Check out photos from Sunday's game as the Broncos renew their rivalry with the Raiders.
OAKLAND, Calif. —** Believe it or not, the Broncos did not plan for the Raiders thinking they'd have to tackle an offensive lineman. Despite not preparing for it, the play turned out well for Denver after Malik Jackson dislodged the ball from Khalif Barnes' arms and Chris Harris Jr. recovered, which then led to a Julius Thomas touchdown a few plays later.
But outside of that and a Raiders scoring drive in the closing minutes, the game went as they had planned, or even better, as T.J. Ward said after the game.
"We didn't know to the extent but we knew we wanted to have a good game and be dominant on defense, and we just executed today," Ward said.
That extent? Well, by the time the two teams entered the final quarter, the Broncos were up 41-10 and the Raiders had only mustered 93 yards in the air and 112 yards overall.
Naturally, that didn't equate to sustained drives. Oakland started off well thanks to two interceptions giving them short fields, but after the Broncos' offense started getting into rhythm and controlling the ball, the Raiders rarely moved the chains. After the Raiders' second-quarter touchdown, they gained more than 12 yards on only three drives, and two of those ended in interceptions.
Rookie cornerback Bradley Roby snagged the first pick, which was a bit of a turning point in the game. Before that, the Raiders had taken advantage of a healthy turnover differential and Roby's interception pushed momentum completely into the Broncos' favor.
"It inspired our team," Head Coach John Fox said. "I think things didn't start out real positively for us and on the road that makes it tough but I thought our guys reacted, we stuck together, had each other's backs and obviously that was an inspirational play. It was a great individual effort and it inspired our football team."
The other Raiders drive that went further than 12 yards, a 97-yard march, was a bit of an outlier coming at the end of the game with the Raiders down 31 points.
That drive was the only point of discouragement for the defense after the game concluded.
"I'd say it was one of our best performances," Harris said of the game. "But I didn't like the last drive. We want to finish better on that and not have that bad taste in our mouths."
It was an uncharacteristic drive considering the 45 minutes prior. Until then, the longest play the Broncos had allowed was a 10-yard pass. Before it, the Broncos had looked dominant on that side of the ball.
Even still, the Broncos only gave up five thid-down conversions on 18 attempts and 10 total first downs.
The rushing defense, which has positioned itself atop the NFL, was once again a brick wall. The Raiders tried to run early on but their success equated to little more than spinning their tires, averaging just a hair over two yards per carry with a total of just 30 yards.
Once the Raiders could no longer attempt to plod on the ground with a growing deficit, they had to look to the air, but they didn't find that option any friendlier. Rookie Derek Carr completed 30 of 47 passing attempts for a pedestrian 192 yards, 96 of which came on that final drive. It was tough sledding for Carr all night as he spent much of the game trying to avoid the Broncos' pass rush. He had a quick release and threw for short completions, eventually averaging about four yards per passing play.
"The secondary did a great job taking away the deep ball," Steven Johnson said. "There was probably a lot of underneath passes, but we knew he was good at checking the ball down. We were just going to have to come down and tackle. Everything we studied for, it happened."
And speaking of Johnson, the defense didn't miss much of a beat with him in the starting lineup filling in for the injured Nate Irving.
All put together, the Broncos got one of their most effective and thorough defensive efforts to get back on track to start the second half of their season.