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Raiders-Broncos winners and losers: Support for Antonio Pierce gets louder

Literally and figuratively as fans chant “hire AP” in Allegiant Stadium

Denver Broncos v Las Vegas Raiders
Antonio Pierce
Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

While the Week 18 matchup between the Las Vegas Raiders and Denver Broncos meant little to nothing in the big picture for the NFL, don’t tell that the Raiders.

Las Vegas came out with purpose on Sunday, wanting to finish the season strong and help improve interim head coach Antonio Pierce’s résumé when it comes to keeping the full-time job this offseason. The result was a convincing 27-14 victory and support for Pierce has never been louder, both literally and figuratively, as the team completed the season sweep against the Broncos for the fourth year in a row.

There wasn’t a bigger winner than the man pacing the Silver and Black’s sideline during the contest, so it’s only fitting that he leads off this week’s column.

WINNER: Antonio Pierce

Between the signs that filled Allegiant Stadium and the “Hire AP” chants from the crowd, it’s pretty clear who the majority of the fanbase wants the Raiders’ full-time head coach to be. And the players weren’t much different as they were vocal with the media about supporting their leader as well. Jack Jones even joked, “If AP don’t come back man, we boycotting,” while Nate Hobbs laughed in agreement.

Pierce finished with a 5-4 record as a head coach but his biggest accomplishment this season was winning over the locker room and the fanbase as both have become his advocates. However, it remains to be seen if he’s won over the most important person when it comes to this decision, Mark Davis.

Per Bleacher Report’s NFL Insider Jordan Schultz, Las Vegas’ vacancy is a “two-horse race” between Pierce and Jim Harbaugh. From the sounds of it, the race will be a photo finish and the winner will be decided by a nose.

WINNER: Tyree Wilson

In the key matchups column leading into the game, it was mentioned how this will be an important outing for Tyree Wilson to build some momentum heading into his second season. The rookie stepped up and delivered with arguably his most impressive performance as a pass-rusher this season.

Wilson ended the game with four pressures, per Pro Football Focus, which are tied for his second-most in a single game. He also logged a sack, bringing him up to 3.5 on the campaign, and had a season-best three quarterback hits. Even more impressively, he did all of that on just 21 snaps as a pass-rusher.

While the No. 7 overall pick still has plenty of work to do, Sunday’s performance was a step in the right direction.

WINNER: Malcolm Koonce

Denver Broncos v Las Vegas Raiders
Tyree Wilson, Malcolm Koonce
Photo by Candice Ward/Getty Images

An argument could be made that no Raider had a better second half of the season than Malcolm Koonce, including Maxx Crosby.

Since Week 9, Koonce ranks second on the team with 38 pressures, per PFF, which is just nine fewer than Crosby (47). However, the latter had 132 more opportunities and the former logged a higher win rate—14.3 percent to 13.0 percent. Those two also tied for the most sacks during that timeframe with eight a piece.

On Sunday, the third-year pro out of Buffalo put together another strong outing with six pressures, including a sack to extend his career-high and quadruple his career total heading into the season. He’s been building a case to earn an early contract extension this offseason and this weekend’s performance helped fatten his wallet.

LOSER: Dylan Parham

While Dylan Parham had a good performance in pass protection, he continued to struggle as a run blocker. Parham posted an ugly 44.8 PFF grade in that department which ranked in the bottom 10 among guards for the week. That’s kind of been the theme of the year for him as improving in the ground game will be his biggest area of growth in the offseason.

WINNER: Zamir White

Similar to Koonce, Zamir White has made the most of his opportunities down the stretch of the season. He ranked third in the league with 397 rushing yards during the final month of the campaign and averaged 4.7 yards per carry. Against the Broncos, he amassed 112 yards on the ground for his second triple-digit rushing performance in three weeks and logged his third game in a row with over 100 yards from scrimmage.

Over the last four weeks, the 2022 fourth-round pick has gone from an afterthought to potentially the team’s lead running back heading into next season.

LOSER: Hunter Renfrow

Ahead of Sunday’s contest, Hunter Renfrow acknowledged that he’s likely going to be released in the offseason stating; “I’m very aware of my contract and what will probably happen at the end of the year,” per Vincent Bonsigore of the Las Vegas Review-Journal. So, the wideout’s limited playing comes as no surprise as Renfrow logged just five offensive snaps versus the Broncos.

That also means he didn’t get an opportunity to help bolster his résumé for potential suitors in the offseason and will finish the campaign with 25 catches for 255 yards and zero touchdowns, all career lows.

WINNER: Tre Tucker

On the opposite end of the spectrum, Tre Tucker put together a performance that should inspire optimism about his future with the Silver and Black. Tucker was targeted five times and hauled in all of them to tie Davante Adams for the team lead in receptions and was the outright leader with 79 receiving yards.

The rookie has shown a lot of growth recently and Sunday’s performance was a great way for him to end year one and build momentum heading into next season.