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The Morning After: Raiders vs Broncos

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Denver Broncos v Oakland Raiders Photo by Robert Reiners/Getty Images

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to everyone out there, and what a great win to celebrate the holiday with. It’s too bad it took so long for Jon Gruden to get his team clicking, but they finally seem to be here in the home stretch.

This game was a truly important win for the Raiders franchise, simply because the fans of Oakland deserved to see one more win before the team leaves the Oakland Coliseum. This might not be the last game in Oakland, but realistically it probably was and these home fans rocked the house all night long.

It was bittersweet watching QB Derek Carr and coach Jon Gruden walking around high-fiving the fans of the Black Hole in anticipation of never playing in the Coliseum again. It’s sad that these fans who gave everything every game no matter the record will be having their team yanked from them, but it was also beautiful to see them so thankful and still loving despite that. I’m sorry the team won’t be in Oakland much longer, but I’m proud to call myself an Oakland Raiders fan.

As for the game itself, it showed just how important the running game is to Jon Gruden’s offense. Doug Martin and Jalen Richard were instrumental in this win with those two accounting for both of the Raiders offensive touchdowns, and Martin providing 107 yards on 21 carries. The Oakland native averaged 5.1 yards per carry bursting through holes and showing how he earned the Muscle Hamster moniker many years ago. Richard on the other hand was huge in the receiving game with his 4 catches for 40 yards to go with his big rushing touchdown in the 3rd quarter after the Broncos finally scored.

Another player who had a great game was 33 year old Jordy Nelson who had 7 catches for 75 yards. He showed he still has something left in the tank for sure, especially with 2 big 3rd down receptions. He played well enough to wonder why he wasn’t game planned for more this season, though much of the season nothing seemed right for this team anyway. It’s fair to wonder if Nelson will still be on the team in the future, but he was definitely a big factor in this game anyway.

The biggest play of the game though came from Dwayne Harris on his 99 yard punt return touchdown in the first quarter. What a spectacular play that was, he couldn’t have been more smooth on it. He snatched that football so cleanly and then was off to the races, and the blocks he got down the sideline were executed perfectly. The blocks were almost as good as the return itself in fact because they would have been so easy to accidentally do illegal blocks in the back on but instead each player laid the perfect block to spring Harris the rest of the way.

The defensive player I was most impressed with was Karl Joseph who was an absolute monster with his hits. The guy looked like a missile out there and was hitting the target zones like he was laser guided. His play in the second half of the season has been one of the brightest spots on the team and should have Raider Nation excited about his future in the silver and black.

Then of course there is Derek Carr whose future also looks bright again after a dismal start to the year. He didn’t do a lot in this game going just 19 of 26 for 167 yards but his game management of this one was on point. He now has gone 325 pass attempts without an interception which is the 3rd most all time as well, a hell of a stat after his terrible start to the season. He is finally clicking with Gruden though and has put to rest any questions about whether the Raiders should consider drafting a competitor for quarterback with any of their 3 first rounders in next years draft.

That’s not to say this game was perfect, the one complaint is that it was extremely frustrating to see the Raiders play so conservatively with the lead at the end of the 4th quarter. They were only up 10 with 7 minutes left but you’d think they were up 50 with their lackluster runs on offense down the stretch. The defense came up big anyway with 2 late interceptions, but hopefully next year Gruden re-evaluates how he handles late game leads because that could have easily gone bad on them.

All is well that ends well though, and if this was the last game in Oakland it was a big one against the rival Broncos. The Black Hole deserves this win, and it doesn’t matter that it dropped Oakland to 4th in the draft either. In the grand scheme this win for these fans was so much bigger than any draft pick, they deserved to see their Raiders beat Denver one last time in the Colosseum. It was a priceless victory, and so would be beating Kansas City in KC next week. If this is the last of the true OAKLAND Raiders, then let’s go out with a bang.