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Broncos defense wraps up regular season in dominant fashion


See the best moments captured from the Broncos' Week 17 win over the Raiders, which capped a perfect season at home.

DENVER —** Christmas lasted a few extra days for DeMarcus Ware and the Broncos' defense. With the playoffs on the horizon, a win clinched a first-round bye for their postseason play and the defense's dominant performance from the line to the secondary was an outstanding way to end the game and the regular season.

"At the end of the day since it's still Christmastime, I still feel like it's Christmastime," Ware said. "Santa came and you got the bag right now. You were able to open the bag up and get your present out because you worked so hard for it."

Ware and Co. did work hard for the win, and it showed. The defense allowed just a single touchdown and only 199 net yards, and they forced two turnovers to finish strong in the fourth quarter.

All around, it was one of the defense's finer moments of the season. The Raiders ran for just 67 yards on a 3.7 yard average per carry and their passing game had less success, with Carr completing half of his attempts for an average gain per pass play of 3.4 yards to go with his late interception and fumble that was returned for a touchdown.

The defense flew around the Oakland offense from the first possession, shutting down the Raiders on each of their first four drives, which ended in three-and-outs. The disparity between Oakland's offense and the Broncos' was enormous in the first quarter, as Denver gained 138 yards to Oakland's 4. The Raiders finally got a first down to end their drought in the middle of the second quarter.

And even though this Raiders team came into Sports Authority Field at Mile High looking different than who the Broncos played earlier this season, the end result was just about the same with the Broncos again scoring in the 40s and the Raiders scoring in the mid-teens.

One of the big differences that was noticeable early on was the Broncos' ability to get to Carr. Last time, the Broncos couldn't take him down for a single sack, but Von Miller and Aqib Talib each sacked Carr once in Oakland's first two drives of the game.

"I think the key this week was, you know, I think you can definitely tell Carr was trying to go through his progressions," Malik Jackson said. "This week you can kind of tell — at least my understanding, me looking at him — you could tell he wasn't trying to get rid of the ball as fast as he was the first time we played him. He was trying to go through his reads and try to grow up and get ready for next season, I think, as a quarterback.

"So seeing that, I knew you could kind of work your moves a little, kind of be a little more patient as far as moves like that, really get after him. So once we saw that as a D-line, we just tried to get after him and we got him a few times."

With Carr and the Raiders looking to play a bit more explosively, they did manage to get one long play on a pass to Latavius Murray for 46 yards, but outside of that one play, their longest play went for 14 yards.

In a complete effort like this one, it's clear every facet of the defense pulled its weight. And like always, the rushing defense was there to set the tone in stopping the run. In fact, with their performance today, they set the team record for rushing yards allowed per game on the season with 79.8.

"We take pride in what we do," Terrance Knighton said on their intimidating front. "Me and Wolfe, we set the agenda in the room at the beginning of the year and said, 'Teams are not going to run the ball on us.' We know we have DeMarcus Ware; we know we have Von. Their attention is on them getting sacks and things like that, and with T.J. and Talib coming in, we just figure if a team can't run the ball, it'll make a defense successful, but if a team can run the ball, it really doesn't matter who you have rushing the passer or who you have on the back end. The two tough guys in the room, the two macho guys, we took control of that at the beginning of the year, and we set the standard."

The secondary made things difficult on Carr all game, who had to be aware of pressure bearing down on him, and going through his progressions became difficult. It all came to a head in the fourth quarter when his mistakes became more than just incomplete passes. Lerentee McCray blew past his lineman and blindsided a hesitant Derek Carr in the pocket. The ball flew into the air and was picked up by Tony Carter, who returned it 20 yards for a touchdown. And then on the final drive for Oakland, Carr made a poor decision waiting to throw to Andre Holmes down the right sideline. Carr's throw hung in the air as Josh Bush closed in from behind and jumped in front of Holmes for the interception.

With a strong start and a strong finish, the game was exactly what the defense had wanted.

"We knew that they were a team that wanted to come in and kind of mess things up for us or just go home," Jackson said. "And so we wanted to go out there and give them no hope and get off as soon as the whistle blew and kind of touchdown, stop them. Touchdown, stop them. Touchdown, stop them. So I think we had a good day."

It sure was a good day for the Broncos' defense and that comes at a great time with the playoffs next up on the docket. With the win on Sunday, the Broncos earned a first-round bye to get some well-deserved rest, 14 weeks since their bye week.

"We wanted to come out and be dominant and get that juice going into the playoffs," Knighton said. "It'll be a while before we step back onto the field, so we absolutely wanted to leave the field with a good mindset, and not thinking about how bad we played for two weeks; we want to think about how good we played for two weeks."

Check out the action from an explosive second half in Denver, where the Broncos coasted to a 47-14 win.

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