Raiders’ early hopes crushed by Broncos

O.CO COLISEUM — Oakland had it all going early on. Two interceptions on two drives, and almost a third.

Shortly after, though, everything began falling apart in the Raiders’ 41-17 loss to the Denver Broncos Sunday.

A missed tackle from middle linebacker Miles Burris, an errant throw from Derek Carr and a lack of pressure from the Raiders defense weakened the Raiders’ grasp on what was a close game until late in the first half.

Photos by Scot Tucker/SFBay

Before long, head coach Tony Sparano was tossing challenge flags on plays that are automatically challenged — throwing his hat in the ring for incidents of ‘Oakland beating Oakland.’

Cornerback Tarell Brown said:

“I think the momentum just switched. They had the momentum going into halftime, and it definitely helped those guys. When you’re up on a team like that, when you’re up on a team like that, or at least you’re battling with them, you have to keep that momentum swing on your side. And we let that go.”

Brown added:

“We came out in the second half and it wasn’t our type of football. We’ve got to learn how to play a full four quarter game. And until we learn that, we’ll keep going through this.”

An 0-8 squad against a Super Bowl team is already an uneven matchup. But the Raiders made it look even more lopsided after making it look very close in the first 25 minutes.

On what could potentially swing momentum, cornerback D.J. Hayden said:

“Who knows? It could be any plays. We’ve just got to go out there and play better, fundamentally sound football.”

Football is a game of attrition, where the best teams can dink and dunk their way to scoring plays. But the bad teams, a la Oakland, can’t. They continue to try anyway, with seven completions of five yards or less in the first half, four in the third quarter and another three in the fourth quarter.

Fans on Twitter blamed offensive coordinator Greg Olson, though it remains unclear whether he is totally at fault.

One thing is clear, though: Oakland’s receivers have had trouble finding separation from defensive backs this season. Sunday was no different.

Compounding the short gains and dropped passes were a pair of deep interceptions thrown by Carr. One caught by rookie cornerback Bradley Roby was nearly taken for a touchdown. Another was picked by safety T.J. Ward.

On whether the mounting losses are affecting the team, Brown said:

“It definitely affects you, but at the same time, all you can do is learn from the film, learn from your mistakes and get better for the following week.  At the end of the day, that’s all you really can do. For us as a team, you really can’t let it affect you too much because we have to look forward to next week. … We just have to get better all around, and work on the small things to help us get over that hump.”

Denver backup quarterback Brock Osweiler came in during the fourth quarter to replace Manning, and Oakland’s defense did little to quell to bleeding.

Denver tight end Julius Thomas scored twice. Broncos receiver Emmanuel Sanders scored twice. Their kicker booted two through the uprights after third down plays gone awry. And second year running back C.J. Anderson scored once.

Brice Butler was the only Raiders player to cross the plane and put up six points until a garbage time pass to tight end Mychal Rivera with 48 seconds left and a 31 point deficit. Of course, Oakland kicker Sebastian Janikowski kicked a field goal also.

The Raiders are heading in the direction of historic lows. They ran the ball 15 times for 30 yards Sunday, which, considering the number of plays and the average yards per pass attempt, was basically moving backwards.

The 30 rushing yards was less than half of Oakland’s NFL-worst average of 66.1 yards per game. This comes after guard Austin Howard‘s five-year, $30 million contract this offseason in hopes he could help energize a struggling ground game.

Oakland added 29 yards on receptions from running backs Maurice Jones-Drew and Darren McFadden, though head coach Tony Sparano was clearly frustrated with the overall lack of a ground game.

Following the game, Sparano noted that there were a few running plays that went for five and six yards, but there were also runs that went for losses:

“It was really never a great flow within the ball game. Offensively, I just didn’t feel that, short of that turnover drive that we scored on. … A couple of those runs were not conventional runs, they were meant to get the ball on the perimeter a little bit, and that didn’t work out great.”

Kembrell Thompkins got the ball on a reverse end-around that was stacked up by Demarcus Ware for a two yard loss. On another, Denarius Moore gained only one yard.

The Raiders have been stymied on the ground this year like no other NFL team, and they’ve come dangerously close to abandoning it altogether. Of course, when a team is down big, they’re going to throw.

It’s not the sort of thing the Raiders planned on, to be sure, and it’s becoming a key reason the team is now winless through nine games.

Sparano is attempting to remedy the problems facing Oakland by giving the team two days off before they begin preparation for two games over the next 10 days following Sunday’s loss.

But with the roughest schedule in the NFL — only one game remaining against a team with a losing record — the Raiders are scratching to avoid the second winless season in NFL history.

Notes

D.J. Hayden intercepted Peyton Manning on the Broncos second play of the game, his second career interception. Both have come against division opponents. Hayden added three passes defensed to his final stat line. … The Raiders tallied nine total passes defensed, as defensive end Justin Tuck, linebackers Sio Moore and Khalil Mack, defensive linemen Denico Autry, Justin Ellis and Pat Sims each added one apiece. … Oakland started the game with three defensive backs inactive Sunday and Keith McGill saw his first game action of his career after being inactive for the following eight games. … Quarterback Derek Carr threw his 13th touchdown, the most of any Raiders’ rookie in franchise history.


Follow @SFBay and @LeskiwSFBay on Twitter and at SFBay.ca for full coverage of the Oakland Raiders.