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GAME RECAP Broncos-Raiders: Raiders Hold On in a Defensive Battle

For a game that began with a wild brawl, yesterday’s game between the Oakland Raiders and Denver Broncos didn’t have many other crazy moments.

In any case, the Raiders still have life, for the time being, coming away with a 21-14 win on a rainy day in Oakland. They kept the Broncos scoreless for the first three quarters, a far cry from last week’s awful performance against the New England Patriots.

The previously mentioned fight was a continuation of last season’s feud between Raiders wideout Michael Crabtree and shutdown Broncos corner Aqib Talib. Talib had torn Crabtree’s gold chain from his neck (which somehow didn’t incur a fine from the NFL), and the two have had words with each other both in-person and on social media ever since.

Deja vu. Talib pulled the same stunt, but this time, Crabtree fought back, inciting a melee between the two squads on the sideline. The two were ejected for throwing punches during their scuffle; Raiders guard Gabe Jackson was also thrown out for bumping into an official.

With Crabtree sulking in the locker room, Derek Carr had to play with a skeleton crew of aerial weapons, compounded further after Amari Cooper was knocked out of the game from a penalized Darian Stewart hit in the second period. Outside of a strip sack, Carr did fairly well, throwing for 253 yards and 2 touchdowns on 18 for 24 passing.

Those numbers are a bit misleading, however, since 101 came on two passes. The first was a 47-yard strike to Johnny Holton that set up a short TD pass to Jalen Richard near the end of the third quarter, and the second was a lob throw to Cordarrelle Patterson, who scampered for 54 yards to ice the game for the Raiders at the two-minute warning.

Cooper managed to catch Carr’s first TD pass in the second. It was his only reception. Patterson led the team with 3 catches for 72 yards.

Marshawn Lynch was relied on early and often, partially due to the weather. His rushing numbers weren’t spectacular, thanks to some excellent run defense from the Broncos, but he did plunge into the end zone from a yard out late in the first half. He ran 26 times for 67 yards and also caught 3 passes for 44 yards. It was by far the most work he’s gotten this season.

But the story of the game is how well the Raiders defense looked in their first game under new defensive coordinator John Pagano‘s command. The Broncos had just 65 yards midway through the third, though they rebounded in the fourth to make the Raiders sweat.

We should pump the brakes a bit on Pagano. The Broncos had a new coordinator of their own on offense, former Raiders OC Bill Musgrave, and also started Paxton Lynch for the first time in 2017. The second-year signal caller looked uncomfortable for most of the game before tweaking his ankle late in the third. He was just 9/14 and 41 yards, throwing a bad interception to NaVorro Bowman with his offense just a yard away from a TD. It was the first Raiders INT of the season.

Trevor Siemian stepped in for the rest of the game and was much more effective, ultimately finishing with 149 yards and 2 TDs on 11 for 22 passing. The Raiders defense appeared to have taken their foot off the gas pedal, and a Giorgio Tavecchio missed field goal gave the Broncos opportunity to tighten things up.

Siemian’s TD throws went to Cody Latimer and Bennie Fowler, who each had 3 catches for 48 and 33 yards, respectively. Both Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas were held to under 20 receiving yards.

As mentioned early, the Broncos running backs essentially did nothing of note on the ground. The Raiders front-seven were outstanding against the rush, with Bowman and Bruce Irvin leading the way.

All of a sudden, the Raiders are one game out in the AFC West after the Kansas City Chiefs dropped their third straight game. They’re still one game back in the wild-card race as well. It’s a crowded field, but the Raiders might have regained their mojo.

They’ll play the decrepit New York Giants next Sunday, though the G-men did beat the Chiefs last week. The Broncos are pretty much eliminated from playoff contention; they will head to South Florida to take on the Miami Dolphins.

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