The Raiders are kings of the AFC West, and are tied for most wins in the NFL.
Oakland (7-2) dominated the Denver Broncos Sunday night, starting by forcing four three-and-outs, and finishing by forcing a fumble from the hands of quarterback Trevor Siemian, winning 30-20.
On a night where Denver (6-3) was down a few of their best defensive players, it was the Raiders defensive unit that took control of their destiny and led the team to a win.
Oakland’s defense didn’t allow a first down to the Broncos until three minutes into the second quarter, with pass breakups from safety Reggie Nelson and cornerback David Amerson, plus tight end Virgil Green dropping an easy catch and the Raiders pass rush forcing an errant throw to receiver Demaryius Thomas.
“You always want to open the game fast. We did that as a defense, holding them. We have to continue to do that. … It was all around good football for the defense.”
Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio said he felt like the team’s communication and tackling was on point, adding:
“We’ve got good people and we’re learning how to trust each other a little more.”
Denver didn’t score until halfway through the second quarter, when Jordan Norwood grabbed a 36-yard touchdown pass. The Raiders, meanwhile, had scored 13 points on a short rushing touchdown from Latavius Murray and a pair of Sebastian Janikowski field goals.
Murray had one heck of a game, scoring all of Oakland’s three touchdowns on one-yard rushing attempts, while softening up one of the league’s best defenses with his downhill running style. Murray became the first running back to score three rushing touchdowns in a game against the Broncos since Ryan Mathews in 2010.
His final touchdown included a unique celebration, giving the ball to right tackle Austin Howard to spike, which Murray expanded on:
“I know they were on the goal line, got in some cheap ones there. It felt really good. Anytime you get into the end zone, I’m not gonna complain whatsoever. That’s why I give credit to the guys up front for given that push.”
When the Raiders brought in their big personnel package Howard asked Murray to give him the ball if there was a rushing touchdown. And Howard didn’t think Murray would do it, but the third-year bruising tailback had no reservations. He wanted the offensive line to get in on the fun.
The game was realistically out of hand for Denver halfway through the final quarter, when running back Kapri Bibbs ripped off a 69-yard touchdown stemming from a short pass and brought the score to 30-20. That was essentially the only blemish on the night for Oakland’s defense, who held Denver to just 33 yards rushing.
Khalil Mack, who recorded two sacks and a forced fumble, said:
“We knew they would stretch, run boot legs and all those different things they would use to help their quarterback gain confidence. We just tried to put a little pressure on them.”
The Raiders rushed for over 200 yards, bullying the Broncos stout front and containing linebacker Von Miller for the bulk of Sunday evening.
Quarterback Derek Carr finished with 184 passing yards, no touchdowns and no interceptions, completing 20-of-31 pass attempts. But Carr was much more domineering that his final line suggests, and the Raiders’ offensive leader said:
“They stole some from me today. We had some big pass play today, where if they don’t get held, those are some big touchdowns. But there’s things still out there. If teams are going to hold us, you gotta just play through it.”
Denver was flagged several times, creating 104 yards of additional ball movement for Oakland and pass interference being called fairly often –twice on the Raiders’ final scoring drive, plus one defensive holding flag being tossed.
The Raiders get to cherish this win for a few more days, with a Week 10 bye before a Nov. 21 game against the 5-3 Houston Texans in Mexico City.
Jason Leskiw is SFBay’s Oakland Raiders beat writer and member of the Professional Football Writers of America. Follow @SFBay and @LeskiwSFBay on Twitter and at SFBay.ca for full coverage of Raiders football.