Three and Out: Oakland Raiders vs. Denver Broncos

Three and Out is a weekly series that will examine three areas where the Oakland Raiders played well, and three areas where they didn’t. This is the Week 9 edition.

Once again, the Oakland Raiders emerged victorious on a Sunday — this time, in primetime against a divisional rival. And this time, with first place in the AFC West on the line.

Oakland’s 30-20 victory over the Denver Broncos was important for many reasons, and it was arguably the team’s biggest win since the 2002 AFC Championship. As sad as that may sound, that is what makes the current state of the Raiders so exciting.

As always, there are areas where the team played well, and areas where they didn’t. Let’s start with the positives. Here and three things the Raiders did well on Sunday.

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

Run Game

The Raiders absolutely dominated this game on the ground. As a team, they totaled 218 yards on 43 carries (5.1 YPC) and 3 TD’s.

The domination starts in the trenches, and the Raiders have the best in the business. Donald Penn and company bullied the Broncos defense all game long, clearing the way for Latavius Murray and the rest of Oakland’s run game.

Murray logged 20 carries, posting 114 yards and all three of Oakland’s touchdowns. It was the second highest rushing total Latavius has ever posted and a new career high in touchdowns. On a national stage, he sure picked a great time to have a career day.

Oakland’s domination in the trenches led to a commanding advantage in time of possession — 41:28 to 18:32. This was the highest of any non-overtime game this season, it was the most the Raiders had recorded in a game since 1993 and for the Broncos, it was the lowest total by any team since 1978.

Coming into the game, knowing Denver’s defensive weakness was defending the run, the Raiders implemented and executed their game plan to perfection.

Turnover Battle

Similar to the establishing the run, winning the turnover battle is something the Raiders knew they’d have to do to win this game. And they did just that.

Coming into the week, Oakland’s plus-two turnover differential was amongst the best in the league. While Denver also was successful here (primarily due to the defense), but to a lesser degree.

So with two teams with a penchant to create turnovers, and both doing a fairly good job of taking care of the ball (especially the Raiders) this certainly was a key to victory.

Oakland’s first turnover came with 7:14 remaining in the game, leading 23-13. Khalil Mack recorded his second sack of the game, and he punched the ball out in the process. Bruce Irvin recovered, and Latavius Murray hit paydirt a few plays later. The turnover led to 7 points and a commanding 17 point lead with a little more than six minutes to play.

The second turnover was the icing on the cake. Just after the two-minute warning, trailing by 10, Trevor Siemian’s pass sailed into the hands of Reggie Nelson. And with that, the Raiders moved to 7-2 on the season.

Derek Carr threw no interceptions, although there was one close call, and no one on the team fumbled.

A 2-0 turnover differential in a two-possession game was huge, it’s part of the reason why the Raiders won this game, why they’ve won several games this season, and why they’ll win several more.

Rising to the Occasion

There were at least four or five different things that could have been used as the third positive — it was that good of a performance by the Raiders.

But considering the national stage the game was played on, the Raiders rising to the occasion gets the nod.

Let’s rewind to Week 6, riding a three-game winning streak and sitting at 4-1 on the season, if Oakland could beat the Chiefs, they’d have sole possession of first place in the AFC West. But the Raiders came out flat and were easily dismissed by Kansas City, losing at home 26-10.

With another opportunity to seize control of the AFC West, against arguably the best defense in the NFL and this time on Sunday Night Football, the Raiders would not let this opportunity slip away.

The Raiders defense came out with a noticeable intensity and energy, and it translated to one of their two best defensive performances of the year. They started by forcing the Broncos into four consecutive three and outs, which turned into an early 13-0 lead.

Denver cut the lead to 6, but were never able to recover from the early deficit.

Khalil Mack led the way on defense, with two sacks and a forced fumble. Latavius Murray paced the offense, and it was a all-around fantastic performance.

The victory proved that the Raiders are taking the next step in their transition to becoming contenders — winning big games. If the rest of the season goes according to plan, they’ll have a chance to play at least one more big game in January.

Nov 6, 2016; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio looks on during play against the Denver Broncos during the 1st quarter at Oakland Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Neville E. Guard-USA TODAY Sports

Penalties

From kickoff to the final whistle, this was the best game the Raiders played all year. The negatives were far and few between, and the areas where they didn’t play so well are relatively minor, especially in comparison to some of the team’s struggles earlier in the season.

One of the areas where Oakland still needs to improve is that they commit too many penalties.

Against Denver, the Raiders committed 8 penalties for 72 yards. An improvement from the disastrous previous week, but that isn’t saying much.

For context, the second worst NFL team in regard to committing penalties averages 7.8 per game. So by committing 8 penalties on Sunday, the Raiders still were penalized at a rate that would pace them to be the worst in the league.

Here is a breakdown, in chronological order, of Oakland’s penalties on Sunday:

False start, delay of game, ineligible man downfield, defensive holding, defensive pass interference, defensive holding, offensive holding, offensive holding.

Fortunately, all the penalties haven’t caught up to the Raiders thus far. But if it continues at this rate, it’s only a matter of time before they get burned. It’s been repeated over and over, but this is something that has to be corrected.

Sebastian Janikowski

Yes, Sebastian Janikowski went 3/4 on the day, and he was also 100 percent on his PAT’s, but there is a bit of a problem starting to loom for Seabass.

Janikowski missed his first FG attempt of the game, which came from 48 yards. It was his third consecutive miss from 40 or more yards. A notable concern from a player who has made a living nailing long-range kicks.

So should Raiders fans be worried about Janikowski? Not yet, but with three straight misses from deep, it’s at the very least something to keep an eye on.

And also, as mentioned above, there really weren’t that many negatives. So I’m truthfully nitpicking a bit here.

Bye Week

The last negative is that the Raiders have an upcoming bye week, so we don’t get to enjoy Raiders football on Sunday.

And we actually won’t get to enjoy it the following Sunday either. Oakland has a Monday night game on 11/21, so that’s the next time the Silver & Black will grace our televisions.

I told you there weren’t that many negatives.

Just Win, Baby.

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