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Ultimate Fan: Escaping the rush, protecting the ball is the key for Lock bringing back the ‘W’

Other than the stout four-man rush, the Raiders don’t have much to offer on defense.

Denver Broncos v Las Vegas Raiders Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Merry almost-Christmas, Ultimate Fans!

It’s been another head-scratching, face-palming kind of week after the Broncos failed to win against a very beatable Cincinnati Bengals game, but we’re nothing if not forward-thinkers here, so we are not dwelling on the lost game - or playoff opportunities - and are instead just focused on the immediate future.

Beating the $^%#*^! Raiders.

Because that’s what is has come down to. The Broncos need to win two of the last three for a winning record (not necessarily the same thing as a winning season) and need to win three of three to have even a sliver of hope for a playoff berth. But more than either of those, the Broncos need to beat their division rival who they allowed to come into Mile High and curb stomp them.

We have some revenge to get and there is no better UFGer for that than a BayAreaUnitedinOrange who will be at the game screaming for the good guys to beat the bad guys. The really bad guys.

In fact, all we want for Christmas is to throat punch this Raiders team. Figuratively, of course. In the spirit of the holiday season ;)

Week 16: Broncos at Raiders

MHR - The Bengals game outcome was inexplicable. Except that it wasn’t. It was kind of what the Broncos have done all season - play good one week; poorly the next. What do you account for that highly disappointing loss?
BayAreaUnitedinOrange: Exciting win one week, demoralizing loss the next. It’s not even the wins and losses, but the inconsistent game planning, execution, and in-game adjustments that have made this season tantalizing, yet highly disappointing overall.

MHR - Drew Lock is getting to start and for the first time this season will have a week of reps and his best shot at proving he can be an NFL starter. How big of a game is this for him? How big is it for the team?
BayAreaUnitedinOrange: For Drew Lock, this is the opportunity he should have been preparing for all season. Yes, finally getting the #1 reps during the week are important, and, hopefully game planning by Shurmur to his strengths are equally important. The bottom line: Lock needs to perform. For the team and fans, it’s one more look at whether Lock can be a reliable backup for 2022. One game is not enough to say, OK, he’s turned a corner and can compete for a starter role, but some growth in his game should be expected.

MHR - Melvin Gordon and Javonte Williams are still capable of each getting 1,000 rushing yards on the season. Williams needs to average 62 yards in each of the final three games and Gordon needs to average 77. Does it seem important that the Broncos could end the season with that kind of highlight?
BayAreaUnitedinOrange: If Shurmur had not abandoned the run in that four-game skid earlier in the season, both getting 1,000 rush yards would be a given. At this point with season winding down, it does not seem important, more of an asterisk to the season.

MHR - Whether either running back gets the yards, it seems like a good game plan on Sunday to establish the run. For real. Because as Silver And Black Pride writer Matt Holder said, the right side of the Raiders’ defensive line struggles to hold up at the point of attack. Do you trust Shurmur to take advantage of that?
BayAreaUnitedinOrange: I do not trust Shurmur to game plan, and adjust game plan in-game to Denver’s strengths. It’s called being out coached, and we’ve seen it time and time again.

MHR - By DVOA stats, the Raiders defense is ranked 25th overall, and a few notable observations via DVOA are that they are not great at defending passes on the right and left but are good at taking the middle. Also they aren’t great defending the run inside the middle. So with that knowledge, what kinds of offensive plays are you scheming for Drew Lock’s success this week?
BayAreaUnitedinOrange: I would run up the middle, traps, guards pulling, heavy with a lot of 12 personnel, be patient, and give Lock play actions to spring a few big plays. Lock has not consistently shown the ability to strike outside accurately, either long or short. Give him quick hitters on his PA’s, slants and quick curls and let Broncos WRs and TEs turn the YACs into big plays. Reviewing the Week 6 loss, Fant had probably his best game, 9 catches, 97 yds plus 1 TD. That is the kind of production needed in the passing game.

MHR - Last week the Broncos defense held the Bengals to 15 points, really only losing contain on one big play that led to the touchdown. Is this defense much better prepared for the Raiders’ offense - which is performing rather terribly - this time around?
BayAreaUnitedinOrange: Based on recent performances, yes. Based on my gut instinct, no.

Denver lost the turnover battle 4-0 in Week 6. We can’t have 3 INTs again, and with Lock, well…... However, Denver’s D has been unable to get TOs in bunches this season. Despite the advanced metrics and points against per game (2nd in league) for this defense, the Turnover margin is still a major stat and Team is even on the season, averaging just over 1 defensive TO per game. This needs to be better! The top eight teams with most defensive TOs forced should be familiar as all will be playing in January - DAL, IND, BUF, NE, KC, TB, AZ and GB.

MHR - The Raiders will be without Henry Ruggs III this week, but they still have Hunter Renfrow, who has been great in the slot, and possibly Darren Waller who has also been having a season when he’s played. How does this defense keep Derek Carr from connecting to Renfrow and Waller for plays that torch the D?
BayAreaUnitedinOrange: Looking back at Week 6, Ruggs had a game against us. I look for Denver’s D to keep everything in front, short tosses, which with Carr, historically hasn’t always worked. Carr has torched Denver in the past with his short passing game, completing 75-85% of passes. If we can avoid the big play, though, that is our best chance to contain and win.

MHR - Who will be the most important player/players on defense for the Broncos?
BayAreaUnitedinOrange: With Waller playing, look for the Raiders to target Browning and Griffith and test their tackling ability. They showed up last week, now let’s see some consistency!

MHR - Who will be the most important player/players on offense for the Broncos?
BayAreaUnitedinOrange: Lock. If he can execute a game plan that plays to his strengths and minimize TOs, Denver has the chance to score enough to win.

MHR - If you could ask Santa for ONE thing for this team this season, what would it be
BayAreaUnitedinOrange: Beat the Raiders!

MHR - I asked a version of this last week, and it seems more pertinent now: If you were George Paton, what would be your thoughts right now on this current coaching staff? Can the remaining games change your mind? Basically, if today were Black Monday, does Fangio & Co. still have a job?
BayAreaUnitedinOrange: I say no, clean house, start over. Fangio will land on his feet somewhere as DC/Asst HC even. The rest, who cares? Would you like any more of my thoughts?

MHR - The Broncos are not likely making the playoffs this season, but how important do you think it will be for this team to a) beat the hated Raiders and b) win out or at least win two of the final three games so they have end with a winning record?
BayAreaUnitedinOrange: With such a young core on both sides of the ball, playing three good games, winning one or two will go a long way to setting the tone, changing the dialog for 2022. Important!

How important is a franchise QB to this current roster? Does it need to be a young one the Broncos draft or an elite free agent (i.e. Aaron Rodgers or Russell Wilson)?
BayAreaUnitedinOrange: Since Manning retired, Denver has had the 4th best QB in the AFC West every season. We know the laundry list of Denver QBs. Raiders are still in the Derek Carr era; Chefs have gone from Alex Smith to Patrick Mahomes; Chargers from Rivers to Herbert. It’s our turn! Relying on Paton to make it so.

Speaking of Paton, can he pull an Aaron Rodgers out of his hat? Would Broncos Country accept the price and question marks that come with DeShaun Watson? Can Russell Wilson still cook, or is he cooked? Of the next level elite FAs’ trade targets, how about Marcus Mariota? Could he be the next Ryan Tannehill with a second chance?

Draft a franchise QB you say? For those who are trashing Denver FO for passing on Josh Allen, were you at the time hoping for Josh Rosen instead of Allen? And those wanting Justin Fields, have you forgotten the previous highly touted Ohio State QB Dwayne Haskins? A question posed many times on these pages, would Mac Jones get the coaching and scheme needed to succeed in Denver?

Let’s be honest, getting a franchise QB is a crapshoot. When Manning retired, who was the No. 1 free agent QB in the offseason? Yes, Brock Osweiler of recent Brock n Roll fame. Lately, veteran retreads and former No. 1’s trying to reclaim their fame have been available in free agency. Cam Newton anyone?

MHR - For the first time in over 40 years, the Broncos won’t have a Pro Bowler. Do you think that’s a fair assessment of this team’s talent? Or a snub? And is the Pro Bowl even worth the nomination anymore?
BayAreaUnitedinOrange: I would say unfair for the defense as Justin Simmons and PS2 deserve more recognition than alternates. On a snub scale 1-10, maybe a 5. As far as Pro Bowl, still a nice recognition, though I don’t know why the NFL attempts to play a game, other than TV $$$.

Predictions

Stats for Drew Lock? Let me be optimistic and say 18 of 30, 285 with 2 TDs, 1 INT

Stats for each Broncos RB? Gordon 75 yds, 1 TD; Pookie 85 yds plus 1 TD rec

Number of yards receiving/TDs for each receiver? Jeudy leading the way with 6 catches, 105 yds and a long catch and run TD; Fant underneath with 5 catches and 85, Sutton and Patrick both underutilized again, 3 catches, 30 yds for each; Pookie with the other TD reception

Longest FG for McManus on Sunday? 40

Number of sacks to Lock? 3

Number of sacks to Derek Carr? 3

Broncos player with the most tackles? Browning

Who gets the first sack in the game for the Broncos? The most? Simmons on a blitz for first; Cooper and Chubb for the others

How many INTs/FF/FR for the Broncos D? Enough, hopefully, 2 INTS/2 FF/1FR

How many penalties will the refs get wrong? One big one at the end, right!?!?!? History is on my side.

Final Score? Denver 24 - The Raid-uhs 16

The Favorites

Favorite Broncos win over the Raiders EVER? Let’s say THIS game! I’ll be there rooting on the Orange and Blue.

Favorite Broncos regular season game with Elway? Looking back at box scores, let’s say Elway’s last game vs Raiders in 1998, a 40-14 thumping. It’s easy to forget how balanced the offense was in 1998, remembering TD with his 2K+ rushing yards. In this game, Passing Yards: 201; Rushing Yards: 196. I could pick almost any 1998 game as a favorite.

With Manning? Although 2014 was not a great year, Manning beat the Raiders twice 41-17 and 47-14. May I have more, please? LOL..

Favorite game with a HOF quarterback? Easy, the SB50 banner raising and back-to-back beat down of Cam and the Panthers. I was at that game and the No Fly Zone, Von, Demarcus, rest of that D looked like they were ready to repeat.

Favorite postseason win, not a Super Bowl? The Fumble

Favorite Broncos game EVER? SB32

Team you hate to lose to the most in the AFC West? Used to be Raiders, hard not to say Chefs now after 12 straight

Team you love to beat the most in the AFC West? Pats

Team you hate to lose to the most in the entire AFC (outside of the West)? Pats

NFC team you cannot stand? Dallas

NFC team you could root for in the Super Bowl (if not playing the Broncos, of course)?Niners

Favorite game so far this season? Dallas

Favorite Broncos player on the current roster? I had to think on this one, as no one player jumped out at me. Let’s say Jeudy.

Favorite Broncos player of all time? John Elway

Favorite new guy/rookie on the team? A lot to choose from, let’s say Pookie Williams

Superstitions on game day? Wear Broncos gear, change-up week to week as needed

NEWEST favorite game analyst/commentator? Changing this up to give a shoutout to a young guy I like every time I see him broadcast, Greg Olson.

Favorite sports cliche? On any given Sunday.

Favorite Christmas movie? “It’s a Wonderful Life.” I’m soggy toast at the end every time.

How did you get your MHR handle?

Long-time Broncos fan, ex-Denver resident now living in the Bay Area, During SB50 Fan Fest, everywhere you looked you saw “United in Orange,” so there you go.

How did you become a Broncos fan?

After moving to Denver in early 80s from Detroit, was intrigued by Orange Crush defense then sold during Elway years.