Following a four-yard first down run by Marshawn Lynch with 12:30 left in the first quarter, Denver Pro Bowl cornerback Chris Harris Jr. remained down on the field, having suffered an apparent injury — he would later return. Before being aided off the field he motioned demonstratively in the direction of the Oakland bench and wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson.
The very next play, another four-yard run by Lynch ended with Raider receiver Michael Crabtree and Denver cornerback Aqib Talib in an intense grappling match, complete with punches from both parties and Talib tearing the chain from the receiver’s neck.
The two got into a similar altercation when the Broncos beat the Raiders in Denver on Oct. 1.
Crabtree remained at the stadium, watching the rest of the game from a luxury box, but was not available for comment following the game. Head coach Jack Del Rio commented on the activities:
“They have a little bit of a history with the chain-snatching from years back. There was an additional chain-snatch, from what I understand — bottom line is, we can’t lose one of our top receivers and then our starting guard, because he went over and helped his buddy. We can’t get two guys tossed like that.”
As the officials and teammates attempted to dissolve the scuffle, Talib and Crabtree spilled into the endzone continuing.
When the altercation did finally subside, both the receiver and cornerback were ejected from the contest. Raiders starting right guard Gabe Jackson was also ejected, for shoving an official.
NaVorro Bowman, a teammate of Crabtree’s with the 49ers from 2010-14, said:
“They had some history, and it kinda worked its way into this year. Hopefully those guys hash that out. … We’re professionals, we have little kids that look up to us and you just want to remember that.”
There will almost certainly be suspensions and fines handed out by the league resulting from the altercation, setting the stage for defensive lineman Denico Autry, who was on the stationary bike when the fight broke out, to offer his perspective:
“I love my money, so I’m going to stay on the sideline.”
Quarterback Derek Carr didn’t see what caused the fight, but was caught between the response taught to quarterbacks and kickers — to get away from the fight — and the team-first response, which is the route he chose — to pull his teammates away.
When cooler heads finally prevailed, Marshawn Lynch, who was handed a one-game suspension for his involvement in a similar altercation against the Chiefs in Week 7, offered his services escorting Talib through the Oakland bench area and to the tunnel.
Broncos head coach Vance Joseph called the altercation “unacceptable”:
“We can’t lose our best players because of personal battles. That’s a personal battle. This is about the Broncos, so it’s unacceptable. We can’t have it. It’s nonnegotiable.”
The absence of Crabtree was later compounded when Darian Stewart delivered a scary shoulder-to-crown of the helmet blow on a defenseless Amari Cooper, leaving the two-time Pro Bowl receiver laying limp in the wet grass. After several minutes, with movement limited to slight leg twitches, Cooper was able to stand with assistance from the Oakland training staff.
He departed the game for good, diagnosed with a concussion.
Said Del Rio:
“That was a vicious hit. The kind we’re trying to remove from our game, quite frankly. … I’m sure the league will take a hard look at it. Those are the kind of impact hits that don’t need to be a part of our game.”
Carr was momentarily jolted, as he said he is whenever he feels even the slightest bit responsible for one of his “brothers” being hurt.
Cooper’s status for Oakland’s Week 13 matchup with the New York Giants (2-9) is very much in flux, given the NFL’s concussion protocol. If he is not able to play it would leave Carr and the Raiders offense without its top weapons for a second-consecutive week, as Crabtree will likely receive a suspension for punches thrown.