OAKLAND -- **In the wake of Paul Cornick's deactivation because of a shoulder injury, 60 percent of the Broncos' offensive line changed for Sunday's 41-17 win over the Oakland Raiders on Sunday.
With Cornick out, right guard Louis Vasquez moved to right tackle, center Manny Ramirez slid over to right guard and center Will Montgomery made his first Broncos start at center after backing up for his first eight games after the Broncos signed him as a free agent from Washington.
For a unit where cohesion is prized above almost all other attributes, a lineup change this comprehensive is rare at midseason. But if the Broncos were going to make such a shift, early November is the time to do it. If they stick with it, then the new quintet can achieve cohesion.
Check out photos from Sunday's game as the Broncos renew their rivalry with the Raiders.
The transition was at times bumpy. The offensive line committed four red-zone penalties: three false starts and a flag against Montgomery for being illegally downfield. Two of the penalties forced the Broncos to settle for early field goals that kept the game close into the second quarter.
But as the game progressed, Montgomery -- who became the third starting center of the Manning era, joining J.D. Walton, Dan Koppen and Ramirez -- grew comfortable. His experience ensured that it wouldn't take him long to settle into rhythm.
"Obviously, I was taking the reps with the ones this week, but over the course of the year and the offseason, I always take snaps with Peyton a little bit each day, just in case something ever does happen," said Montgomery. "So it wasn't a shock or anything too crazy to get done."
And it might be the start of more for Montgomery, whose insertion gave the Broncos the most experience line quintet available from their roster.
"Yeah, it has been tough the last eight weeks, but this week was fun, and football's about having fun," he said. "It was a good day today."
And it was a good day because the shuffled line found its form and helped guide the Broncos out of some early struggles to a comfortable win.
Let's look back at the pre-game three keys to see how they turned out.
1. MAKE DEREK CARR UNCOMFORTABLE.
It took a while, but the Broncos eventually broke down Carr and forced him into a game he was uncomfortable playing -- one where he had to throw downfield on third downs. After he completed five of his first seven third-down passes -- converting three of them, including the 5-yard touchdown pass to Brice Butler -- the Broncos held him to two completions in his next nine third-down attempts, two of which they intercepted.
When Carr completed a 3-yard pass to Mychal Rivera to convert a third-and-1 play with 4:56 left in the third quarter, the Raiders led 10-6 and had the Broncos off-balance. By the time the Raiders converted another third down, they trailed 41-10 and just 3:10 remained in regulation.
The Broncos forced Carr out of his rhythm, took away his checkdown options and made him and the Raiders be more aggressive than they preferred.
2. STABILITY UP FRONT.
Even with the changes and without the inactive Virgil Green, the Broncos' offensive line had one of its better games in terms of protection and creating lanes for their running backs. Manny Ramirez was effective pulling from right to left, and helped spring Anderson for one of his big runs, a 16-yard gain that moved the Broncos into Oakland territory on their second touchdown drive of the third quarter.
Oakland hit Manning on just two of his 44 pass plays. After some early success with pressure and rushers that held up to play for a deflection, the Broncos dominated the late second and third quarters. During their five consecutive scoring drives, Denver averaged 11.17 yards per play and forced the Raiders' front seven back on their heels.
3. MONITOR THE MERRY MACK.
Denver neutralized rookie linebacker Khalil Mack, and he finished without a hit on Manning or a tackle for a loss. The Broncos ran away from him, kept him from bursting into the backfield, and limited him to one tackle, one pass deflection at the line of scrimmage and one forced fumble from Juwan Thompson in the fourth quarter, after the outcome was long decided.