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Three Keys to Broncos-Raiders

DENVER -- Demaryius Thomas knows what a great offense looks like.

From 2012-14, when the Broncos racked up more yards and more points than anyone in the NFL, he didn't just live the ride with an elite offense, he helped make it possible.

For players like Thomas and fellow wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders, smiles often accompany their thoughts when asked about the potential of the Broncos' offense this season. After three seasons in which the Broncos often struggled to move the football, last Sunday's win over Seattle offered a glimpse of the past -- and the future.

The Broncos finished Week 1 fifth in the league in total offense. Denver and Pittsburgh were the only two teams to rank in the top quarter of the league in passing yardage and rushing yardage. If not for three interceptions, they might have ranked even higher -- and could have potentially routed the Seahawks.

Five days after that game, an inquisitor asked Thomas about what the offense could be if it cut the giveaways. A knowing chuckle passed from his lips -- the kind that can only come from someone with vast experience in elite offenses, and someone blessed with the knowledge he might be a part of one once again.

"Man, I don't even know what the word is for it," Thomas said, "but I know we did some great things and we continue to build to do more great things.

"If we didn't turn the ball over this past week, you never know what the score could have been, what the game could have been. I felt as a group, as a team, the Broncos as a whole, from watching film, I think we went out and played great ball. We were physical. We went out and took over the game -- besides those turnovers. If we continue to go out and do that each and every week -- especially on the offensive side of the ball -- we can be a dangerous team."

The Broncos have that potential. What are the keys to staying on track against Oakland on Sunday?

1. Use balance to keep Oakland off-balance

If Week 1's work provides any indication, the Broncos have the diverse array of trustworthy skill-position players to mimic the tactics and balance that worked for the Rams in Oakland. Denver and Los Angeles were two of four teams last week that passed for at least 220 yards and ran for at least 140.

Should Denver's offense remain equally effective on the ground and in the air, the Broncos could have the opportunity to grind down the Raiders and dominate in the second half, just as the Rams did last week.

2. Contain Jared Cook

"He's definitely a problem," Defensive Coordinator Joe Woods said in the wake of Cook's career-high 180 yards on nine receptions in the Raiders' loss to the Rams last Monday.

It was Cook's third 100-yard game in his last 11 starts. In that span, he has racked up 659 yards on 42 catches, which prorates to 959 yards and 62 receptions per 16 games. He is in the most productive stretch of his 10-year career.

Last week, Seattle tight end Will Dissly amassed 105 yards on three catches against the Broncos. Seventy of his yards came after the catch, mostly as a result of missed tackles -- including three on a 66-yard catch-and-run alone. Schematic adjustments will help, but if the Broncos improve their tackling form, such plays will be less likely.

"We feel like we do a good job tackling. I just really felt like the guys were pressing," Woods said. "It was the first game, there was a lot of energy, the fans were great, and it just felt like a lot of guys did some things that were uncharacteristic in terms of how they play.

"We really just tried to settle the guys down and tell them, ‘Just do your job; that's all that's required.'"

3. Keep up the good work against Marshawn Lynch

No team did a better job of containing Oakland's power runner last year than the Broncos, who in two games held him to his two worst single-game per-carry averages of the season.

The Raiders are 4-23 since 2014 when they rush for 80 or fewer yards and they are 9-1 when they accumulate 140 or more rushing yards. Meanwhile, the Broncos lead the AFC the last two seasons in games in which they hold an opponent to 80 or fewer rushing yards (10).

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