The Oakland Raiders (7-2) have reached new heights with their commanding victory over the Denver Broncos (6-3), as they now sit atop the AFC West, deservingly peering down at their division rivals attempting to claw their way to the top.
With outstanding efforts in all three phases of the Oakland Raiders’ 30-20 victory over the Broncos, it’s difficult to pinpoint which player rose above the rest.
Here’s an in-depth look at how ProFootballFocus.com graded Oakland’s premiere performers in their Week 9 win over Denver on Sunday Night Football.
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Nov 6, 2016; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr (4) reacts after the Denver Broncos were called for a penalty in the fourth quarter at Oakland Coliseum. The Raiders defeated the Broncos 30-20. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports
Derek Carr Remains Consistent Against Strong Denver Secondary
In the midst of his name emerging in the MVP conversation, Raiders quarterback Derek Carr earned an opportunity to solidify his position in the race against one of the best defenses in the country on NBC’s Sunday Night Football.
In response, Carr left his finger off the NOS button to keep from pulling too far in front, but he did make the necessary pit stops to leave the 1st place ribbon in reach.
Carr completed 20 of 31 passes for 184 yards and zero touchdowns, leaving the game without a score for the first time this season.
According to PFF.com, Carr earned a 70.1 overall grade.
As predicted, Carr earned a bulk of his yardage targeting Broncos boundary corner Bradley Roby.
“From the first drive of the game, it was clear Derek Carr intended to attack Broncos CB Bradley Roby throughout the evening, and he did so with success on a variety of slant and in-routes,” via Josh Liskiewitz of PFF.com. “He completed eight passes into Roby’s coverage (on 14 targets) for 99 yards, five of them going to WR Amari Cooper.”
Cooper finished the contest with a team-high 6 receptions for 56 yards.
Other than Denver’s two defensive pass interference penalties deep down the field, Carr was held without any big plays, but his ability to remain both confident and accurate against the Broncos’ secondary beneath the limelight speaks to the young gunslinger’s ability as a leader.
However, he won’t refrain from revealing his goofy side if that’s what it takes.
“I’m just trying to grow and find the little things I can grow with to motivate my teammates,” Carr said, via Raiders.com. “”Whether I think about it or not, they’re looking at me all the time. So, anything I can do to get them going, make them laugh, if I hit them with a dance, or something like that. A lot of them still don’t know I can dance. So it’s always fun to shock them because they love it. I had fun with that.”
If a dance from Carr is what it takes for his teammates to follow his lead, an order for ballet slippers should have already been placed.
Nov 6, 2016; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Raiders running back Latavius Murray (28) is stopped short of the end zone by Denver Broncos safety Darian Stewart (26) in the second quarter at Oakland Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports
“Tay Train” Gets Back on Track
Working within the final year of his contract, Raiders running back Latavius Murray put together his best performance of the season against the Broncos, accumulating 114 yards and three touchdowns on 20 carries, all of which being season-highs.
“[Murray] did a nice job,” Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio said. “He got the hat trick, scoring touchdowns. We narrowly missed on the one that was called back on the passing touchdown, but I know he had three running touchdowns. I thought he ran hard. I thought the line gave the backs room to run. I thought the backs ran hard.”
Anything is possible behind the Raiders’ offensive line, but Murray made the best of what was put in front of him, effectively turning big holes into big gains with his ability to work in open space and gain yards through contact.
No one on the Denver defense was going to derail the “Tay Train” on Sunday night.
Murray earned his highest grade of the season (86.3) and was listed as Oakland’s top offensive performer, per PFF.com.
Now revealing glimpses of his Pro Bowl form, Murray leads a group of Raiders running backs capable of putting together one of the top rushing offenses in the league.
Nov 6, 2016; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Raiders defensive end Khalil Mack (52) points towards the crowd after a defensive stop against the Denver Broncos in the third quarter at Oakland Coliseum. The Raiders defeated the Broncos 30-20. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports
Look Who’s Mack, Mack Again
After having an underwhelming start to his third NFL season, Raiders edge-rusher Khalil Mack has silenced the critics with his dominant, unwavering play in recent weeks, and he continued to build on previous success with his performance against Denver.
Mack registered two sacks, two quarterback hits, one pass deflection and one forced fumble, and, in turn, he received a 98.3 overall grade from PFF.com, his highest grade of the season.
The former Buffalo product now has six sacks in his last four games, four of which coming in the Raiders’ previous two games.
Mack’s ability to attack the quarterback noticeably disrupted the Broncos’ passing attack, and with their running game already stalled, Denver quarterback Trevor Siemian simply couldn’t produce under constant pressure.
When facing pressure, Siemian earned a 53.4 overall QBR, completing just 7 of 19 passes (36.8 percent) for 114 yards, one touchdown, and one interception.
Though Oakland’s secondary has made significant strides towards returning to relevance, Mack’s production along the edge will determine the reach of the Raiders’ pass defense.
Within the Raiders’ now three-game winning streak, Mack has accumulated five sacks, and Oakland has allowed just 236.3 passing yards per game on average.
Aug 12, 2016; Glendale, AZ, USA; Oakland Raiders tackle Menelik Watson (71) and guard Denver Kirkland (79) against the Arizona Cardinals during a preseason game at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Denver Kirkland Finds a Home at Tight End
Just four weeks into the season, the Raiders lost their starting tight end Lee Smith to a season-ending ankle injury, leaving Oakland without their best blocking tight end. Other tight ends on the roster like Mychal Rivera and Clive Walford have attempted to fill the role in wake of the injury, but the Raiders ultimately turned to backup offensive guard Denver Kirkland to fill Smith’s shoes.
Kirkland, a rookie undrafted free agent out of the University of Arkansas, has now started in four consecutive games for Oakland at tight end, and against Denver, he earned his highest grade of the season (79.7), per PFF.com.
With Broncos edge-rusher Von Miller abusing Raiders right tackle Austin Howard early the game, Oakland moved Kirkland to the right side of the offensive line to help Howard keep Miller off the quarterback. In doing so, Miller’s impact was limited, forcing him to move to the other side and test Raiders left tackle Donald Penn.
Penn wasn’t perfect, but he did successfully prevent Miller from inhibiting Carr and the Raiders’ passing attack.
With Oakland’s outside receivers collectively leading the league in receiving yards, the Raiders can afford to insert a non-receiving tight end like Kirkland into the starting lineup, especially if he can hold his own against a Pro Bowl edge-rusher like Miller.
Nov 6, 2016; Oakland, CA, USA; Denver Broncos quarterback Trevor Siemian (13) is tackled by Oakland Raiders defensive tackle Darius Latham (75) after throwing an incomplete pass in the fourth quarter at Oakland Coliseum. The Raiders defeated the Broncos 30-20. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports
Darius Latham Finds his Niche Within Oakland’s Defensive Line
With defensive end Stacy McGee still dealing with an ankle injury, Raiders defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. has leaned on his depth along the defensive line to maintain a high level of production.
Rookie undrafted free agent Darius Latham has answered the call.
Latham, a former University of Indiana product, accumulated three total tackles, one tackles for loss and a pass deflection against the Broncos, but, more importantly, he dictated the line of scrimmage, creating early penetration that directly led to Denver’s woes on the ground.
Broncos running backs Devontae Booker and Kapri Bibbs combined for just 33 yards on 12 carries.
At 6’4”, 311 pounds, Latham possesses ideal size for an interior defensive line product, and his play strength and hand usage is comparable to some of the best defensive tackles in the league.
According to Lance Zierlein of NFL.com, Latham entered the draft with serious concerns regarding his ability to remain consistent, so in order to avoid becoming a flash in the pan, he must prove he can maintain his production and work ethic.
Look for veterans like Dan Williams and Justin Ellis to push Lathum in the right direction and positively impact his development in an effort to keep his fire from burning out.