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Ultimate Fan: Broncos take care of business against the Raiders

It’s Broncos-Raiders Rivalry Week Part I - and even if Von is giving Raiders props, Shasta77 knows which team will dominate.

Oakland Raiders v Denver Broncos Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

The Broncos are 1-0 and ready to start their domination in the AFC West by beating the Raiders at home in Week 2. It’s going to be a scorcher at Mile High, but the heat in the stands won’t be nearly as intense as the fire on the field.

To ring in “Beat The Raiders Part I,” we have the one and only shasta77 to increase our football IQs as well as get our hatred for the Raiders in the proper place. And be sure not to skip shasta’s tribute to his father, the man who made him both the Broncos fan and Xs and Os guru he is for us. It’ll be the best thing you read all day.

Now on to Beating the RAIDUHS!!!!

Week 2: Raiders at Broncos

MHR - Tell us three takeaways from the home-opener against the Seahawks.
shasta77: The first one is the one that pleased me the most - Keenum doesn’t rattle easy. This offense needs that kind of leadership, and the players are likely to run through a wall for the guy who shows it.

Number 2, the rumors of BMarsh’s demise have been greatly exaggerated. He looked healthy and quick, something we saw little of last year.

And finally, I saw a Broncos team showing the look of a complete offense: running attack, multiple formations and personnel groupings designed to attack the defense, and receivers who are having fun out there. I want to see more of that emerge from the Mad Scientist, but I really liked the game he called and the plan he put together.

MHR - Let’s talk about the defense first for a change. All in all, a strong day for the defense, holding Wilson to very few escape yards and sacking him SIX times! And the run defense mostly contained the runners. But those pesky tight ends. Why can’t we figure this out?
shasta77: When the coverage is solid on the outside (and the back end), teams will go with what they have left — TEs and RBs. That being said, the issues in this first game don’t concern me as much. There was a poor switch/communication that led to one big play and less than stellar tackling that led to the other two.

A healthy, lighter Marshall is definitely going to help, but I expect to see Joe Woods scheme for Justin Simmons or Will Parks (in nickel/dime groupings) to be assigned primary coverage — with a linebacker asked to provide the five-yard contact to upset the timing of the route and take away the underneath quick throws.

MHR - Considering that, is Jared Cook still a legit threat for this Broncos secondary? He hasn’t been a problem for Denver before, but he did take care of Rams’ defenders last week.
shasta77: Jared had a career game against the Rams. I don’t expect to see a repeat simply because Woods has clearly been instructed (by that HC who is really looking like a HC in 2018) to dial up an approach that doesn’t make the TE Superman. Our woes here feel short-lived to me. The end of the TE/RB explosion against this defense is nearing its end. Thankfully.

MHR - Von Miller looked like he was back to his superstar self last week. What do you attribute this to - is it having Bradley Chubb on the other side, is it having a strong push up the middle from the likes of Derek Wolfe and Domata Peko? Or is it “Whorfin?”
shasta77: It’s definitely Whorfin. All those things give him freedom to really make plays. This DLine may surpass the 2015 crew if Chubb continues to rapidly develop and guys in the middle like Shelby Harris and Wolfe can continue to squeeze the pocket.

And we need to see a lot more Shaq Barrett and a lot less Shane Ray (unless it’s a Four Horsemen package where Ray can actually be effective). Ray looked mostly useless against Seattle. Shaq was immediately visible in a positive way.

MHR - The Raiders seem like a big mess. They gave up their best defender (player) days before the season started, signed a bunch of aging veterans and their quarterback is streaky. Yet Jon Gruden has some game planning talent. What do you expect from Gruden & Co. this week?
shasta77: Gruden is a smart cookie, but the talent he has to work with is nothing like he had the last time he was wearing the Silver and Black. And so what he wants to do vs. what they can do may not collide a lot — particularly early in the season. But I expect him to bring some interesting wrinkles to try and control Von on defense, who he has no easy blocking answer for.

So this means quick reads and throws that could often be behind the line of scrimmage on the outside. Deep drops will be scarce because I don’t think he believes they can handle Von. Runs in the middle and quick throws will be more the norm. So the DLine and ILBs will be tested early in the running game, with a concerted effort to get the ball to the RBs/H-Back/TE (possibly in motion) outside the seams and behind the line of scrimmage. Safeties will have to recognize those plays early, and the OLBs will have to maintain their contain responsibilities (sit Ray, unless it’s third and long). Lots of “long handoffs,” at least early.

Against the Broncos offense, I expect Gruden to try and force Keenum to go to somewhere other than Thomas and Sanders in the passing game. So this could be a coming out party for our stable of TEs. B-Mus will likely counter with spreading the D out and overloading areas to create space and risk for the defense — just like the Phillip Lindsay TD last week.

MHR - Derek Carr has done damage to the Broncos defense in the past. What is the key to stopping this Raiders offense from having any chance?
shasta77: Just like last week, no chunk plays. The Raider offense is not built for long, sustained drives. Lynch doesn’t outrun anyone, he runs over them. Gang tackling has to take that away. If it does, that puts tremendous pressure on the passing game, which plays into the pass rush and coverage by the Broncos. Woods did a great job last week of mixing up the coverage looks and sliding things late. I expect to see more of that this week. It gives Carr an incomplete read, which will make him hold the ball. He does that, and this DLine will get home early and often.

MHR - How would you grade the secondary in last week’s performance against the Seahawks and what is your confidence level for this unit moving forward this season? For taking on the Raiders’ receiving corps this weekend?
shasta77: The secondary played very well against a difficult matchup of a running QB who loves to throw deep to receivers that often seem open running deep.

This is a different test. Carr had 24 of his 29 completions to RBs or the TE. Jordy Nelson and Amari Cooper were never a factor in that game. And I think that’s because Gruden had a game plan to not let the rush have time to get to Carr. I expect a similar plan this week. So that means swarming to the ball with sure tackling in the open field on a steady diet of shorter throws.

Chris Harris Jr. and Bradley Roby are generally solid tacklers on the outside, so that helps. But the key will be the safeties/ILBs flowing to the ball, and the OLBs staying with the play that is just behind them. We may see D-linemen running down plays in this game in a positive way, with all the likely shorter routes.

MHR - We’ve talked about this a lot this offseason, and it was apparent last Sunday, but how much do you think having our offense be able to score (and just stay on the field) is helping the defense be its best self?
shasta77: It is a massive emotional boost. The defense not only can rest, but it gets them emotionally jacked-up a bit when the offense gives them the “ball” back after a score. They want to go out and get it back for the offense as fast as they can. It’s the kind of synergy that all good teams have. So we want to see a lot more of just that.

MHR - Speaking of offense, what’s your view of Keenum’s three picks last week. How much should we be concerned (after all, he had just 7 all last season), and how much should we “have a short memory?”
shasta77: This is a “short memory” spin for me. It was Game 1, so everyone is learning in real time. If they were all just egregious, “are you sh*tting me?” picks, that would be different. But they weren’t.

And as I said above, how he bounced back from them makes me worry even less that they happened. I get the feeling that Keenum has spent a lot of time in the dark this week reviewing film to not only prepare for the Raiders to clean up the mistakes but also to find more rhythm in his reads in this new offense. And that time will pay dividends on Sunday.

MHR - The Broncos’ running backs are exciting for a change. Phillip Lindsay and Royce Freeman seem to be the real deal. How would you like to see the Broncos use this tandem?
shasta77: I loved how BMus used them both. Their styles and physiques are so different that they present very different problems for a defense. He used them perfectly. I would like to see some additional use of Freeman in the passing game because his size and speed are a big problem in open space. But I loved that they were both fresh and available as needed to close the game out - which the running game did.

More please!

MHR - As an Xs and Os guru, do you like the way Bill Musgrave is calling games so far?
shasta77: The Mad Scientist is loose, and the Broncos will be better for it!! It is such a welcome treat to see pre-snap motion/shifts and formations that immediately put a defense on its heels.

I expect to see Musgrave’s use of guys like Dae Sean Hamilton and Courtland Sutton - which will continue to make the defense start guessing if they are actually the primary read rather than the rookie No. 3 receiver. We haven’t had that since Wes Welker and Brandon Stokley were in Denver. And it gives the offense the upper hand in the chess match.

What Musgrave did early and continued to attack throughout the Seattle game was the middle of the field and plays outside the numbers. This is a huge leap forward for what we’ve seen in recent years.

It forces the defense to stretch two different ways to the outside and deep in the middle (which creates one-on-one opportunities for your outside receivers). I really liked what I saw from him in the first game. Keep it up BMus!

MHR - Our offense seems to be figuring out how to use tight ends. What are your thoughts on adding more Jeff Heuerman and Jake Booty into this offensive scheme?
shasta77: It has to happen. The only way you punish a pass defense for shading coverage to the outside WRs is to attack with the TEs and the RBs. We need these guys to not just be targeted, but they need to “close the deal” with some big plays in between the seams and outside the numbers. They have the ability, now we just need to see them make the plays.

MHR - Which players will be playmakers on Sunday?
shasta77: Sutton gets his first NFL TD, but the man on offense is going to be Freeman (with a note to Keenum for making it all work). On defense, I think Chubb gets his first full sack, but it’s Simmons and his Swiss Army Knife skills that confound the Raiders offense.


Stats for Case Keenum? 26 of 33 for 355 yards

Stats for each Broncos RB? This is a tough call because I think BMus will continue to “play the hot hand” to keep these guys fresh. So I am going to cheat a bit and say collectively they will run for 182. Freeman is built like Todd Gurley, who ran all over these guys last week, so he may have the most of the crew.

Number of yards receiving/TDs for each Broncos receiver? Emmanuel Sanders, 84; Demaryius Thomas, 103; Jake Butt/H-Man, 65; Sutton/Hamilton, 66

Longest FG for McManus? 53

Number of sacks to Keenum? 1

Number of sacks to Carr? 3

Broncos player with the most tackles? Simmons with 8

Broncos player with the most penalties? Bolles with 2

How many INTs/FF/FR for the Broncos D? 2 INTs, 2 FF, 2 FR

Final Score? Broncos 34, Raiders 17

The Favorites

Favorite Broncos game EVER? Loved all the Super Bowl wins, but it would have to be the 31-7 shellacking of the Raiders in 1977 with Jim Turner catching a TD on a fake field goal. It was the first time that Broncos fans really felt like they had “graduated” to a potentially elite franchise.

Team you hate to lose to the most? Raiders and Chiefs. New England a close third

Team you love to beat? See above

Favorite upcoming game this season? This is a tough one, as I love the division games and there are many other solid choices. I think the impish-side of me will pick the game against the 49ers, where Elway is proving exceedingly correct in his choice of Vance over Kyle. So there it is.

Toughest game on the schedule? Rams. I think it’s still winnable, but you have to be sensible about both your game plan and your in-game adjustments.

Favorite Broncos player on the current roster? DT. We are spoiled with what he has done for this franchise and focus on only what he occasionally doesn’t do. And with now his sixth QB. The most talented receiver the Broncos have ever had, and I have seen them all.

Favorite Broncos player of all time? Randy Gradishar. He made the play-by-play guy’s job easy because most of the tackles were by him. Best instincts and understanding of any LB I’ve ever seen play at any level. HOF committee should just be ashamed that he isn’t in yet.

Favorite new guy/rookie on the team? I really love Sutton’s potential, but Freeman was a need that we haven’t filled in a long time, so he is probably more valuable to the team’s success.

Superstitions on game day? Always tye-die, and working the “hot spots” in the room. At least one dog on the couch for support, but I never sit. I’m always moving from one part of the room to the other. Usually different from offense to defense, with brief moments of commenting on the game thread.

Least favorite game analyst/commentator? Phil Simms, not just because it’s fun to hate on him. As a color guy I think he often got lost in “what was my point?” Guys like Collingsworth and Romo stay on the point they are making and see the field as players in a way that the fans at home don’t. And they convey that. Simms would stray into his “I don’t like this guy/team” grab bag and you could always tell when he did.

Favorite sports cliche? “You can’t teach that.” I’ve always liked this one because I’ve proven it wrong so many times. Certain abilities you can’t teach, but to those with that ability I have taught many things to them. I think it is a classic cop-out for coaches to not be responsible, and that’s why I like that cliche. Do your job and you can teach a lot, rather than pining for a talent that you would coach no different and likely wouldn’t help improve.

Favorite sports movie? “Dodgeball.” For a more sanctioned sport, “We are the Titans.”

I know your dad has been a major influence in your life and a big reason for your Broncos fandom. Tell us your best day watching Broncos football with him?

Typing the line about Keenum “sitting in the dark” was a flashback moment for me, because we did so much of that during my growing up, breaking down film—absolutely some of my favorite times. I learned so much about not just the game itself, but how to recognize talent before it had blossomed. He and Jack Elway were gifted in that regard. There were so many of those Eureka Moments that I can’t pick a best day, but I can offer a few that qualify.

When John Ralston started to turn the Broncos around, my Dad said to me during the tie with the Steelers that the team was finally learning how to “focus on winning, rather than trying not to lose.” And he was right, that was the first real tipping point for the franchise.

The second time would be when the Broncos beat the Steelers in the 1977 season playoffs. He said, “remember that tie? So do they, and they were focused on winning this game before they arrived at the stadium, and look what happened.”

The last, and the hardest, would be losing him before the Manning-led verison could bring home the trophy. He was convinced in 2012 that they were “the team to beat.” And then the Flacco disaster happened. I went to see him and his post-game catharsis was to show me how an expanded offensive approach could really confound defenses when coupled with Manning’s special talents. But he stressed that “Manning has always been great, but his defensive counterparts have been a liability. If he’s going to win again he needs a defense that scares people. Build a secondary with that pass rush and they will.” Again, he was right. I was miserable through the Seattle game when many of those talents were poorly exemplified but absolutely euphoric during Super Bowl 50 when they were. I miss him every day, but I still hear him every day. Some of that wisdom comes out when I have mostly forgotten it, but it’s always there.


Which part of "LOLRaiders" makes you laugh the hardest?

This poll is closed

  • 40%
    Getting rid of Khalil Mack just before the season
    (75 votes)
  • 2%
    Having a bunch of geriatric players
    (5 votes)
  • 18%
    Jon Gruden for $100 million for 10 years
    (33 votes)
  • 15%
    Mark Davis’ haircut
    (29 votes)
  • 0%
    How much they whine when Marquette King trolls them on Twitter
    (1 vote)
  • 18%
    Obviously "Whorfin"
    (33 votes)
  • 3%
    (7 votes)
183 votes total Vote Now