It was his moment. The rookie round two pick would be called upon to take over for Gareon Conley at cornerback. And the moment he came in, the Broncos began keying on him.
Conley would leave in the third quarter with a neck injury. The first Broncos possession of the fourth quarter, Emmanuel Sanders was sent deep and flew past Mullen for a 53-yard catch. It was the biggest play of the game for either team and it set up the Broncos for their third field goal.
Down 24-9, the Broncos desperately needed to put a touchdown on the board. They got down field quickly with Mullen gambling on a short pass out right and losing. The catch ended up going for 22 yards to set the Broncos up at the 20-yard line. A few plays later, the Broncos were in second and goal from the one-yard line and Mullen gave up the catch for the touchdown.
It would bring the Broncos back to within one score and put it on the offense to put the game away. Luckily they were able to do so.
Early in the second quarter, before registering a single stat, Whitehead was flagged for holding on a punt return that backed the Raiders up to their own 6-yard-line. A couple false starts later, and the Raiders were suddenly looking at quite a hole to dig out of.
The first half went by and still Whitehead had not registered a tackle. But on the second play of the third quarter, he gave up a 24-yard catch. He had his first tackle, but for the wrong reason. The Broncos would drive for their first score from there.
When the Broncos got the ball back, they were moving again. But they had to pick up a third down to do it. In third and two, Whitehead gave up a 4-yard catch. A few plays later, Whitehead missed a tackle on a 26-yard run. Gareon Conley and Johnathan Abram ended up having to make the play in the secondary, leading to Conley’s neck injury. And ultimately another Broncos’ field goal.
To his credit, he wasn’t victimized on the Broncos final two scoring drives and even added a few quality tackles down the stretch.
I hate to kick a man while he’s down (no pun intended or something), but Conley wasn’t having a great game even before he left. The Broncos first first down of the game was the final play of the first quarter and it was Conley getting beaten for an 18-yard catch on third and 6.
The final drive of the first half saw Conley blocked on an 8-yard run, give up a 5-yard catch, and flagged for pass interference on third and ten. That PI call set the Broncos up in field goal range at the 36. It was a holding penalty on the Broncos that would push them back and have their 64-yard attempt fall short at the half.