A streak of 7 straight losses at the hands of the Broncos ended Sunday in a completely improbably fashion. Sure, it seemed improbable the Raiders would take down the 10-2 Broncos who were coming off three straight wins including a win over the Patriots. Sure, it was that much more improbable because it was in Denver. But it was how the game played out that made the win such a stunner.
In the first half of this game, the Raiders had negative 12 yards of offense. That's an NFL record for fewest yards in a first half. And yet somehow, they recovered from that performance to come back and win it 15-12.
Most of that comeback was thanks to the defense along with a muffed punt. But after having just one play go over three yards in the first half, with the only first down conversion coming on a penalty, the offense mounted a shocking third quarter opening touchdown drive. Not sure anyone saw THAT coming.
The defense deserves most of the credit, however. They kept the Broncos out of the end zone in the first half and held them scoreless in the second half. They even added points of their own on a safety. It was a huge division win and it kept the Raiders' playoff hopes alive at least for another week.
Khalil. Fâking. Mack. Dude had 5.0 sacks in this game. FIVE! That ties a Raiders record (Howie Long). And his sack total was only a portion of his overall dominating performance. He was quite literally unstoppable. I can't recall a more dominating performance by a Raiders player ever.
Equally incredible was every one of Mack's sacks came in the second half. But he was doing plenty in the first half. On the Broncos' second drive, he had a tackle for a one yard gain on a catch. Then he ended their next drive by pressuring Brock Osweiler out of the pocket on third and five where he was tackled just past the line of scrimmage.
The Broncos first drive of the second quarter went as far as the 4-yard-line. Then the Broncos tried a run out right and Mack pushed in the backfield to cut him off where Ben Heeney made the tackle for a loss of six. They would settle for their third field goal a couple plays later.
When the Broncos got the ball back, Mack made the run stuff on the first play. Later on the drive he sniffed out the screen play to force an incompletion in coverage. And yet again the Broncos would settle for a field goal to go into the half up 12-0.
Then he really got going.
Mack would end the Broncos' first series of the third quarter with a three-and-out and his first sack of the game. That sack put him in double digits on the season. A Broncos fumble ended the next series, and the series after that was another three-and-out in part thanks to a run stuff tackle for loss by Mack.
When the Broncos got the ball back, they were pinned at their own 2-yard-line. On second down, Mack shot around the right tackle and Osweiler either saw or felt him coming and threw a dud incomplete at the knees of his tight end. Osweiler dropped back to pass again on third and nine out of his own end zone and again Mack came around the right tackle, this time stripping the ball. The Broncos recovered for the safety and the Raiders pulled to within three at 12-9.
By the time the Raiders defense took the field again, the Raiders were up 15-12 in the fourth quarter. It was up to them to keep that lead. The first Broncos possession, Mack had his third sack of the day. The Broncos would miss a long field goal to keep the score 15-12.
The next series, Mack got in the backfield on twice. The first play he was right on top of the running back after the hand off, forcing his blocker to hold him. The flag was thrown and he caught it, pointed at the official as if to say "Good call, ref". Then Mack ended the drive with a pressure to force an incompletion on third down.
The Broncos would have two more possessions and Mack sacked Osweiler on both of those series to set up third and long each time. Also both times the Broncos had to go for it on fourth down and couldn't convert.
Were you not entertained?!
For the second week in a row, the Raiders punter shows up high on the Ballers list. He placed five punts inside the 14-yard-line in this game. He also had a 52-yard punt, and a 55-yard punt that was muffed at the 11-yard-line and the Raiders scored what turned out to be the game-winning touchdown off of it.
His punt placement and big leg were a major contributing factor to the Raiders holding the Broncos scoreless in the second half. His first punt of the second half traveled 50 yards in the air to the 15-yard-line and was returned to the 24. His second punt went out of bounds at the 11-yard-line.
Then his punts went from keeping the Broncos off the board, to putting the Raiders on it. His third punt was a coffin corner punt that went out at the 2-yard-line and set up the safety on the Mack strip sack. His fourth punt was a rocket that went 55 yards in the air and upon atmosphere re-entry, Broncos return man Emmanuel Sanders, couldn't handle it. The Raiders got the ball at the 11-yard-lne and scored the go-ahead touchdown three plays later.
King's fifth punt of the second half was fair caught at the 14-yard-line. His next and final punt of the day was fair caught at the 8-yard-line. That's tipping the field.
Heeney made the stop on third down to end the Broncos first drive. They were in third and six and he tackled the receiver for a two-yard gain to force a field goal. He later helped end the Broncos' third drive as well. They lined up in second and goal from the 5-yard-line and Heeney didn't bite on the outside run attempt. When the runner came back inside, there was Heeney to tackle him for a 6-yard loss to set up third and long. They would settle for another field goal.
The following drive would go as far as the 2-yard-line. But it would have been a touchdown had Heeney not been there to stop the receiver after a 17-yard gain. The defense held again to force another field goal just before half time.
On the Broncs second series of the third quarter, they lined up in third and 3 and Osweiler hit Demaryius Thomas for a 7-yard catch, but Heeney flew in for the hard tackle and knocked the ball out where Charles Woodson recovered it to give the Raiders possession off the turnover. Heeney finished third on the team with 7 tackles (5 solo) with a tackle for loss and forced fumble.
Autry put bookends on this game with his performance. He had two run stuffs on the Broncos first drive with one being a tackle for loss. And he made the final two plays of the game, driving into the Broncos backfield to lay a hit on Osweiler on both plays. The first came on third and 12 and forced Osweiler to throw incomplete. They had to go for it on fourth and 12 and there was Autry again. It should have been a sack, but as Osweiler was going to the ground he flipped the ball in desperation to no one in particular to end the game.
Autry also had a batted pass at the line, which he has become known for this season. It came on third and 11 in the third quarter and had the Broncos punting out of their own end zone.
The fourth play of the second half, the Raiders offense was sitting at negative one yard on the day. Then Rivera went on a deep cross and Carr hit him in stride for a 29-yard gain. It jump started the Raiders only long scoring drive of the day.
The next time the Raiders got the ball inside the red zone, it was off of the muffed punt. Following a false start penalty, they were backed up to the 16-yard line. Then Rivera did a simple post patter and broke open in the end zone for what turned out to be the game-winning touchdown.
The Broncos had just 34 yards rushing in the game, which was their worst output of the season. Dan Williams was a major reason for that low total.
Williams was a terror on the Broncos third drive of the game. He had a run stuff for no gain, batted a pass down at line, and assisted in a tackle for loss. Late in the third quarter, with the Broncos pinned at their own 2-yard-line, Williams stuffed a run for a one yard gain. Two plays later, Mack had his strip sack for the safety.
The next Broncos possession began with Williams pressuring Osweiler into an incompletion. Williams finished with 4 tackles (3 solo) and a hurry. While Broncos running backs Ronnie Hillman and Juwan Thompson together ran the ball 17 times for 28 yards (1.6 yards per carry).
Prior to his usual solid work in coverage, Amerson showed off his tackling abilities. On the Broncos' second drive of the game, he had two tackles - one on a one-yard catch, the other on a one-yard run. Late in the first half, he added a pass defended to help hold the Broncos to their fourth and final field goal. Then on the Broncos' second play of the third quarter, Amerson had another run stuff for a one yard gain.
There were 35 passes completed in this game, including 10 to Demaryius Thomas. Amerson gave up just one of those catches for a 7-yard gain. It was the play just prior to the Heeney forced fumble.
Mario Edwards Jr
He had five tackles in this game; all of which were solo tackles. He added a tackle for loss, a pass defended, and a forced fumble. About the only thing he didn't do was get to the quarterback. But in some cases, he didn't have to. He was getting enough pressure up the middle to allow Mack to do his thing around the outside edge, giving Osweiler no place to go. On Mack's first sack of the game, Edwards pushed up the middle of the line, causing Osweiler to run attempt to escape to his right where Mack was there to greet him.
Late in the first half, running back Ronnie Hillman caught a pass in the left flat. Edwards was the only guy out there to stop him. Hillman though he had a mismatch in the open field and tried to put the moves on Edwards. It didn't work. Edwards not only stood his ground, but he swatted the ball out of Hillman's hands, forcing him to pounce on it to keep from turning the ball over.
Edwards' pass defended came by way of a batted ball at the line. It was on the first play of the Broncos' second possession of the third quarter.
The Raiders had three plays go over 20 yards in this game. And two of them were Walford catches. His first catch came on the Raider first scoring drive. He went on a seam route, Carr threw it his way and he reached up to make a tough catch look routine for a 25-yard gainer. It put the Raiders in business at the 15-yard-line and they scored the touchdown two plays later.
Midway through the fourth quarter, wth the Raiders clinging to a 15-12 lead, he caught a 21-yard pass on first down to put the Raiders in field goal range. Unfortunately, Sebastian Janikowski would miss the field goal from 43 yards out.
That was statistically the ugliest first half of offensive play the Raiders have ever had. Carr was eratic with the football as if he was still shell shocked from his three interception game last week. He went 2-8 for 7 yards in the first half and was sacked twice for a loss of 24 yards. His play was a major factor to why the offense didn't convert a single first down in the first half.
A lightbulb came on at half time and Carr drove the Raiders for a touchdown on their first drive of the second half, completing all five of his passes on the drive for 77 yards and the touchdown to Seth Roberts from 11 yards out.
Then it was back to erratic Carr. But when the Raiders got back in the red zone off of the muffed punt, Carr found Mychal Rivera for a 16-yard touchdown strike to give the Raiders the 15-12 lead. That proved all the Raiders would need. Carr would complete just 12 of 29 passes (41%) for 135 yards, but he added the 2 TD passes and didn't turn the ball over.
In total, Smith allowed 10 catches for 87 yards. Five of those catches for 50 yards came on three of the Broncos' scoring drives in the first half. Also in that first half, he had a tackle for no gain on a run on third and one. But the Broncos would go for it on fourth down and convert which led to a missed tackle on a 12-yard catch later in the drive.
Smith's catches and yards given up in the second half were not as they seemed for the most part. One of his catches given up, he stopped at five yards on third and nine to force a field goal attempt which the Broncos would miss. His next catch given up, he stopped at 10 yards on third and 15. They had to go for it on fourth and 5 and couldn't convert. The final two catches he gave up were for 8 yards and 7 yards while the defense was protecting against the big play.