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Three Keys Unlocked: Broncos-Raiders

Posted Sep 23, 2013

Independent analyst Andrew Mason looks back at his three keys to the game and how the Broncos fared.

DENVER -- At times, the scoring looked easy, like playing "Tecmo Super Bowl" or a recent incarnation of "Madden" on the rookie setting. Of course, it actually wasn't, and the Broncos were eventually stopped a few times in Monday's 37-21 win over Oakland.

The Broncos were dominant, but they were also human. They gave up a touchdown when Duke Ihenacho collided with Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, taking out both defenders. A few passes were dropped. There's work to do.

"We've just got to get better. We wanted a shutout today," said cornerback Chris Harris.

You have to admire the Broncos for aspiring to more, even with a 3-0 record and more points at this point in the season than anyone but the 1968 Dallas Cowboys.

Here's how the three keys we identified before the game turned out:

1. "STAY IN MY LANE."


For the most part, the Broncos did that when Terrelle Pryor threatened to run and when he dodged defenders behind the line of scrimmage, extending plays with his feet. The only time they got caught flat-footed was on the final play of the first quarter, when Pryor executed a zone-read option to perfection and caught strongside linebacker Nate Irving out of position; he was turned around and moving in the wrong direction. Irving recovered to tackle Pryor 23 yards upfield, and spent the rest of the game on a mission; he finished the game with eight tackles and helped wreck any chance the Raiders had of establishing a ground game by plugging any holes left over after the defensive line was done clogging the interior running lanes.

"The big plays, we gave 'em to them, just by our mistakes," Harris said. "They didn't beat us."

2. STAY STEADY UNDER THE BLITZ.

It wasn't necessary because the Raiders dialed back their pressure, wary of the threat that Peyton Manning posed. They only touched Manning twice -- and none of those were by linebackers or defensive backs, who had accounted for most of their league-leading nine sacks in the first two games.

"We had some that we had anticipated to be able to run but we just weren't able to get to it as much as we wanted to. That's the thing about Manning is he makes it difficult to come after him," said Raiders Head Coach Dennis Allen. "We tried to mix it as well as we could and obviously he was better than us today."

The only sack the Broncos conceded didn't come on the blitz; it was a garden-variety edge rush by Lamarr Houston that saw him sprint around left tackle Chris Clark for the blindside sack and fumble. In his first start at left tackle, Clark generally held his own in a one-on-one, game-long duel with Houston, but the sack and a holding penalty gives him something to try and correct going forward.

3. TAKE WHAT'S THERE.

As usual, Manning didn't force the issue, relied on his targets to turn short to intermediate passes into long gains and spread the football around. Demaryius Thomas, Wes Welker and Eric Decker were each targeted at least eight times (11, eight and eight, respectively), and through three games, all are on pace for over 100 catches and 1,000 yards apiece, with tight end Julius Thomas on a 75-catch, 1,035-yard pace. Pick your poison, indeed.