After two weeks of prep time over the bye week, the Raiders were set to face the Broncos on Sunday. The Broncos field one of the more simple offenses in the NFL due in large part to their quarterback, Tim Tebow, who has a limited NFL skillset. But that didn’t seem to matter against the Raiders as they were embarrassed by the Broncos 38-24.
It was the second shameful performance for the Raiders who last week were shut out by the Chiefs 28-0. But while that loss made sense due to the injury to starting quarterback Jason Campbell, this one had no excuses.
The Raiders came out looking like they were going to dominate the one trick ponies and went into halftime up 17-7. But after halftime it was a different ball game. The Broncos went off on the Raiders in the second half using an offense that resembled something a good high school team might run against inferior competition.
So this week the list is made up mostly of those who were able to maintain their level of play throughout the game and those who collapsed under the pressure of the mighty Tebow and his zone read option offense.
He churned out the yards in this game as he is known to do. He offers the Raiders a starting caliber running back when Darren McFadden is injured. Each of the Raiders’ scoring drives featured good sized runs by Bush. The Raiders second drive, which ended in a field goal, was a Bush 14 yard run that put them in field goal range. The next scoring drive started at the Denver 14 yard line after a bobbled punt. The third play, Palmer threw a short pass to Bush and he dove into the endzone for the touchdown. The next drive, the Raiders didn’t score but it began with a 16 yard run by Bush. The drive ended in an interception but the defense held and the Raiders were able to score when they got the ball back. The Raiders’ first drive of the second half had Bush’s stamp all over it. It started with him taking a screen pass 18 yards. He also had an 8 yard run and a 9 yard run and the drive resulted in the final Raider touchdown of the day. Bush finished with 129 yards from scrimmage (96 yards rushing) and a touchdown.
He led the Raiders in receiving with 105 yards—most of that was yards after the catch. He has shown what kind of quickness he has once the ball is in his hands, but he hasn’t been given many chances to showcase those talents this season, mostly due to injury. He got things started off for the Raiders when he took a short pass from Palmer, broke a tackle, and went for 34 yards. He was hit by Champ Bailey at the end of the run and fumbled the ball which the Raiders luckily recovered. Full disclosure: that fumble is the only thing that kept him from being top Baller because he was far from done on this day. Late in the first half he caught another short comebacker, broke a tackle, and sprinted for a 31 yard gain. The drive ended in a Raider touchdown. The first Raider drive of the second half he had two catches, one for 14 yards and the other was one for the highlight reels. He ran 18 yards up the left sideline and Palmer placed it where only he could get it. Ford leapt in the air and somehow came down with both feet barely inbounds, maintaining control all the way to the ground for touchdown. Palmer is liking him some Jacoby, that’s for sure.
The Raiders needed him to break out and he did. He was one of the few bright spots on this defense. He came into the game with just one sack on the season after posting nine last season, so he was sure to get into the backfield and sack Tebow in this game. Wimbley was tied for the team lead in solo tackles (6) and most of those were at or near the line of scrimmage. He ended the Broncos’ first series with a tackle for a short gain. He started the Broncos’ next series with a run stuff for no gain. He had another run stuff for no gain on the Broncos’ next drive. He ended one more drive in the first half when he pressured and hit Tebow as he threw for an incompletion. His sack came in the fourth quarter and put the Broncos in third and 20 after an 11 yard loss. But they were bailed out when Aaron Curry hit Tebow late out of bounds. Wimbley made just one big mistake in the game when he overpursued on a zone read and Tebow took the vacant edge and ran for 28 yards.
It is good to have him back. After missing most of the season with an injury, he is back in the lineup. There was no easing into the offense for him either. We talk about how much of a mismatch he is to opposing defenses because linebackers can’t cover him. But he had a catch in this game in which he had three defenders around him and he still came down with it for a 41 yard touchdown. Before he did that, he was already a hero in this game when Jacoby Ford fumbled the ball and Reece raced downfield to recover it. If that fumble had been lost, this game may have gotten out of hand much earlier and the recovery had the Raiders in field goal range. He finished with 3 catches for 51 yards and a touchdown.
He led the team in tackles (6-1) from his defensive end spot. Like Wimbley, most of his tackles were at or near the line. He ended three Broncos’ drives in the first half. The first one he tackled the runner for a short gain on third down, then he ended the next series with a tackle for loss on a Tebow rush attempt. He ended the first half for the Broncos when he rushed in to put pressure on Tebow and was held on the play. The penalty backed the Broncos up ten yards and they missed the field goal as a result. He had another run stuff and a tackle for loss on Tebow in the second half.
The Raiders’ new gunslinger did some things in this game that we haven’t seen from a Raider quarterback in a long time. There were a few amazing passes that we haven’t even seen from Palmer in quite some time. But there were also quite a few poor decisions from him. He fits right into this rare category because one could argue either side convincingly and not be wrong. Among his best throws on the day were the 41 yard touchdown to Marcel Reece that was placed perfectly between defenders and the 18 yard touchdown throw to Jacoby Ford that was dropped in along the sideline where only Ford could get it. He also had several other passes that showed why he is a top tier quarterback in the NFL. The result was 323 yards passing and three TD’s.
Then there were the mistakes. The main stat that shows that is his three interceptions. And you can argue that they weren’t all his fault but you would be wrong. The first interception he threw as a jump ball between rookie Denarius Moore and All Pro veteran corner Champ Bailey. Bailey of course won the battle. The second interception he threw too high on a short crossing route to Denarius Moore. Moore reached up with one arm and tipped it in the air where it was easily intercepted. Sure Denarius shares some of the blame for tipping it up for ease of interception but the pass was so high it could easily have been intercepted even if Denarius hadn’t touched it at all. The third interception was on a miscommunication with Jacoby Ford. Ford went long and Palmer thought the route was supposed to cut short. Palmer admitted afterward that it was his mistake.
Things started out poorly for Palmer in this game. He threw into coverage on the first play of the game and then had a miscommunication with Denarius to go three and out. Next possession with the Raiders in field goal range, he took a knee thinking the defense would be called offsides and they weren’t. The next play he was called for delay of game and then the drive ended with him nearly intercepted trying to force a ball to TJ Houshmandzadeh. He got much more comfortable in the game and showed signs of good things to come. But the Raiders will need him to be smarter with the ball or he will lose games for them.
There is no better barometer of how this game unfolded than the play of Aaron Curry. In the first half, he looked to be everything the Raiders hoped he would be. But as they like to say, it is not how you start but how you finish that counts. In the second half he looked like the guy who was benched and nearly cut in Seattle before they managed to get a low pick for him. So let’s pick it up in the third quarter.
On the Broncos’ opening drive of the third quarter Curry gave up an 18 yard catch and then the 26 yard touchdown catch to finish it off. He was completely lost on the touchdown catch leading to the wide open touchdown. And wide open was the only way Tebow was getting his passing yards. The next touchdown they had came on one play. Willis McGahee ran it up the middle where Curry was supposed to meet him but he chose the wrong gap and ran right into a blocker. McGahee took the ball 60 yards in a sprint to the endzone. Next time the Broncos got the ball, they looked to be stopped on the drive after Wimbley sacked Tebow for an 11 yard loss. On third and 20, Tebow tried to get a little of it back. Once he realized he was going nowhere, he ran out of bounds. But Curry decided to hit him after he had already gone out of bounds. The penalty gave the Broncos an automatic first down. Granted the drive didn’t directly result in a touchdown, but the drive kept going and the field position was then in favor of the Broncos. After a three and out by the Raiders, Lechler punted it away and it was returned for a touchdown to give the Broncos the lead 31-24. Curry’s last bonehead trick was when he decided to rush like he was going for a sack… on a zone read option. His man was supposed to be McGahee coming around the left edge of the line. McGahee ran 24 yards nearly untouched for the game clinching touchdown. As many mistakes as Quentin Groves made, he never had a performance this bad.
Chuck Bresnahan, Hue Jackson
I am at a loss as to how a team that had two weeks to prepare for a predictable college style offense gets completely trampled in this game. The mistakes seemed to be partially preparation and partially scheme. The players seemed to either be lost or simply giving up. The defense carries the main thrust of the blame for this loss. The preparedness falls on both Bresnahan and Jackson.
The scheme falls on Bresnahan. The Raiders defense seems to resemble their coordinator in many way. Bresnahan is a fiery coach and he looks the part, though we have yet to see that kind of passion translate on the field. The players on this defense are all strong athletic guys and they certainly look the part. But their decision making ability is terrible. I am speaking primarily of the linebackers who are supposed to be the brains of the defense but the safeties and linemen are not in the clear either. At this moment the team is a ship without a rudder. There is a lot of brawn and very little brain. The recurring theme is missed assignments. At this point you have to ask the question: Is it that they don’t trust the assignment they’re given? When Seymour says “Do your job,” should that involve the coordinator as well?
Hue appears to be losing this team. The personnel moves he has made have made a lot of players feel alienated and insulted. He benched the team’s number one receiver and didn’t even play the starting tight end. His receivers come in on their supposed week off to work with Palmer and you choose to sign a 34 year old TJ Houshmandzadeh off the street, giving him and a rookie more playing time than your three longest tenured receivers who all put in a lot of work these past few weeks helping acclimate Palmer to the team’s offense. Then when he does put DHB in the game, he calls for Palmer to throw a long bomb to him despite knowing the DHB has found his niche in short yardage YAC pass plays. You can’t help but wonder when all the cute plays and strutting around will cease, and focusing on getting this TEAM properly prepared with a solid game plan will begin.
It was “Welcome to the NFL, Rookie” day for Taiwan. He was supposed to be the change of pace back in place of Darren McFadden but he couldn’t seem to get out of his own way. He got his first carry on the Raiders’ second possession and tried to bounce outside. He realized quickly that he wasn’t at Eastern Washington any more but it was too late. He had already run backward and was tackled for a loss. He had one other rush in the game for two yards and a total net of one yard. He was relegated to special teams the rest of the game, but he screwed that up too. At the end of the half, the Broncos lined up for a long field goal and missed it. Lucky for them, Taiwan was offsides and they got another crack at it. This time they would make it, but Taiwan was called for roughing the kicker. This gave them the first down and a shot at more than three points. Later, he was on punt coverage and he whiffed on a weak tackle attempt on Eddie Royal and then tried to catch up to him but couldn’t. Taiwan is supposed to be faster than Royal but Taiwan didn’t gain any ground on him as he ran for a return touchdown.
While Curry was letting Tebow run wild, Huff was giving him wide open receivers. He gave up the first touchdown pass to Eric Decker like it was backyard football. Later in the first half, he gave up a 12 yard catch on third and 10 to put the Broncos in field goal range. He later missed a tackle on a 14 yard rush by Tebow to set up a field goal.
He did have 4 catches for 61 yards in this game, but that doesn’t seem like much when you consider he was targeted 12 times. He dropped the first pass of the game, then two plays later, he wasn’t on the same page with Palmer. Still without a catch late in the first quarter, he slipped on the field and the ball fell incomplete. He slipped down in the Chiefs game and it was intercepted and returned for a touchdown. He was lucky this time it just went uncaught. Midway through the second quarter he had his first catch for six yards and first down. But on the next play, Palmer threw a pass up to Denarius as if he would win a jump ball with Champ Bailey. He didn’t and Champ intercepted it. The next pass for Denarius came at the end of the third quarter. Denarius ran a tight slant and the ball sailed high. Then, like last week, Moore reached up and tipped the ball to give the defense an easy interception. He had two catches later for 24 and 11 that didn’t play a role in a score.
Played much of this game and didn’t record a single statistic, though he was seen standing in open space as Tebow ran by him for a 32 yard gain. The drive ended two plays later with the Broncos’ first touchdown. He got no pressure and had no stops or containment the remainder of the game. And this from a guy who had extra motivation facing his old team and the quarterback on his college team. He had the quote of the week when he was asked if he respected Tebow and he responded, “In college I did.” I wonder if Tebow thanked him for the extra motivation? Perhaps Moss should find some of his own.
Stefen had his first bad game as a Raider. In the first quarter he gave up a sack on Palmer that ended a drive. In the second quarter, after a botched punt gave the Raiders the ball on the Broncos’ 14 yard line, he was called for holding. In the fourth quarter he was called again for holding and the Raiders couldn’t dig out of it and were forced to punt. The ensuing punt was returned for a touchdown. Also, when he moved to center in place of the injured Samson Satele, Michael Bush got a total of just 18 rushing yards the entire second half.
Lechler has gotten into a bad habit of outkicking his coverage unit. He did it in this game and the result was a punt return for a touchdown, his second against the Broncos this season. He still has the highest gross punt average in the NFL but his net punt average drops him to 15th. The two return touchdowns this season are tied for the most in the NFL. The most telling stat is his total return yardage. He is sixth in the league in punt returns (25) but has by far the most yardage on returns with 433. His distance doesn’t mean a whole lot if the hangtime doesn’t allow the coverage team to get downfield.