This is not ever how you want to play in your team’s season finale. Especially with so much at stake. Luckily the Raiders were already in the playoffs, but this game meant the difference between winning the AFC West and getting a top seed with a bye in the first round, and backing into the playoffs as a wildcard. And it was never even competitive.
Right from the opening drive, the Raiders looked like they no business being a top seed in the playoffs. And that was just on defense. Missed tackles and penalties plagued them as the Broncos marched right down the field to go up 7-0. And that turned out to be all the points they would need.
While no one in their right mind thought this offense would be on the same level as it was with Derek Carr at quarterback, many thought their run game could carry them, as they did in the first meeting with the Broncos, allowing the weight to be taken off Matt McGloin. After all, the Broncos have the best pass defense in the league, so we knew yards through the air would be hard to come by.
None of that showed up. The Raiders as we have known them in 2016 didn’t show up. As if a symbol of ringing in a new year, something closer to the Raiders of 2014 took the field Sunday, getting laughed out of Denver, 24-6.
A closer look did actually reveal a few positive performances, however. As always, we start there.
Smith is such a curious case to me. Much of this season he has made his home on the Buster list. This will be just his second time as a Baller this season, and both times he was Top Baller. These performances come out of nowhere and make you wonder how in the world he isn’t able to put up games at least close to this more often.
His 12 combines tackles led the team by a wide margin. And it should actually be 13 tackles because one of his tackles was incorrectly credited to Khalil Mack. More importantly than the sheer number of tackles he had, a large portion of those tackles were not sitting back and picking up trash after chunk runs. There were a lot of run stuffs as well as hustle plays in which he showed a relentless motor that allowed him to make plays he wouldn’t have otherwise been in position to make.
His first tackle was one such play. He ran all the way out to the sideline to stop a wide receiver after a catch for seven yards. Early in the second quarter, running back Justin Forsett broke through and looked to be headed for a very long touchdown run, but Smith gave pursuit and closed the gap to tackle him for a 64-yard gain. It was a 4-point play as the Broncos were held to a field goal.
The following series, he sniffed out a screen and his blocker was called for holding. After being called for pass interference on the next play, Smith ended it with a run stuff, and pressure in the backfield to allow Mack to stuff a run for no gain on third and one. He again got pressure on the next drive, allowing Denico Autry to make a run stuff. And the finale third down of the first half was an incompletion with Smith in tight coverage.
Other run stuffs he had in the first three quarters were for 3 yards, 1 yard, 2 yards (the one mistakenly credited to Mack). By then the Broncos had taken a 24-0 lead and were basically on cruise control.
His 4th quarter would consist of run stops of 1 yard, 3 yards, and 4 yards, filing a gap on third and 2 to allow for a stuff for no gain by Reggie Nelson, pressure into the backfield to re-route the runner right into Mack for a tackle for a loss of 2, and another shot into a gap to set up Mack for a run stuff for one yard. Again, I ask, where has this been much of the year?
After two of his worst performances of the season, he looked pretty locked in for this one, launching booming punts all day with 5 of them stopped inside the 20-yard-line. While you never want your punter to star in the show, King was a great weapon for the Raiders in the field position battle.
His first punt traveled 48 yards and was fair caught at the 11-yard-line. His next punt was a repeat, traveling 44 yards where it was once again fair caught at the 11.
In the second quarter he really launched one, sending it 63 yards to the 5-yard-line where it was returned to the 16-yard-line. His next one, he outkicked his coverage a bit, putting a charge into a put that traveled 68 yards. But it was fielded at the 2-yard-line, so even after a 25-yard return, it still had a 43-yard net. He finished off the first half with a 64-yard punt to the 3-yard-line. And 8-yard return put them back at the 11-yard-line for the third time in the first half.
He added a 57-yard punt in the second half that was fielded at the 6-yard-line and stopped at the 16. He finished averaging 56.5 yards per punt on 8 punts with a net of 45.3. His five punts inside the 20 gave him 34 on the season.
He burst out the gates, with a pressure, holding his gap to set up a run stuff for no gain, and stuffing a run for a loss.
Early in the second quarter, he shifted right pre-snap, leaving a large gap in the line through right guard. Justin Forsett ran right through the weak spot and for 64 yards. Without knowing why, it’s hard to say if this was by design, but either way, it was a big mistake. But thanks in part to Autry breaking through the line to stuff a run for a loss, the Broncos would only get a field goal out of it.
He added a run stuff for one yard, forced a holding penalty, and laid a hit on the quarterback on an incomplete pass, and a run stuff for a 2-yard loss.
With a game like Trawick had, it’s kind of a wonder how he was fourth on the depth chart at safety behind Keith McGill. Nate Allen left the game on the final play of the first quarter with a concussion. McGill entered the game for a series, looked terrible, and Trawick came in for the final three quarters.
Where Trawick usually makes his living is on special teams. Even before he entered on defense, he made a play on coverage teams. King’s 63-yard punt, he assisted the tackle to stop the return at the 16 for 11 yards. On King’s final punt of the first half which traveled 64 yards, Trawick contained the returner to the sideline and help lead him out of bounds at the 11.
On King’s 57-yard punt in the third quarter, he made the tackle to stop the return for 6 yards at the 16. Then on the ensuing series, he had coverage on third down to stop it for a three-and-out. He ended the next series -- following the Raiders first (and only) score -- with an interception near midfield.
He later assisted a tackle on a catch short of the first down and the Broncos missed the 48-yard field goal attempt. He finished second on the team with 9 combined tackles (5 solo).
Though he didn’t have a sack in the game, he led the team with three tackles for loss, added a quarterback hit, and was tied for second on the team with 5 solo tackles.
One of his tackles was a run stuff for no gain on third and one to force a punt.
Amari Cooper – He had the Raiders’ only score in the game on a 32-yard touchdown catch in which he stretched out to get the pylon.