DENVER – The story of Denver's 37-6 win over the Raiders wasn't the play of its offense, defense or special teams.
It was the way all three fed off one another as the Broncos turned a 10-6 halftime lead into a 31-point romp. Denver gained more yards on its first drive of the third quarter – 79 – than it allowed Oakland to compile throughout the half, as the Broncos limited the Raiders to just 74 yards of second-half offense.
Meanwhile, Denver scored 27 points in the second half thanks to strong play in all three phases of the game.
"Once that second half rolled around, I think guys kind of honed in on what they're supposed to do," cornerback Champ Bailey said. "That's all it takes."
Denver's defense didn't exactly struggle in the first half, allowing just six points. But the unit was dominant after halftime, forcing four straight three-and-outs in the third quarter and pitching a second-half shutout.
That suffocating defense created momentum for the offense, which scored three consecutive third-quarter touchdowns.
"We went out and got a quick stop, a three-and-out on defense and got a scoring drive," Head Coach John Fox said. "It gave us momentum and kind of got us off the snide, so to speak, and we started getting some confidence and this game's about confidence."
The second of the Broncos' third-quarter touchdowns was set up on special teams by safety David Bruton, who got a hand on a punt, causing it to travel only two yards, allowing the Broncos to start the ensuing drive in Oakland's red zone.
"Whether we're behind or ahead, we have to feed off each other as a team," Bruton said. "Special teams helps the defense out, defense gives the offense a short field. We have to feed off each other, no matter what the situation is because this is the NFL."
BRONCOS START FAST
Coming into Sunday, none of the Broncos' first three game-opening drives of the season produced any points.
This week, after Oakland won the toss and chose to defer, Denver capitalized on its initial possession, moving 80 yards in 11 plays to take a 7-0 lead. Starting the game on the right foot was a point of emphasis throughout the week, and that work was evident during the Broncos' first series.
"This was something that has been preached all week," running back Willis McGahee said. "Coach Fox preached to us, (quarterback) Peyton (Manning) preached to us. We knew what we had to do deep down inside – just go out there and try to set the tone and get that touchdown if we get the ball first. That's what we did and it all trickled down from there… That's something that we want to do all the time."
The scoring march was highlighted by a 26-yard completion from Manning to wide receiver Brandon Stokley, and later kept alive when Manning converted a fourth-and-1 by finding tight end Jacob Tamme for eight yards. A 22-yard touchdown pass from Manning to diving tight end Joel Dreessen ((link to NFLN Dreessen highlight)) gave the Broncos an early lead they were able to hold onto throughout the afternoon.
"(We got) a good start today for the first time, a good start to the first quarter and third quarter—that was something we really emphasized all week in practice, was coming out of the blocks early, having good execution and (we) really had a chance to get two touchdowns there," Manning said.
KOPPEN STEPS IN FOR WALTON
The Broncos' offensive line entered Sunday's contest still missing guard Chris Kuper, who is out with a broken forearm.
The team lost a second starter up front in the second quarter when center J.D. Walton suffered an ankle injury and did not return to the contest.
"It's real big," McGahee said of Walton's impact. "J.D's been a part of this O-line three or four years."
With Walton injured, the team turned to Dan Koppen, who signed with Denver on Sept. 11 after spending his first nine seasons in New England, where he started 120-of-121 games with the Patriots from 2003-11.
Koppen is the NFL's all-time winningest offensive lineman with a 97-27 (.782 pct.) career record.
"They have a good mesh going on, but I think Koppen came in and filled his shoes pretty good," McGahee said.
With Koppen at center, the Broncos' offense didn't miss a beat, as the line paved the way for running back Willis McGahee to pick up 112 yards on 19 carries as part of a ground game that piled up 165 yards on 38 carries.
"He stepped in like the veteran he is and did a great job," tight end Joel Dreessen said of Koppen. "(We're) very comfortable with him playing."