Oh, where to begin. In a game like this the heroes are few and the goats can be many. But that's pretty much what Peyton Manning will do to an opposing team - leave you searching for answers. In that regard, it can be a good thing to face a player like him and a team like the Broncos this early in the season with this newly rebuilt squad. It exposes every possible weakness you have.
So, the Raiders go from playing the worst team in the NFL to playing the best in consecutive weeks. It's like ending the best relationship you had and then latching onto a rebound girl who only makes you miss the first girl even more - it sucks but there is no learning experience quite like it.
The Raiders were blown through like a tornado through a trailer park in the first half of this game. It wasn't until the second half that they began to show some real fight and by then the Broncos knew they had the game well in hand. All they could do was settle with the fact that these are two teams on very different trajectories and batten down the hatches for the long haul.
Here are those who held up the fort and those who got buried in the rubble.
What a twist of fate this is. But this is pretty much what Denarius has always been known for. Ever since college, he will show up big in one game and disappear in the next. Numbers wise, this was the second best game of his career. His 6 catches for 124 yards and a touchdown led the team. He scored the only touchdown of the first half when he caught a 20-yard pass from Terrelle Pryor, made a move and took the ball 53 more yards for the touchdown. On the previous drive, he had a ten-yard catch which was the first third down conversion on the day for the Raiders. It came after three-straight three and outs to begin the game for the Raiders and with the team already down 10-0. His touchdown catch was only the second third down conversion for the team and brought the Raiders back to within ten, offering a glimmer of hope before the Broncos pulled away. Those were the only two third down conversions in the first half.
Early in the fourth quarter, with the Broncos up 37-14, Denarius had three catches on the next drive for 40 yards and was targeted in the endzone on fourth and goal only to have the ball knocked down by the defender. It's performances like this that have fans and coaches salivating over what Denarius Moore is capable of. It would be nice to see him do this on a more consistent basis.
It was a slow start for Pryor. By the time he really got going, the Raiders were already down 30-7. But that wasn't entirely his fault. There were six drives in the first half for the Raiders with just one of them resulting in a score.
The first drive, Pryor was erratic. He rolled right twice to improvise and threw off-target for incompletions both times for a three and out. Call it nerves on the big Monday night stage in a hostile environment. He shook them off and settled in.
When he came back out for his second series, he was already playing from behind -- 7-0. This time the series was derailed by a false start, a bogus pass offensive pass interference penalty and a dropped pass on third down. Pryor actually had a fantastic play in which he escaped what looked like a sure sack and threw on target to Rod Streater for seven yards. The next play should have been a first down to Mychal Rivera had he not been called for the phantom pass interference. And so it goes.
Another three and out series later, now down 10-0 while getting no help from the run game, he faked the ball to McFadden and kept it himself for a 23 yard scamper and the first 1st down play of the game. Two plays later, he completed a pass to Denarius on third down to pick up another first down. Unfortunately, he could go no further thanks to throwing off-target long and a 1-yard screen on third and 12.
He came out for the next drive down 17-0 and went three and out. But this time the third play was a 73-yard catch and run by Denarius Moore for the touchdown. That appliance salesman in Denver offering refunds if the Broncos shut out the Raiders was a big Raider fan on that play. The final drive was stunted early by a holding penalty and ended with a sack.
Things didn't improve for the Raiders to begin the second half but it featured a nice heads up play by Pryor. After two straight holding penalties to start the drive, Pryor made up some ground with a 15-yard pass to Jacoby Ford. The heads up play won't show up in the box score but it would have showed up in the scoring column had he not made it. Stefen Wisniewski snapped the ball early and it sailed over Pryor's head and into the endzone. He could have just fallen on it to give up a safety for fear of a Broncos touchdown, but being as athletic as he is, he kept his composure, tracked down the ball, picked it up and nearly made a play with his arm. In this case, punting was a victory over giving up either two or seven points.
The next drive, the Raider had a short field off a turnover and Pryor helped them capitalize on it. He started things off by converting another third down on a 20-yard completion to Rivera. Then he showed some nice pocket presence when he stepped up in the pocket and threw a strike to Brice Butler for 29 yards. On the next play, the Raiders got tricky. Pryor took the snap and went left to pull some of the defense with him. He then passed back to the right to McFadden who threw a perfect fade pass to Marcel Reece for the touchdown.
The next drive, Pryor was on the move again after passes of ten yards, 7 yards, a nifty back-shoulder pass for 17 yards to Denarius, and escaping heavy pressure to hit Rod Streater for a 28-yarder that put the Raiders in first and goal at the six yard line. Two plays later, he was sent on a designed run that was read perfectly by the Broncos and resulted in a hard hit on Pryor that would knock him from the game and the Raiders drive stopped at the one-yard line with a turnover on downs.
He would head to the locker room and not return for the final drive but still finished with his best passing day as a Raider, connecting on 19 of 28 passes for 281 yards and a touchdown while adding 36 yards on the ground.
Coming into the game, Peyton Manning had yet to turn the ball over on the season. He was also used to having the steady protection of his blindside from Ryan Clady. Well, Clady is out for the season and Houston was charged with taking advantage of his replacement Chris Clark. Most of the day, Manning got the ball out so fast, Houston had no shot at getting to him. They also double teamed Houston knowing the threat he posed and to make up for the loss of Clady. But late in the third quarter, with the Broncos in first down at the Raiders' 13-yard line, knocking on the door again, Houston got the edge on Clark and had a free shot at Manning. He nailed Manning in the back and jarred the ball loose where it was picked up by Jason Hunter and the Raiders were in business. The Raiders would capitalize on the turnover with a touchdown.
That was the first turnover of any kind for the Raiders on the season but Houston and company were not done. Late in the fourth quarter, Houston got in the backfield again, and as he wrapped up the legs of Broncos running back Montee Ball, Kevin Burnett punched the ball out and Mike Jenkins recovered it. This time it was in Broncos' territory at the 20-yard line and the Raiders capitalized with another touchdown to finish the game out on a high note. The Broncos feared Lamarr Houston in this game and rightfully so. If he can manage to get some help in coverage, he might have more time to get to Manning more often.
Another game, another day of locking down his position. He has not allowed a sack all season and has allowed just one pressure. One. For a guy who was brought in just before the season opener and thrust into the starting role due to injury. At this rate, he may just keep the right tackle job even when Jared Veldheer returns which means it would have Khalif Barnes as a backup.
Rod Streater - He again showed his prowess for coming back to the ball when Terrelle Pryor needed him most. He did it twice in this game - a 7-yard catch in the first quarter and a 28-yard catch in the fourth quarter. He finished with three catches on four targets for 42 yards.
With the Raiders punting as much as they did in this game, they needed consistency from King. That's pretty much what they got. Only one of his punts was not too great and it was a touchback that resulted punt for a net of 25 yards. He was punting from the 45-yard line and needed a sky shot but ended up booting it too far and it bounded into the endzone. The rest of this day was pretty good. Even with the 25-yard net punt, he finished with a net of 43.5 on the day and an overall average of 52.5 yards per punt. Equally impressive was keeping Broncos world class punt returner, Trindon Holliday, in check. Holliday was able to return three of those punts (20, 8, 6) for an average of 11.3 yards per return. The other three were a fair catch on a 51-yard punt, a touchback, and a 44-yard punt out of bounds at the Denver 39-yard line.
Brice Butler - Butler would likely have been a Baller had he not dropped the first pass thrown to him. It was right on his hands on third and 17 and would have been a first down but he simply dropped it. Otherwise he had three catches for 54 yards including a huge 29-yard catch which set up the Raiders second touchdown.
The Raiders had three touchdowns on the day and he had two of them - one passing and one running. But outside of those plays, he was plain terrible. He had nine yards on 12 attempts. Yes, that is more attempts than yards for an average of less than a yard per attempt. It was the worst Raiders running back performance in 35 years.
There are some who like to point fingers at the blocking every time McFadden has a bad day. I even heard someone say that even the greatest running backs couldn't have run through the Raiders line Monday night. The only thing that can even be proven from that statement is that it is decidedly false. Great running backs make plays even when it looks like there is no play to be made and find seams where lesser backs might not.
What can certainly also be proven is if given gaping holes in the line, even the lamest of running backs can break through for good yards. Just look at some of the no-name running backs the Broncos' zone scheme and offensive linemen were able to make into stars in the early 2000's - remember Mike Anderson and Olandis Gary?
Another stat to keep in mind is of McFadden's 12 runs, only one was stopped by a defensive lineman and that was his longest run of the day (4 yards). Can't place all the blame on the offensive line for that. McFadden had great success last week running through the line untouched because the Jaguars' terrible defense was focused so heavily on the threat posed by Terrelle Pryor who had run for 112 yards on the Colts the week before. The Broncos defense wasn't so desperate.
He had a Baller day as a receiver. He caught the second touchdown when he got behind the defender and looked in an over the shoulder fade catch for the score. Then later he had a 19-yard catch from Matt Flynn to set up the final touchdown. Unfortunately, the other part of his game - blocking - was not up to par. On the Raiders' first drive of the second half, he tried to block for Pryor and was called for holding and then two plays later, missed his block to give up a 4-yard loss.