While it sucks that the Raiders didn’t win this game, it’s difficult for even the best teams to come away with a victory in Denver, where the Broncos enjoy an overwhelming home field advantage. The Raiders put up a valiant effort today, and there are a lot of positives to take from this rather than the myriad questions and fears we had after the Rams game.
So, who crushed it today, and who should be flushed?
1) Derek Carr
If there’s one question Raider fans had after the Rams game, it was “What’s wrong with Derek Carr?” and today Carr answered that question with an emphatic “Nothing”. Carr finished with a fantastic line of 29/32 for 288 yards and a touchdown. He had a rating of 114.6 and, if I’m being honest, this was the best performance I’ve seen from him since the Tampa Bay penalty-fest game where he threw for over 400 yards.
Carr stood in the pocket, with pressure closing around him, and displayed no fear. He threw confident passes and targeted his receivers early and often. Carr completed passes to nine different receivers and took what the defense gave him. Another touchdown pass would have been nice, but he had the look of a man who was growing more comfortable with the offensive scheme and with his line. It may not be this year, but Carr and Gruden will be lighting up the league sooner than later.
2) Domata Peko
The Denver defensive line had a player who was disruptive, consistently blowing up plays and causing havoc on the Raiders offense. It wasn’t Von Miller or Bradley Chubb or Derek Wolfe. It was Peko, whose long mane flowing out from under his helmet betrayed his presence in the Raiders’ backfield. Peko brought a ton of energy in this game and was often too much for the Raiders to handle. He is exactly the sort of player Oakland’s young defensive tackles should be emulating.
3) Phillip Lindsay
Coming into this game, the Broncos running back I was most concerned about was Royce Freeman. But the Raiders bottled him up for the most part, holding him to 28 yards on eight carries. It was Lindsay who gave the Raiders fits, consistently getting into the second level for big gains. Lindsay had a terrific career at Colorado and hasn’t missed a beat in the NFL. Lindsay might not be the featured back in Denver, but he will be a huge factor in their success going forward.
4) Amari Cooper
The Raiders didn’t go to Cooper much in the Rams game, but made it a point to target Cooper as often as possible in this game. Cooper caught 10 balls for 116 yards and carved up the Broncos’ coverage. He displayed reliable hands, good speed and toughness when running with the football, and showed why he is still Oakland’s number one receiver. He didn’t go deep much, but Denver was doing their best to take away the deep ball all day and Cooper did get open constantly underneath and on outside routes.
1) Case Keenum
Despite getting the win, Keenum had an awful day against the Raiders. He went 19/35 for 222 yards and a pick, with his only touchdown coming on the ground. Keenum threw into the Raiders’ coverage all day long, and the Raiders had an whopping eight passes defensed including four by Gareon Conley. The Broncos have a lot going for them, especally at home, but Keenum may be a liability in the long run.
2) Bruce Irvin
Not only did Irvin have a mediocre day statistically, unable to put any real pressure on Case Keenum even with sub-par offensive tackles guarding him, Irvin also had an absurd unsportsmanlike conduct penalty that kept a Broncos drive alive and almost certainly was the difference in the game. Irvin claims to be a team leader, and needs to act more responsibly.
3) NFL kickers
Mike Nugent has been fine for the Raiders, but missed a crucial extra point that ended up being the difference in the game. But his was just the latest in the smorgasbord of NFL kicking woes on Sunday. The Browns’ Seth Gonzalez missed two field goals and two extra points in a dome, and single-handedly cost the Browns a win against the Saints. The Vikings’ Daniel Carlson missed all three field goals he attempted in Green Bay, and that game ended in a tie. Where have all the kickers gone?
4) Tom Brady
Today, the Patriots went into Jacksonville and got absolutely bodied, losing 31-20. Tom Brady had a poor game by his standards, throwing for only 234 yards and two touchdowns, but more importantly he was totally outplayed by Blake Bortles. The Jaguars did not play conservatively or scared to lose as they did in last year’s playoffs. The Patriots did play like that, and couldn’t handle the Jaguars defensive line. At this point, the Jaguars and Chefs might be the two best teams in the AFC. The Patriots aren’t.