Every game for the rest of the season should be treated as a playoff game for the Raiders. That was the message being echoed in the locker room prior to the start of the game against the Denver Broncos.
The do-or-die mentality paid off for the Raiders on Sunday as they defeated the Broncos 17-13 at Allegiant Stadium, finding a way to survive against a Denver team that was facing the same must-win scenario.
That narrative worked early for the Raiders as the defense came out very aggressive on that side of the ball, keeping the Broncos’ offense in check.
“Our defense. I really haven’t come up with a word yet to describe it,” Raiders interim head coach Rich Bisaccia said after the game. “First and foremost I’d say it was outstanding, it was phenomenal, it was awesome. It was relentless competitive effort down-in and down-in and down-in and down-in.”
At the two-minute mark in the first half, the defense had held the Denver offense to just three points with 19 rushing yards (2.4 YPA), and 1-5 on third downs. That was until RB Josh Jacobs fumbled the ball, and gave the Broncos the ball at the plus 40-yard line.
That fumble would cost the Raiders three points. But to make things worse, on the ensuing possession, QB Derek Carr attempted a screen pass to the left side of the field that was picked by EDGE Bradley Chubb and returned to the one-yard line.
Rookie RB Javonte Williams ran it in on the next play from one yard out, and the advantage that the Raiders defense had created was basically gone. Going into halftime, instead of the Raiders being up 7-3, they were down 13-7.
The story for the Raiders offense in the first half was the same as it’s been the entire season. They played efficiently by running their conservative offense, and although they put up an abundance of yards, they failed to score points.
Carr completed 20 passes on 25 attempts for 201 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Carr’s touchdown came on a beautiful pass to WR Hunter Renfrow in the back left corner of the endzone. Renfrow finished with three catches for 40 yards and a touchdown.
Although the Raiders offense had 140 total yards and was 4-6 on third downs in the first half, they failed to turn those yards into points.
“It’s football. They’re going to make plays too,” Carr said after the game about the end of the first half. “We don’t want to help them in that… The whole game we were getting the [looks that we liked] in the pass game and the run game. We knew we were going to come out strong [in the second half].”
Coming into the second half, things looked much different. The Raiders halftime adjustment was to play smash-mouth football and run the ball. That they did. They fed Josh Jacobs the ball on the first drive of the second half and it sparked the offense.
In nine plays, Jacobs ran it seven times for 57 yards. On one play, he juked an unblocked Bradley Chubb and picked up four yards. On another, he would gain 20 yards running between C Andre James and LG John Simpson. RB Peyton Barber eventually punched it in from five yards out.
That offensive drive got the entire team going but it was the defense that stepped up for the second straight week. The Raiders defense held the Broncos offense to zero points in the second half. That effort was led by the Raiders’ defensive line, which held the Broncos’ rushing attack to 1.1 yards per attempt.
The Raiders’ win over the Broncos has kept their playoff hopes alive. They currently hold the 8th spot in the playoff picture and control their own destiny. With victories over the Colts and Chargers over the next two weeks, the Raiders can finish as high as the 6th seed.
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