In hindsight it feels foolish to have been worried about this game. Logically, it shouldn't feel that way because the Broncos are a good team and the defending champions so you should feel skiddish before your team faces them. However, with the way the Raiders dominated that game from start to finish it still just feels foolish to ever have been nervous about losing that game.
Still, it really was nerve wracking going into last night's game though. This game meant so much more to the Raiders then to the Broncos. It's not very often a single game can offer so much legitimizing to a team like this game did for Oakland. Win, or even just lose close, and the Raiders couldn't be doubted anymore but lose badly and the fall from grace would have been devastating.
That's why the nerves were in full effect, but the Raiders dominated this game far more than the 30-20 score would have you believe. It was glorious.
The coaching staff created a perfect game plan coming into this game, and they stuck to it from beginning to end. It is the blueprint now on how to defeat the Broncos, the only thing is you have to have an elite offensive line to play this way. The Raiders have that though, their offensive line is special and the coaching staff has known that all season long.
All of the attention coming into this game was on Derek Carr. Carr for MVP, Carr is amazing, Denver has to stop Carr to win! Well, they didn't stop Derek Carr but the Raiders didn't rely on him anyway. The attention was all on Carr while the Raiders just ran the Broncos defense into the ground.
That is what made this game so much fun to watch, the coaching staff saw that everybody was looking right at Carr so they ran left with it instead. Literally. The left side of the Raiders offensive line had one of the most dominating performances you will ever see. It became painfully obvious the Raiders planned on running left all night long, and the Broncos couldn't do a damn thing about it.
The funny thing about that is Raider Nation knew all about what the left side of the offensive line is capable of. Donald Penn, Kelechi Osemele, and Rodney Hudson is about as scary of a line as you will see and they showed why last night. The addition of Osemele might go down as the best signing from any team in the NFL this offseason, and people laughed at paying a guard as much as the Raiders paid for him. Who is laughing now? Nobody.
Latavius Murray took advantage of that domination and showed why the Raiders will need to do whatever they have to in order to extend him this offseason. Murray is in the final year of his contract and looks like he is going to get paid on the open market, therefore the Raiders need to make sure he never sees it. This is a different team when Murray plays, and they need to insure that he is part of the nucleus for years to come.
This game proved exactly how valuable Murray is, his speed/size combination is the stuff of nightmares and when he is on and relied upon he is one of the best running backs in the league. He needs help to be at his best because he runs so hard that he can wear down as the bell cow, but the Raiders added that too with Jalen Richard and Deandre Washington.
Both Richard and Washington played big parts in keeping the Raiders game plan working last night. There is something so exhilarating about watching 5'8 bowling balls like those two use their surprising power and elusiveness to get through tight spaces. They disappear behind the big uglies and suddenly reappear 5 yards past where you thought they were.
Washington had a few nice runs but actually got stymied somewhat compared to the other backs because he had 10 carries for 38 yards His game was better than those stats would have you believe but it really was Jalen Richard who was the guy that stood out between the two. He had 8 carries for 62 yards on the day and they all were big. This is an impressive stable of backs and the Raiders must rely on all three moving forward in the 2nd half of the season.
After spending all this time talking about the running game and offensive line you might think I've forgotten about the Raiders "terrible" defense. Well, I haven't. The defense was special last night and showed exactly what they were capable of. They had a slow start to the season, to put it mildly, but they have come on strong since the addition of Perry Riley Jr. from the waiver wire after Washington cut him.
All game long you saw Riley lining up the defense and communicating with everybody, something the Raiders were sorely missing before his arrival. The years in Washington with London Fletcher certainly paid off, you can tell that Perry Riley Jr. simply understands the nuances to this game better than Cory James or Malcolm Smith. The defense has been night and day different since his arrival.
The defense made this game started the game with 4 straight 3 and outs from the Broncos offense. They left no doubt who was setting the tone from the get go, this game was all Raidazz. They almost had a 5th 3 and out too if it wasn't for a great catch from Demaryius Thomas for their first 1st down of the game.
The Broncos scored on a 36 yard play shortly after that, and then their other touchdown came on a 69 yard screen pass to Kapri Bibbs. Those were the two best drives for the Broncos all day and they were anything but sustained. It took big plays to outdo this Raiders defense, though that screen pass touchdown was the thing of nightmares.
It was especially scary on that play because it seemed like the entire Raiders defense had a chance at him. It will go down as a meaningless garbage touchdown but it could have jump started the Broncos to a crazy come back if the defense let up afterwards. They didn't though, the next time Denver had the ball the Raiders defense was just as dominant as ever and it was proof of how much growth this defense has done on a week by week basis this season.
You'd think that 69 yard touchdown would have been the worst play for a Raiders fan to watch in this game, but it actually was the 2nd worst to me. The worst was the almost interception from T.J. Ward directly after Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin teamed up to force a fumble from Trevor Siemian.
Ward turned out to have dropped the ball but that play was definitely the worst for Oakland in the entire game. They had just forced a key turnover, and they had been dominantly running the ball all game. It was inexcusable to throw a pass directly after that and had the interception stood in a 10 point game at that time it could have changed the entire outcome of the game.
Derek Carr can not throw that pass and the offense needed to be running the ball at that time, no matter what. You could see the obvious disapproval from a livid Rodney Hudson on the sideline when it seemed like they had turned the ball over. Thankfully it turned out to just be a learning mistake that the Raiders got away with instead of something that cost them big.
Now the Raiders have a much appreciated bye week to get healthy before facing the Houston Texans in Mexico City on Monday Night Football. The Raiders actually already are pretty dang healthy but they earned their week off, hopefully they don't get complacent during that time though before another big prime time game.
The Texans are led by Brock Osweiler, Khalil Mack's favorite QB to sack after 5 in one half on him last year in Denver. However, it's Lamar Miller that the Raiders better be prepared for because he is probably the best running back they will have seen this year.
That's two weeks away though guys, and the Raiders are 7-2 heading into their Week 10 bye. Seven and two people! It's going to be a long wait to that Monday Night Mexico City match up with the Texans, but it will be a wait full of smiles and good feelings about how good this team finally is. They just proved they are a contender that needs to be taken seriously, and Raider Nation is enjoying every single second of it.
Oh yeah, Marquette King is amazing and so is this Apollo Creed meme.