OAKLAND, Calif. -- Just like that, Denver is back in the thick of the AFC West race.
The Broncos, trailing at halftime, scored 31 second-half points en route to a 38-24 win Sunday at O.co Coliseum, leaving them just a game behind a three-way tie for first place in the division.
"We’re still in it," said
Halftime seemed to be the turning point in the contest.
Just before the half,
After two incompletions with the clock winding down, Prater missed a 43-yard attempt to keep the score at 17-7 in Oakland's favor, seemingly giving momentum to the Raiders.
But the Broncos didn't let the missed opportunity get them down.
"I think we went out there in the first half and left a lot of things on the field," said
After another touchdown drive by the Raiders, featuring Carson Palmer's third touchdown throw of the afternoon, the Broncos again trailed by 10.
But a 43-yard Prater field goal made it a one-possession game, and
"He’s always making jokes about us finishing our blocks and blocking the safeties, because if we do he’ll break one," Royal said of McGahee. "I guess he wasn’t joking because he really did. You have to give him a lot of credit.”
It was part of a huge day for McGahee and the Broncos running game as a whole. The veteran back rushed for 163 yards and Tebow added 117 of his own, the first time a Broncos quarterback and running back both eclipsed the 100-yard rushing mark since 1976.
It was part of a 298-yard rushing day -- the fourth-highest total in team history -- for the Broncos, who outgained the Raiders by 198 yards on the ground.
"Tebow's got the ball in his hands and he’s dangerous," McGahee said of the mobile quarterback. "When I have the ball in my hands, I can be dangerous too. We have a (two-man threat) as far as running the ball. Tebow is doing a great job and hopefully we can keep this going and change things around towards the end of the season."
After the defense forced a three-and-out, the Broncos couldn't make it four possessions in-a-row with a score, punting back to Oakland.
So the defense proceeded to force another three-and-out, and Royal waited patiently as a punt returner for the first time all game.
“It was a deep kick and I knew I had time to kind of set it up," Royal said. "I have to give the guys holding up the gunners a lot of credit – André Goodman and (Jonathan) Wilhite – they did a good job single pressing. I got up there and Dante (Rosario) made a great block, I cut off of him and the next thing I knew, it was just don’t get caught."
Royal raced 85 yards up the field for the go-ahead touchdown -- his second career punt-return score.
"It was huge," said
After grabbing the lead with just under six minutes left in the game, the Broncos never looked back.
"Me and Elvis always talk about if we can get a lead late in the game, there is no way they are going to pass the ball and get down the field to score a touchdown," said
The Raiders managed a first down at their own 46-yard line, but the defense stiffened, forcing three incompletions and another punt.
Denver used its next drive to put the finishing touches on the win. A 28-yard run by Tebow was followed by a 17-yard run by McGahee, a defensive offsides penalty, a 3-yard run by McGahee and finally a 24-yard touchdown run by McGahee just after the two-minute warning to put the game away.
“It puts us at 3-5, and we’re not so far out of first place," Head Coach John Fox said. "We came into the game two games out, and things haven’t gone as well for us as we planned, but we’ll keep battling. We’ve got another big game next week.”
Tebow said he was proud of the team effort, and didn't listen to the criticism leveled at the team leading up to the contest.
“Honestly I just put that pressure on myself more than anybody else to try to get better and to try to improve," said Tebow, who finished the game with 124 yards through the air and two touchdowns, good for a quarterback rating of 98.1. "Ultimately find a way to get a victory, no matter how it looks. Today it was a special one.”