Santa Claus won’t be stopping in Oakland on December 25th. Tell all your kids, Oakland residents. That’s because he already delivered an early Christmas gift to you tonight. Raiders 20 Broncos 19. It doesn’t get more depressing than that for Broncos fans. Yet again, another season comes to us where our team starts strong and then discombobulates at the end. A 6-0 start faded into 2-6 since the bye week. The good news is we’re still sitting pretty in Wild Card contention, the bad news is we really need to win out to secure a playoff spot.
Realistically, the Broncos didn’t deserve to win today. When the offense has to settle for field goals at home and the defense commits stupid penalty after stupid penalty at critical times in the game, I can see how the Raiders beat us even with JaMarcus Russell manning the ship in crunch time. Those big diamonds in his ears didn’t weigh his head down enough to miss the game winning TD score.
The Broncos gave up almost as many yards (72) in penalties as they accumulated on the ground (80). A quick note to Correll Buckhalter: I miss you, Knowshon misses you, McD misses you. Get well soon and we’ll see you in Philly. His presence on the field was missed. I was surprised that we didn’t see Peyton Hillis in the game. When you’re starting back is averaging 2 yards a carry and getting past the line of scrimmage is a huge accomplishment, it’s time to look at other options. LaMont Jordan did a fine job backing Moreno up, but McD could’ve looked to a 3 back option. Watch out Mike Klis and Woody Paige – more Hillis letters are coming your way!
Defensively, we did what we needed to do as far as giving the offense a chance to get points on the board. The defense forced 2 turnovers and held Oakland to some field goals when a TD was thought to be money in the bank. Yes, Oakland’s rushing attack torched us, but you have to give credit to their offensive line. No one saw that kind of explosion out of that group. Before today’s game, the Raiders rushing attack was ranked 21st in the league. That’s what happens when the fundamentals aren’t there. Communication breakdowns, missed tackles, and wide open gaps allowed Michael Bush 133 yards and 1 TD on 18 carries.
The Broncos didn’t give up any big pass plays except the 10 yarder to win the game. Brandon Stokley’s heroics were too little, too early this go around. He made a 63 yard reception putting the Broncos in prime scoring position, but they couldn’t convert and had to settle for a field goal. That made the game 19-13 – still within reach for the Raiders. After Charlie Frye was knocked out (almost literally) of the game, JaMarucs Russell stepped onto the field for the first time since being benched last month. Russell was out to redeem and that he did with 35 seconds remaining in the game. Game over and season almost over for the Broncos.
This one hurts. It’s not the kind of hurt that a band aid or splint can heal. It’s the sock you in the stomach and then throw you in ice water kind of hurt that makes everything go silent. And that it is here in Denver tonight - a silent and numb feeling that only those Raiders can leave behind.