With the sting of losing against a division rival still fresh, Jon Gruden and his coaching staff are pouring over the film to find out what went wrong. Raiders once again squandered a half-time lead; this time allowing the Denver offense to march down field and control the time of possession in the final minutes of the game.
The Raiders defense looked lackluster at the end and similar to last week against the Rams, Paul Guenther’s unit failed to make stops when the Raiders needed it most. Getting off the field on 3rd down is important so the defense can take a break. The Bronco’s did a great job moving the chains in the run game making the Raiders defenders winded down the stretch.
Broncos rookie running backs rumble
Bronco rookie Philip Lindsay had quite literally a field day against the Raiders defenders who couldn’t keep him contained. This draw play catches Tahir Whitehead out of position and allows Lindsay to break loose in the secondary. Both Rashaan Melvin and Reggie Nelson proceed to whiff on tackle attempts while Lindsay picks his way into Raiders territory for a big first down.
Later Lindsay takes the ball on a wide-zone play. Clint McDonald, Frostee Rucker, and Derrick Johnson all had a shot at making the tackle but Lindsay is able to somehow ricochet his way to a first down. It’s almost like these 10+ year veterans have a hard time keeping up with a younger shiftier back...
This time its a rookie power back, Royce Freeman who gashes the Raiders defense. He is the recipient of great blocking and the refs missing a holding call when number 72 executes a textbook form tackle on Erik Harris in the open field.
Raiders defense is out of position here and Harris is late turning the runner back inside. It’s not very often that you’ll see 2 pulling lineman simultaneously take down defenders using cut-blocks (Lamur and Harris). Its pretty clear the Raiders did not prepare for this type of play or defeating the low blocks.
Bruce Irvin wants this one back. One on one with Freeman in the backfield and the rookie makes the stalwart defensive end miss. Irvin stops his feet and freezes allowing Freeman that fraction of a second he needed to make a break for the first down marker.
No pass rush
The Broncos rushed the ball for 168 yards on the game. Rushing the ball effectively like this controls the time of possession, wears down defenders, and stops the pass rush. All of these factors played into the Raiders defense late game collapse.
Take this play for instance. Raiders show blitz but play the “mug” defense that Guenther is known for. The linebackers Whitehead and Johnson “read out” of a blitz when they see a back release on a passing route. This is a tricky defensive call because the more blockers an offensive coordinator keeps in, the more blitzers will come.
The Broncos know this and send the 2 players in the backfield out of the pocket to neutralize Guenther’s call. This gives the 5 offensive lineman their normal duty of blocking 4 rushers, only these 4 rushers are fatigued from getting pushed around in the run game all day. Case Keenum has time to throw despite a relatively safe blitz call from Guenther, and Broncos move the sticks on a crucial 3rd and long
On the Bronco’s final drive, it is clear the pass rush is all out of steam. The Bronco’s keep the Raiders defenders on the field by running up tempo to stop them from subbing in fresh players (Gruden had used the last timeout already).
Case Keenum has time enough to allow the crossing route to develop with Tahir Whitehead in coverage. Whitehead looks out of his depth on this coverage assignment but keep in mind Keenum is throwing under no duress, making everyone’s job in coverage that much harder.
With the clock ticking, Guenther dials up one last ditch blitz attempt to get some pressure on Keenum. Guenther makes a great call here getting Bruce Irvin matched up 1-on-1 with Philip Lindsay for what should be an easy win and pressure from the defensive end. Irvin instead chops his feet and puts together a lackluster pass rush move on Keenum. It seems like fatigue is to blame here, but Irvin had more questionable reps than quality ones in this game. He needs to do better.
Keenum passes the ball to Tim Patrick who only has to beat Gareon Conley. Conley had a few pass break-ups down that very sideline during the game but when it mattered most, Conley got out of position anticipating a longer throw from Keenum. Conley needs to know the situation there and play the first down throw more aggressively. The Patrick catch and run sets up Denver with the go ahead field goal to win with 6 seconds left in regulation.
Raider’s defense showed poor fundamentals all game long when it came to tackling and defeating blocks.
Linebackers were ineffective in coverage allowing first downs and big gains. Guenther will need to get them help or try Nicholas Morrow in obvious passing situations.
The entire secondary was missing tackles left and right. Karl Joseph once again sat out despite safeties struggling to impact the game.
The lack of depth again stood out on the defensive line. The pass rush will continue to be non-existent late in games as long as the Raiders are thin at these positions.