The Las Vegas Raiders are now the winners of three-straight and stay home off the Las Vegas Strip to take on the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday. We take one last look at the Raiders dominant win over the Broncos.
For once, the Raider Nation didn’t have to stress out over a last-minute defensive play or offensive come back to enjoy a dominating win over a division rival. In Jon Gruden’s second tenure as head coach, the Raiders haven’t been able to blow anyone out but on Sunday, the Raiders dominated all three phases of the game and simply were the better more physical team. Improving to 6-3, and increasing their playoff chances, the Raiders are hot right now. Here is my breakdown of what happened Sunday.
The Run Game
There’s no denying the Raiders running game is – how Gruden would say – “the straw that stirs the drink.” Not only does it help the offense move the ball better, but it takes pressure off of Derek Carr while keeping the defense fresh. On Sunday, all of these things were true as Josh Jacobs and Devontae Booker tore the Denver Broncos apart all afternoon for a combined 203 yards and three touchdowns. As a result of the dominating performances, the Raiders only allowed the Broncos to possess the ball for 23:22 the entire game and Denver mustered only four total offensive plays in the 3rd quarter. The run game helped open up passing opportunities for Carr and put the Raiders in good 3rd down situations throughout the second half. The dominance on the ground, completely wears teams down, and the Raiders will look to continue that next week vs Kansas City.
The Offensive Line
It’s worth repeating: Tom Cable deserves every assistant coach award he qualifies for. a raise, and then perhaps hero worship. Once again, the Raiders found themselves down three Pro Bowl caliber offensive lineman. Yet, the unit paved the way to a 200+ yard rushing performance and allowed zero sacks on Derek Carr. When you have guys like Sam Young and Brandon Parker filling in and not missing a beat, something is clicking, and it’s clicking awfully nicely for the Raiders right now. Cable took plenty of heat upon his hire but every single analyst/writer, including myself, owe him a big apology. The Raiders offensive line is doing remarkable things, and hopefully Cable will get good news and his franchise tackles back soon.
Three weeks ago, Gruden said there was going to be some major changes defensively. Quite frankly, not much has changed schematically or personnel wise. However, the defense is thriving. Paul Guenther and his group have turned the ship 180 degrees in the past 3 weeks making plays all over the field. On Sunday, the Raiders produced five turnovers, including their first four interception game since 2002. The defensive line played their best game of the season by a wide margin also showing their ability to pressure the quarterback is the best way they can help their backend play better. The Raiders had seven quarterback hits, two sacks and 4 tackles for loss against the Broncos. It was a dominate performance by a group of guys that needed a game like that. Some standouts on defense included Jeff Heath, Nicholas Morrow, Arden Key and Nevin Lawson. If the Raiders defense can continue to play well, this team could be extremely hard to beat down the stretch.
Once again, the special teams came through for the Raiders. Perhaps, the most underrated part of this team is their special teams unit. Daniel Carlson continued his resurgent season, nailing 3 field goals, including a 52-yard field goal. His battery mate, AJ Cole, had his best pro game, launching 3 punts inside the 20-yard line. The Raiders continue to get above-average play from their kicking unit, and it’s a great site for Jon Gruden. The Raiders were a few penalties away from getting an enormous lift from Hunter Renfrow, as he had a touchdown called back, as well as another long return. However, he still produced a 16-yard return on the day and did what he always does, set the Raiders up nicely on offense. Overall, the special teams of the Raiders have played well all season, and on Sunday the kicking game, coverage unit, and return game were all clicking.
The Raiders finally look to be on the mend as Sunday saw the return of Arden Key, Trayvon Mullen, and Damon Arnette. However, the Raiders are still down key starters all over the field. With Richie Incognito, Trent Brown, and Kolton Miller all out, the Raiders have played well. It would be nice to get some starters back on the offensive line to help protect Derek Carr as the team continues a push to the playoffs. When they do return, the Raiders will tout one of the deepest lines in football and may be able to rotate guys in to keep guys fresh throughout the playoff push.
Once again, Derek Carr got a win. For years we’ve been hearing Carr detractors dismiss his individual stats saying the QB needed to win games. Now he’s doing exactly that. Carr is not only playing well, he’s leading and playing more confidently and fearlessly. While his stats won’t say it If Derek Carr connected with his receivers just fine on Sunday. He was the victim of some big drops or his stats would have been even better. This was not a game the Raiders had to win with the pass. The Raiders ran the ball so well, and Carr made big time throws when he needed too. Still, for the third-straight game, the Raiders finished with sub 200 passing yards. While Carr was good, the mistakes in the passing game held the Raiders back a bit, thankfully the rushing attack was amazing and led the team to victory on Sunday.
in a 37-12 beat down, there isn’t much that can be considered ugly. However, the score really shouldn’t have been that close. The Raiders left a lot of points on the field early because of bad drops by the skill players. Nelson Agholor had a bad drop in the end zone, holding the Raiders to a field goal and rookie Henry Ruggs III had one go right through his hands on a 3rd down bomb. Darren Waller continued his dropped-ball trend on a potential long touchdown pass. All three of these plays kept the Broncos in the game a lot longer than they should have been. Drops happen, and it helped they were playing a bad team, but big plays like these need to be made against good teams like Miami and Kansas City coming up on the schedule.
This is a bit unfair to Littleton, considering he didn’t play this weekend. However, when your replacement steps in and produces the way Nicholas Morrow did on Sunday, it must be said. Are the Raiders better defensively without Littleton on the field? Morrow produced more in one game than Littleton has all season and Gruden and Guenther have a big dilemma on their hands moving forward. Will Morrow cut into some or all of Littleton’s snaps? With that contract, I wouldn’t bank on it, but the fact that the question is even being asked is ugly for the big-ticket free agent.
All-in-all the Raiders played a phenomenal game on Sunday. Anytime you can get guys some rest late in a ballgame, it was a good day for you. The Raiders head into a huge match-up with the Kansas City Chiefs as 6.5 point underdogs. Unfortunately, it’s off of a Chiefs bye week, and we all know how Andy Reid is after the bye. However, I wouldn’t bet against the Raiders right now, this team is hot.