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Raiders-Broncos: Will good vibes pay off for Antonio Pierce?

Raiders make final push for beloved interim coach with 27-14 win over Denver

NFL: Denver Broncos at Las Vegas Raiders
Antonio Pierce
Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

The Las Vegas Raiders had one final chance to make the case to owner Mark Davis for their beloved interim head coach Antonio Pierce Sunday and they took advantage with a clean and easy 27-14 over the hated AFC West rival Denver Broncos.

Fans were thrilled to see it as they chanted “AP, AP, AP” during and after the game. Will it be enough? We shall see.

Here is a look at key aspects of this season finale as the Raiders finished8-9 and head to the offseason:

Pierce future:

ESPN reported this weekend that the team had a meeting with coaches and staffers and told them no one would be blocked if they pursue jobs around the league, but the team would like to be kept in the loop. That was taken by some that Pierce and interim general manager Champ Kelly are not locks for the job, so there is a lot of intrigue and drama brewing around the building. It should be quite an interesting next few weeks in Las Vegas as names such as Bill Belichick began to get connected to the Raiders. Pierce finished 5-4 and went 3-1 in the AFC West. He stated his case pretty nicely. Players continued to endorse Pierce after the game.

After Pierce, on the team’s Twitter account, had a message to fans that said he will see fans in 2024. So, he’s confident he will be back.

Kelly’s future:

If Pierce gets the job, Kelly (who replaced the fired Dave Ziegler) will likely get promoted as well. Yet, he may not be waiting around. The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported that Kelly should be in play for multiple GM openings and he could have choices. So, timing will be very interesting for Mark Davis in the upcoming weeks.

No penalties:

One of the best things about Pierce’s team was how clean it was and that was showcased in the season finale. The Raiders didn’t commit s penalty Sunday. It was the second time they accomplished that feat this season. That has never happened in team history before. The Raiders had 75 penalties all season, the fewest in the league. it’s the first time the Raiders were the fewest penalized team in the NFL. That means something. Also, the Raiders had no turnovers. It was the second time they played a game this season with no penalties and no turnovers. It happened in a November loss to Kansas City under Pierce. That has to impress Davis.

Rookie show out:

It’s been an up-down season for the Raiders’ rookie class, but the youngsters went into the offseason on a high note. First-round pick Tyree Wilson had a sack (he finished with 3.5 sacks) and had three quarterback hits. He was inconsistent but improved down the stretch and he has a chance to take the next step in 2024. Third-round pick, receiver Tre Tucker had a team high five catches for 79 yards, including a big 47-yard catch. His speed plays well and he should have a bigger role next season. Fourth-round pick, quarterback Aidan O’Connell played a solid game even though he had some bad misses. He completed 20 of 31 passes for 244 yards and two touchdowns. He did not throw an interception in the final four games.

O’Connell do enough?

After the head-coaching question, the biggest question of the Raiders’ offseason will likely be at quarterback. The odds are the Raiders, no matter who is making the decisions, will look for anew quarterback either in the draft (they pick No. 13) or on the veteran market. O’Connell is probably best suited as a backup, but he showed as a rookie the game isn’t too big for him. but he is limited and that could be enough for Las Vegas to try to upgrade in the offseason.

White do enough?

Second-year running back Zamir White started for the fourth straight game with Josh Jacobs out with a quad injury. White had 112 yards rushing on 25 carries. It was his second 100-yard game during this stretch. He had 397 yards on 84 carries as the starter. With Josh Jacobs a possible free agent, there’s a strong chance the Raiders will go with the younger, cheaper White as the lead tailback in 2024 and Jacobs will be allowed to walk in free agency,

Sack power:

The Raiders had five sacks and finished with 46 sacks, which is not too shabby. Malcolm Koonce, who finished the season strong. notched his eighth sack on Sunday. The 2021 third-round pick had a total of six sacks in his first two NFL seasons. The Raiders can extend his contract in the offseason and it may be something they pursue.

Strong offensive finish:

The Raiders scored, at least, 20 points in the final four games, joining just the Rams and Saints to do that. Will it be enough for interim offensive coordinator Bo Hardegree to keep the job if Pierce is retained? The Raiders averaged 19.5 points a game and allowed 19.4 points a game. Those four defensive scores in Weeks 15 and 16 sure didn’t hurt. In 2022, when the Raiders went 6-11, they averaged 23.2 points and allowed 24.5 points a game.

NFL: Denver Broncos at Las Vegas Raiders
Davante Adams
Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

Adams milestone:

Raiders’ star wide receiver Davante Adams finished the season with 103 catches. He had 1,144 yards and eight touchdowns. It was his fourth straight season of notching 100 catches and 1,000 yards. He is the fourth NFL player ever to do that. He is the first Raiders’ receiver ever to have 100-catch seasons. Perhaps because of shaky quarterback play, Adams’ second season in Las Vegas wasn’t as dominant as last season when he had 100 catches for 1,516 yards and 14 touchdowns. Still, he had a fine 2023 campaign. Adams, in his 10th NFL season, had a touchdown Sunday and has 95 touchdown catches. He leads all active NFL players.

Jimmy G. sighting:

Former Raiders’ starter Jimmy Garoppolo came in for an injured O’Connell for a series in the third quarter and he threw an incompletion in his only pass. It was his first playing action since Week 8. Fans weren’t happy to see Jimmy G. on Sunday. He was booed when he came in as fans apparently didn’t realize O’Connell was dealing with an injury. Garoppolo almost for sure will be released in the offseason after one season in the Silver and Black.

Nice season, Meyers:

Receiver Jakobi Meyers, signed as a free agent from New England, had a nice season and he finished it with a touchdown run and a touchdown catch. He finished with 68 catches for 746 yards and seven touchdown receptions. Solid.

Goodbye Renfrow:

The Hunter Renfrow era is probably over in Las Vegas. For the fourth straight game, the formerly productive slot receiver did not have a catch. He had 15 of his 25 catches this season after Josh McDaniels was fired. Renfrow, who signed a big contract after a 103-catch season in 2021, had just 36 catches last season and had 25 catches for 255 yards in 2023.. His production decline was dramatic. He will likely be cut in the offseason or traded. it’s an incredible turn of events for a player who was given a big contract extension less than two years ago.