s frustrating to the pass rushers that Carr can get rid of the ball, it’s not bad for the defense overall.
“It is [frustrating] those guys, but for me, as long as the coverage is tight, it can be an advantage for us, too,” he said. “We’re a more aggressive coverage team. We play more man than a lot of teams, so if they want to get rid of the ball quick, we want to be tight in coverage. If they hold on to it, then our rushers have got to get home. So, a little bit of both.”
Von Miller said the key is getting your hands up to combat the quick release.
“Hands up, get your hands up,” he said. “Try to get them third and long. I mean, at third and long you’ve got to take your time and throw the ball anyways. If you’re throwing the ball quick on third and long, we’ve got great corners. We’ve just got to let those guys spread. Three-and-outs happen when you throw the ball quick and don’t just want an incomplete ball. Yeah, we’ve just got to get our hands up and hopefully he’ll hold it. Rush like he’s going to hold the ball.”
After Miller’s monster day against the Seahawks, no team will sleep on him. But with a strong defensive line pushing up the middle and talented edge rushers opposite Miller, it’s going to be hard for any offense to account for all the variables.
“Von, we all know, is just a different type of player. Athletically, he’s gifted. He can do it all,” Woods added. “The thing we want to do is we wanted to create more balance in terms of what we were doing this year—in terms of our pass rush. With [Bradley] Chubb, Shane [Ray],Shaq [Barrett], they give us the ability to do that. So, if teams want to slide a protection his way, put chippers his way, then we’ve got to win on the other side to make them play honest. I think the plan that we had worked out for us.”
Indeed it did with six total sacks on Russell Wilson, three from Miller but three from four other players - Chris Harris Jr, Barrett, Darian Stewart and Chubb.
But Miller believes the Raiders’ offensive line is the best in the NFL with Donald Penn and first-round rookie talent Kolton Miller, so it won’t be an easy day for this defense.
“It’s a huge challenge. [Penn] is a strong guy, a big guy and one of the better tackles in the league for I don’t know how long,” Miller said. “The Oakland Raiders have the best offensive line in football, in my opinion. I’m sure you all would say Dallas Cowboys, this team or that team, but to me the Oakland Raiders have the best offensive line in football. And they made it a whole lot better with the Kolton Miller pick and moving Donald Penn to the right side. Really all five guys are really Pro-Bowl solid, offensive linemen.”
And between Carr, Marshawn Lynch, Jared Cook and even Amari Cooper, there are plenty of variables the defense will have to account for too. For all the jokes about the aging team, allowing Khalil Mack to be traded and Jon Gruden’s $100 million contract, Miller knows better than to discount an AFC West rivalry.
“People don’t really want to play Derek either. He’s not going to give you a chance to rush the passer,” Miller laughed, noting that the average time for QBs to get rid of the ball is 2.5 seconds, and Carr was getting rid of it in 2.2 on Monday night. “He’s going to get the ball out very quick and he’s very accurate with his throws. They have a great offensive line, a great running back and great coaches over there. Pretty tough team that we’re going up against.”