It thankfully wasn't JaMarcus Russell getting the start under center. Instead, it was Charlie Frye getting the start at quarterback for the Oakland Raiders today as they hoped to put a minor dent into the the Denver Broncos' playoff hopes. Little did we know that both Russell and Frye would play a role in deciding the outcome of today's game. The Raiders (4-9) and the Broncos (8-5) met earlier this year in Oakland in which Denver prevailed convincingly. Last year in Denver, however, it was Oakland who came away with a shocking 31-10 victory. This time around, let's see how the two bitter rivals went at each other. Anything can happen in a rivalry game between two original AFL franchises.
Michael Bush made his only carry in the first quarter worth an important six points. [via a.espncdn.com]
First Quarter: The Broncos began the game kicking it off to the Raiders. Not surprisingly, the ineffective Gary Russell was returning kicks. He took a knee, though, and the kick into the end zone actually benefited us. Charlie Frye, a 6-14 record as a starter, took the field and threw an incomplete pass on the first play. Out of the power-I, Justin Fargas gained a few yards on the next play. Needing seven yards, a six-yard pass to Chaz Schilens brought out the punt team. Shane Lechler only managed a weak 45-yard punt right to Eddie Royal which was returned for not too many yards. On first down, the rookie out of Georgia by the name of Knowshon Moreno carried it to the right side and was tackled by Nnamdi Asomugha. On second down, Greg Ellis almost got to Kyle Orton and forced an incomplete pass off the deflection. A false start penalty on tight Daniel Graham set Denver back some more, and they needed 12 yards on third down. It didn't matter as Royal picked up more than enough to convert it. Utilizing the running backs effectively -- particularly Knowshon Moreno with just a little dash of Correll Buckhalter -- allowed the Broncos to move down the field nicely. A third down stop inside the 10 by the Raiders defense forced a chip shot field goal by Matt Prater. The Broncos had taken the early 3-0 lead. The second possession started with a four-yard pass from Frye to Schilens. A three-yard run by Darren McFadden made it a very, very manageable third down. The Broncos out of the blitz and despite being in a shot gun, Frye hurried the throw. It wasn't much a throw. The ball just sort of floated out there and Champ Bailey grabbed it easily out of the air. On Denver's first play on their next possession, Brandon Marshall made a 24-yard catch after running his route after being put in motion. Two plays later, the Broncos ran a screen to Ryan Clady which cost them yards thanks to a very nice tackle by Asomugha. A confusing penalty pushed the Broncos back to the 17 yard line. Kyle Orton was sacked by rookie Matt Shaughnessy on the next play, and then a screen play to Eddie Royal was stopped by Stanford Routt and company on the right side. Another Matt Prater field goal -- this one extra "boomy" -- gave Denver a 6-0 lead with just over four minutes to play in the first quarter. A dumb intentional grounding penalty cost the Raiders 15 yards and a down. Kenny Peterson squashed Fargas behind the line of scrimmage and it become third down and impossible. Another blah run and it was punt time once again. A 64-yard punt by Lechler, all of which came by of the leg, was returned for a mediocre gain by Kenny McKinley. Moreno continued to own us on the ground with a couple of more nice carries. A third down blitz forced an incomplete pass on coverage by, yes, Chris Johnson! Mitch Berger, who seem as if has been punting forever, booted a smashing 12-yard punt out of bounds. Oakland started at their own 34 yard line and Charlie Frye shocked the crowd with a 26-yard scamper on the left side after a play fake. That exciting play capped the first quarter at Invesco Field at Mile High.
Sebastian Janikowski dropped in a 54-yard field goal as he routinely does. [via a.espncdn.com]
Second Quarter: The second quarter began with Frye looking deep for Louis Murphy; however, it was incomplete although an illegal contact penalty gave the Raiders five free yards. Shortly, third down and long followed. A nice crossing pattern to Johnnie Lee Higgins picked up 12 yards and the first down as well. Then boom, I don't even know what just happened! Michael Bush, on his first carry of the game, goes 23 yards and in for the score. It's his first touchdown in nine games and a Sebastian Janikowski extra point gave Oakland a 7-6 lead early in the second quarter. Denver's next possession ended up with a punt after a first down. Mike Mitchell knocked down Orton after bringing the blitz on third down. Higgins returned the punt for a decent gain and the Raiders had good field position. After some plays, Elvis Dumervil grabbed Charlie Frye's facemask and was called for a roughing the passer penalty. A 15-yard penalty gave Oakland the ball at their own 48. A couple of run plays later made it third and manageable for Frye and company. Chased out of the pocket, Frye threw off of his back foot and hit Murphy on the right side. It was a great effort by both parties. Josh McDaniels threw out the challenge flag, but it only cost him a timeout in the end. The ruling on the field stood as originally called and Oakland had a first down at Denver's 41 yard line. McFadden picked up three yards on a carry to the left side as we Raider fans collectively as a bunch were wondering where Michael Bush was. Anyway, the game must go on. A one-yard pass from Frye to Luke Lawton on a play-action made it third down and six yards to go. Ah, now Bush is in the backfield. Out of the shot gun, Frye fired down the field to Schilens. It appeared as if Schilens had come down with it, but Denver's Tony Carter wouldn't give up on the play and made a nice play on the ball. Janikowski squeaked in a field goal to give the Raiders had a 10-6 lead over the Broncos. Denver opened up their next drive with what's been working well and that's been Knowshon Moreno's legs. A six-yard carry was all very well, but then Tyvon Branch blew the next one up in the backfield. An incomplete pass intended for LaMont Jordan set up a punt and a bunch of booing from the home crowd. A punt gave it back to Oakland, but it backed them up 15 yards after the Higgins return because of an illegal block in the back penalty on Sam Williams. According to commentator Steve Tasker, a former special teams specialist, claims there was no illegal block in the back. It didn't matter what he thought, however. A timeout was burned by Frye before the first play was run. Brandon Myers, filling in for the injured Zach Miller, made his first catch of the game for a decent gain. Michael Bush finally got a carry after his 23-yard touchdown in the first quarter and it was good enough for a first down. Frye was having communication problems with his helmet, so he ran over to the sidelines to get the play yelled at him. Andra Davis almost picked off Frye on the next play. Whew, that was close. Another near-turnover happened on the next play as Bush lost it; however, left tackle Mario Henderson was able to pick it up. A third down draw to Bush goes for 13 yards and Denver's defense had no idea. A solid run by McFadden took us to the two-minute warning. In good position for points, the Raiders looked to forge ahead some more. A nice throw from Frye to Murphy picked up a good chunk of yards and yet another 13-yard run by Bush took it to Denver's 16 yard line. Tony Stewart got into the act a few plays later with his first catch of the game. The Broncos got their stop on third down and the Raiders were confined to just three points. Janikowski booted through his second field goal of the day and Oakland had a 13-6 lead over Denver. Using up 22 seconds, the Broncos had three incomplete passes and then a short little pass over the middle to Jabar Gaffney. Tom Cable used his final timeout and forced the Broncos to at least bring out the punting unit. A 45-yard punt ended the half with Oakland on top over Denver by a 13-6 score. Oh, but wait as there was a penalty and so the Raiders got the chance to run one more play. A nice run for McFadden took us to halftime.
Honoring Chris Henry before the game, Brandon Marshall scored a touchdown during it. [via a.espncdn.com]
Third Quarter: The Broncos started the second half with the ball. A touchback by Janikowski plated Denver at their own 20. After picking up a first down, Kirk Morrison made a nice tackle in the open field to bring up a third down for the Broncos. Orton fired and completed it to Brandon Stokley as he, along with Tony Scheffler, made his first catch of the game on the opening drive of the second half. A 13-yard run by LaMont Jordan followed that as Hiram Eugene knocked him out of bounds. The Denver offense appeared to be firing on all cylinders as Orton hooked up with Eddie Royal in the middle of the field. A sense of urgency indeed from the Broncos offense, Gus Johnson. A big third down and long Denver could not convert thanks to a heavy blitz and great coverage by Chris Johnson. Matt Prater banged through his field third goal of the game and Oakland maintained their lead, with it now standing at 13-9. Oakland had the ball back and Frye hit Bush in the flat for a nice gain on the left side to pick up a first down. A toss to McFadden on the right side -- hey, McFadden in space -- picked up good yardage and even a first down in the process. Shaken up on the play was Champ Bailey, and he had to leave the game. A promising drive turned sour, however, with McFadden getting the ball stripped. Denver had it at midfield. A struggling offense has gained momentum just like that. On the first play, though, Asomugha blew it up in the backfield as he dropped Moreno for a four-yard loss. A stupid penalty on the other side of the field went against Stanford Routt and a third down and 11 turned into an automatic first down. A one-handed grab by Brandon Marshall gave the Broncos a first down and then he made another play all the way down to the Raiders' 19 yard line. Denver really took advantage of Marshall in this quarter when Asomugha wasn't on him. On a scamper by Kyle Orton, Tommy Kelly was down on the field with an injury. Some plays later, Orton hooked up with Marshall as Brandon was a yard deep in the end zone against a zone defense. Following that play, a fight occurred. I didn't see who exactly was involved, but it looked like Richard Seymour against some offensive linemen from Denver. Anyway, Denver cashed in on the McFadden fumble and the Broncos had scored 10 straight points to take a 16-13 lead late in the third quarter. Gary Russell finally got a chance to return a kick and it was actually a good one; however, penalty flag totally negated that one. It seems like the game is totally spiraling out now. A couple of sweet runs by Michael Bush -- including one of the 40-yard variety -- took the ball down to the 31 yard line of Denver's. Then, Darren McFadden had a huge run of his own that went for 28 yards on the left side. After a pair of one-yard Bush runs, the Raiders were still on the outside looking in with 28 seconds to go in the third quarter. On third down and needing a yard, another carry for Bush went nowhere but instead backwards. That ended the third quarter.
Yes, this is the correct reaction after JaMarcus Russell's performance. [via a.espncdn.com]
Fourth Quarter: To start the quarter, the Raiders were looking for the end zone. On fourth down, Cable elected to go for it. A fake dive and pitch to McFadden went for two yards, but was ultimately a yard short. Denver took over at their own one yard line. The defense stood firm, however, and Berger booted it to Higgins. A nice punt, Higgins backpedaled and was able to return it for some yards to his own 40 yard line. Carries by McFadden, Bush and then Bush again picked up a first down for the Raiders as they moved into Broncos territory. Frye dropped back to pass and was totally rocked by Andra Davis. Trying to get up to his feet under his own power, Frye just could not due to the impact of the hit. The trainers came onto the field and so, yes, JaMarcus Russell marched onto the field as we hung our heads. Where was J.P. Losman? An illegal shift penalty pinned the Raiders back even further. A run by Bush was followed up by a timeout. Let's have a recap within the recap for a second. Russell comes in and we have two men in motion at the same time, a weak run to the left side and then a timeout. Alright, so the run play wasn't on him. Still, you see what it's like with Russell in the game at quarterback instead of right tackle. Well, the next pass was totally short intended for Murphy and a five-yard spiking penalty on Louis brought out Lechler for a punt. The Broncos came out running it with Moreno and Jordan, and the Raiders are going to need a stop somehow to get the offense back out there. On the next play, a slant to Stokley went all the down inside he five as he beat Routt on that play. A horse collar penalty on Routt was tacked on. There was a bit of a delay afterward with some laser trouble in the crowd, but the game was continued. A stop on third down on the ground and a fourth down stop through the air held Denver to a field goal. After lasers and guys losing their pants, we had a bit of a scrummage after the field goal. It's all going down today. Just under six minutes remained with the Broncos on top, 19-13. A run by Bush and a four-yard reception by Schilens made it a very manageable third down for Russell. A low ball to Bush, that should have been caught, was dropped by Bush. The defense did their part, largely due to the sack, and Oakland was getting the ball back after the Denver punt. After a Higgins return, the Raiders had it at their own 38 yard line with still 3:29 to play. Russell was still the quarterback. On the first play, Cooper Carlisle had to scoop up a Russell fumble. God, we're doomed. Oh, but a flag on the next play on Andre Goodman gave the Raiders the ball in Broncos territory. A pass interference was rightfully called and new life had been granted. On second down, Russell was knocked out of the game. It's up to quarterback number three -- J.P. "Does He Even Know a Play?" Losman -- to save us now. After one incomplete pass by Losman, Russell was back in there. On fourth down, he fired it over the middle and it was caught by Tony Stewart who had enough for a first down. That took us to the two-minute warning. The first play out of it, Russell hit Stewart for nine yards. Following that, he found Schilens at the 10 yard line. Following an incomplete pass, an illegal contact penalty gave the Raiders an automatic first down at the five. There were 45 seconds to go in the game. Out of the shot gun, right tackle Cornell Green had a false start. That's pretty inexcusable. Still, it was a first down. Out of the shot gun, Russell dropped back to pass and has his arm hit as he he threw. The ball went out of bounds to the right. Then, on the next play, the impossible happened. Russell fires and it's caught by Chaz Schilens, his favorite target. With 35 seconds to go, the Broncos had just one timeout remaining. McKinley brought out the kick to the 21 yard line. Greg Ellis breaks through on the first play and sacks Kyle Orton while forcing a fumble in the meantime. After a second down incomplete pass, a deep ball to Brandon Marshall was broken up thanks to a huge hit from Michael Huff. A fourth down pass was completed to Brandon Stokley with about eight seconds to go; however, with no timeouts, Denver couldn't stop the clock. The game was over the Raiders had prevailed, 20-19, on the road over the Broncos.
The caption goes right here. [via cdn1.sbnation.com]
The Report Card: I'll give grades to the pass offense, rush offense, pass defense, rush defense and special teams. Of course, you're welcome to give your own grades in the comments.
Pass Offense: D+ -- When you only complete less than 50 percent of your passes and you throw for 115 yards with an interception, you don't even deserve a "D+" grade; however, when you lead your team down the field like that to win the game, there's a curve involved. I think this is even a little generous.
Rush Offense: A -- Michael Bush had a tremendous day on the ground and Darren McFadden was certainly very good himself despite just 12 carries. Overall, a touchdown to go along with a 7.1 yards per carry average is very nice. Getting that touchdown in the third quarter maybe would've bumped it up to an "A+" grade, but we'll take this one every single time out.
Pass Defense: B -- Brandon Marshall was contained to a degree and that's all you can really ask for against a great wide receiver. Nnamdi Asomugha covered him well, but Stanford Routt and Chris Johnson didn't. Overall, the heat was on Kyle Orton enough to make him uncomfortable back there at times.
Rush Defense: A- -- A bad start, yes, but the rush defense really put the clamps down. LaMont Jordan had a nice average, but Knowshon Moreno did absolutely nothing in the second half. This was probably our best game as a unit as far as the opposition's ground game goes.
Special Teams: B -- Maybe not a great return pursuit a few times and Lechler didn't have his best day, but overall, it was a really good effort. Gary Russell didn't get a chance to return too many, but Johnnie Lee Higgins was decent and Sebastian Janikowski didn't miss.
My Thoughts and Tidbits: Wow, that was a terrific ending. Who thought that Frye would get knocked out, Russell would get knocked out and then Losman would have to come in? Then, who thought Russell would come back in the game and then lead the team to a game-winning touchdown drive? Man, that was an incredible game. The defense really played hard. The defensive line brought the heat, the linebackers tackled and the defensive backs made plays all over the field. That's how you respond after a bad game, guys. Let's finally get two consecutive wins with us taking on the Cleveland Browns (3-11) next Sunday. Thank you, Oakland Raiders, for our early Christmas present.