Another hard fought loss this week for the Raiders. Last week it was the defense that let them down in a loss in Chicago. This week the defense showed up and the offense couldn't get going. The result is the same - a loss.
Some people prefer to look at the positive in that the Raiders hung around with the undefeated Broncos and even held a 7-3 lead at half time. There is something to be said for that, and it's one of the reasons B&B exists. Because even in losses, there are those who deserve credit for their play, just like in wins there are those who didn't rise to the occasion.
As we always do, we start with the credit where it's due.
Who else, but Chuck should stand atop this list. His two interceptions alone made him worthy. But he made a few more plays than that to earn his place here. Late in the second quarter, following the Raiders' only touchdown of the day, Woodson make a tackle on a short catch to help stop the Broncos next drive just out of field goal range, and they pooch punted it.
The pooch punt bounded into the end zone for a touchback which helped with the field position battle which put the Broncos back at their own 9-yard-line on their next drive. The Raiders needed to give the Broncos a long field because they drove right into scoring position. They got as far as the 10-yard-line and on Peyton Manning's second shot at the end zone was picked off by Woodson. The Raiders counted their blessings, took a knee, and their 7-3 lead into the locker room.
The second half begun with the Raiders turning the ball over on a strip sack and after one play, the Broncos were in first and goal from the 4-yard-line. Woodson came up to help make the stop on the play for a one-yard gain and hurt himself in the process. His effort was not in vein as the Raiders held the Broncos out of the end zone two plays later.
Of course, Woodson returned to the game shortly thereafter, and then on third and 8, he put on his cape and soared over to the right sideline, leapt over DJ Hayden who was turned around on the play, and intercepted another Manning pass.
Unfortunately, the Raiders couldn't capitalize on it thanks to a second missed field goal attempt. When the Broncos got the ball back, Woodson ws the man on the tackle to end that series too, to help give the Raiders another shot at retaking the lead, down 9-7. They couldn't and Woodson was unable to celebrate his big day as he should have.
King was a major weapon in this game. His punts routinely put a long field in front of the Broncos, allowing the Raiders more opportunities to stop their drives. He punted four times in the game and three of them had the Broncos starting inside their own 20-yard-line.
His first punt traveled 51 yards. It was a scary wobbler that the return man wanted nothing to do with, so he got out of the way and it was downed at the Broncos' 12-yard-line. His second punt came late in the first half, with the Raiders in desperate need of tilting the field position battle back their way. He obliged with a 61-yard punt with a 4-yard return to the Broncos' 9-yard-line. The Broncos marched down the field, but with just seconds left to score, Manning was intercepted in the end zone.
King's third punt came in the third quarter and went for 50 yards. It was fair caught at the Denver 23-yard-line. On the ensuing drive, the Broncos ended up having to try a 52-yard field goal which they converted for a 9-7 lead. His final punt went 45 yards and was fair caught at the 15-yard-line. The next drive again ended with a Woodson interception.
King averaged 51.8 yards per punt and an astounding net average of 50.8 yards per punt on the day.
Something about facing Peyton Manning that has Malcolm Smith get up. The last time he faced Manning, Smith was named Super Bowl MVP. Even so, Manning's first pass went to the tight end whom Smith was covering. Smith blanketed the tight end and the pass fell incomplete.
The Broncos were only able to put up 3 points in the first half, but had driven to the 10-yard line in the final seconds. The final three plays were all affected by Smith. He gave up a 5-yard catch and made the tackle to stop it there. On the next play, he knocked down a Manning pass in the end zone. And the final play, he blitzed right up the middle to force Manning to make a quick decision and that decision resulted in Charles Woodson intercepting the pass.
In the third quarter, that pressure turned into a sack and an 8-yard loss. The Broncos couldn't pick up the lost yardage and were forced to kick a 52-yard field goal.
Late in the game, with the Raiders needing a stop to have any shot at coming back, Smith stepped up a gain. He made a run stuff for no gain on first down, and teamed up for a tackle for loss on second down. Those plays helped lead to a three-and-out and allowed the Raiders to add a field goal to put the game on an onsides kick.
He led the team with 6 tackles (4 solo). The first of those came on the Broncos' first series. It was a tackle for a loss of two that helped lead to a three-and-out. He had run stuff on each of the Broncos' first three possessions, including two tackles for loss. He had another run stuff on the Broncos' second drive of the third quarter, this one with them in second and goal from the 3-yard-line to help hold them to a field goal. He also led the team with five QB hurries.
Let's make it three linebackers in a row. Ball made key plays both on defense and on special teams. He excels in coverage so working him into the lineup was a smart adjustment for a team that has been awful in coverage this season. His first play was a pass defended on the tight end. The next big play he made came on a punt late in the second quarter. It was a booming 61-yard punt that was fielded at the 5-yard line and Ball used his tremendous speed to get down there and make the open field tackle to stop it at the 9-yard-line.
The Broncos needed to go 91 yards to score and on the final ten, they went for the end zone, but there was Ball in tight press coverage on the tight end - Manning's intended target - and the ball went right to Charles Woodson instead.
When the Raiders needed stops the most, Ball was in the game. Late in the game, with the Broncos in third and 11, Ball came up to make the tackle on a 10-yard catch, forcing the Broncos to punt.
He led the team with 7 catches for 49 yards and a touchdown. His first catch went for 9 yards on a bubble screen to set up the Raiders' first field goal attempt. Early in the second quarter, he caught a 3-yard pass off from Derek Carr off of a bootleg for the Raiders' only touchdown. The following drive, he added two more catches for 13 yards.
To begin the Raiders drive for their second field goal attempt, Reece had a 13-yard catch. He would add two more catches, though the final one probably never should have happened as it was a short screen pass on 4th and 19. Not his fault, though, his job is to catch what's thrown to him and try to make a play.
He had the first big catch of the day for 25 yards on third and six to help them get into field goal range on their second drive. Laid a key block to spring Latavius Murray for a 14-yard catch in the flat to begin the Raiders touchdown drive. Made a fantastic adjustment to slide and grab a pass behind him for a 21-yard gain in the fourth quarter to lead the team in receiving yards with 54 yards on 4 catches.
Mario Edwards Jr - Ball wasn't the only rookie who stepped up in this one. Edwards showed his run stopping abilities as well as a bit of his pass rushing. He tied Khalil Mack with 6 combined tackles (3 solo) and shared a sack as well.
Amari Cooper - He caught all four passes thrown to him for 47 yards. On the Raiders final drive, he had beaten his man, but had to come back for the ball. When trying to make a play on it, the Broncos were called for pass interference to set up a late field goal.
He made a few plays in this game, but also made some big mistakes. In total he gave up 5 catches on 8 targets for 78 yards. One of those was a 45-yarder in which he was absolutely burnt crispy by Emmanuel Sanders.
His first play was a positive one, as he came up to make the tackle on a 10-yard run on third and 12 to force a three-and-out on the Broncos' first possession. The next play for the Broncos offense was the 45-yard bomb that set up their first points on a field goal. The following drive, he gave up an 8-yard catch and a couple plays later had tight coverage on an incompletion and the Broncos had to pooch punt. He had another coverage incompletion on the next Broncos' drive and didn't give up a catch.
On a drive in the third quarter, after getting blocked so hard he was sent into a backward summersault on an 8-yard catch, he made the tackle on third and 10 short of the sticks to force a field goal. He started the next series by giving up a 17-yard catch.