OAKLAND --It went awry right from the start.
For the third time in the last five games, the Broncos fell into a quick two-score deficit, falling behind 13-0 before they even mustered a first down. It was a deficit that proved too great to overcome, and after eventually drawing within 20-13 early in the fourth quarter, a strip-sack and a series of defensive penalties crushed the Broncos' hopes in a 30-20 defeat.
Reggie Nelson's fourth-down interception at the two-minute warning provided the final blow that knocked the Broncos into third place in the AFC West, one game behind Oakland and a half-game behind second-place Kansas City.
For a second consecutive week, the Broncos struggled to run the football. Devontae Booker and Kapri Bibbs had little room to run and combined for just 33 yards on 12 carries.
Bibbs' biggest play -- and the longest gain for the Broncos all night -- came when he galloped through Oakland's defense for a 69-yard catch-and-run. But all that did was narrow the Broncos' deficit to 30-20, which remained the final margin.
For the Broncos, it was their third loss in their last five games following a 4-0 start -- and with slow starts in each of those defeats, the Broncos are still trying to answer a question that could derail their hopes of winning a sixth consecutive division title.
A look back at how the three keys to the game impacted Sunday night's proceedings:
- SUSTAIN LONG DRIVES**
Head Coach Gary Kubiak identified this as a key to finding the balance he sought on offense, and the Broncos once again opened the game looking to use the pass to set up the run, with four passes on their first five plays to open the game. But all of those passes fell incomplete. A Devontae Booker false-start penalty on Denver's second series exacerbated matters, and the Broncos had an average of 8.75 yards needed on their first four third-down plays, all of which failed to move the sticks.
The Broncos only strung together multiple first downs on four series. Six possessions saw them go three-and-out, and their final series ended with a turnover via a fourth-down interception.
2. MINIMIZE OAKLAND'S BIG PLAYS
It only took Oakland four snaps to increase its league-leading total of plays gaining at least 20 yards to four, with Derek Carr hitting Amari Cooper for a 21-yard connection to set up the first of Sebastian Janikowski's three field goals.
Runs by Murray and Jalen Richard provided two of the Raiders' four explosive plays of 20 or more yards -- a total that was just below their average of 4.9 per game, but more than enough for the win.
3. QUICK START TO TRY AND NEUTRALIZE THE CROWD
That went out the window as soon as the Broncos went three-and-out on three incomplete passes. Oakland drove into field-goal range on its subsequent series thanks to a pair of Carr completions to Jalen Richard and Amari Cooper for 11 and 21 yards and never trailed.
Given a lead, Oakland's crowd soared into high gear, and its defense cranked up its pass rush. Although the Raiders sacked Siemian just twice, their pressure was enough to force some errant throws, and one of the sacks led to the game-sealing touchdown.
The Broncos challenged at times but ultimately didn't have enough as they fell 30-20 in Oakland. (Photos by Eric Bakke, unless noted)