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Instant Reaction: Broncos disappoint in season finale loss to Raiders

The Denver Broncos lost to the Las Vegas Raiders 27-14. Now their offseason begins!

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

The Denver Broncos had a shot to finish the season on a strong note by beating the Las Vegas Raiders. Alas, the Raiders were able to take care of business and defeat the Broncos by a score of 27-14.

With their loss, the Broncos failed to achieve a winning record this season and finished 8-9. Moreover, they have now dropped eight games in a row to their AFC West Rival. This game tells me one thing—Denver is a lot further away from being a contender than most fans would like to believe. The silver-lining? The Broncos are looking like they have secured a Top 12 selection in the 2024 NFL Draft.

Here are some takeaways from this afternoon’s season finale.

Broncos ground game halted by Raiders defensive front seven.

Earlier in the week, I had stated on the Horse Tracks podcast that I was expecting a much better performance from Denver in the running game. In particular from Javonte Williams who has had an average season at best. In fact, underwhelming might be a better way to describe it—even when you consider the fact he was coming back from a significant injury.

Unfortunately, the Broncos weren’t able to do anything at all on the ground. The Raiders did a tremendous job winning in the trenches and were able to put a halt to Denver’s rushing attack. Truth be told, the Raiders defense has been one of the better units in the league in the second half of the season, but it still isn’t an excuse for the issues we saw with the running game today.

Williams only had three carries in the first half for 13 yards. Jaleel McLaughlin had four carries but only came away with six yards before being ruled out of the game with a head injury. Samaje Perine had one rushing attempt for just one yard. Overall, they weren’t even able to rush for 60 yards on the ground.

We don’t know who the Broncos quarterbacks for the 2024 season will be, but they certainly have to do a better job running the ball next season. The overall effort this year was mediocre. In order for Denver’s offense to get back on track, they have to have a strong rushing attack. No quarterback is going to come in and be successful if they don’t improve in that area. I’d suggest snagging a back somewhere in the draft, but the Broncos are already short on picks.

Zamir White slashes and dashes through Denver’s defense.

One major takeaway from this game is just how much of a makeover Denver’s defensive line needs this offseason. Raiders running back Zamir White averaged 4.5 yards per carry against them and had over 100 yards on the ground.

Let’s be honest. Outside of Zach Allen, how many legitimate players do the Broncos have in the fold in the trenches? Zero by my count. Harsh? Perhaps, but the Broncos haven’t been able to consistently stop opposing team’s running attack all season long. It’s a recipe for disaster if they don’t get that fixed.

Unfortunately, the Broncos lack draft capital. While snagging a first-round quarterback would be exciting, today’s game shows us how much of a talent deficiency the franchise is actually operating at. If it’s not a bold move for a quarterback, trading back and acquiring more picks to help replenish their defensive front seven would be a smart move.

Offensive line embarks on one of their worst pass blocking performances of the season.

Not only did the Broncos struggle in the running game, but another issue for them was their inability to protect Jarrett Stidham. The Raiders had three sacks in the first half and over a half dozen quarterback hurries. Cameron Fleming had a horrendous game and was beat routinely by top-tier pass rusher Maxx Crosby.

With that in mind, a lot of the pass plays called were dead on arrival. However, Brandon Johnson and Jerry Jeudy had some big plays and made the most of the opportunities and throws that came their direction. Even so, Denver will need improved play from their offensive line next season in order to be successful. Ben Powers and Mike McGlinchey didn’t live up to their big free agent contracts in year one and Lloyd Cushenberry, who might have been Denver’s best offensive lineman all season, will likely head elsewhere in free agency.