Week 9 Notes and Observations: Oakland Raiders vs. Denver Broncos

Scouting notes and observations following the Oakland Raiders’ huge Week 9 home victory over the rival Denver Broncos.

Through the first eight weeks of the season, the Oakland Raiders had shown a unique ability to hit the road for long trips and bring home W’s. With a 5-0 road record, the Raiders were certainly “Road Warriors”. However, their overall record stood at just 6-2, as they had dropped two of three home games to playoff contenders in the Falcons and Chiefs.

Heading into a MAJOR Sunday Night Football contest vs. the division rival — and defending champion — Broncos, the question was, can the Raiders win a big one at home?

Jack Del Rio’s squad certainly answered the bell on this one. In front of a raucous Black Hole crowd, the Raiders physically pummeled the Broncos on both sides of the ball en route to a significant 30-20 victory over the defending Super Bowl champs.

The story of the game was the Raiders’ fronts on both sides dominating. The run game pounded the vaunted Bronco defense to the tune of 218 yards at a dominant 5.1 yards per carry clip. The Raiders, meanwhile, held the Broncos run game to a paltry 33 yards on the ground and constantly harassed young Broncos QB Trevor Siemian. The Raiders dominated control of the ball, with the 41:28 time of possession being the highest mark the team has accomplished in a regulation game since 1993.

With the huge win in their pocket and the record now 7-2, the Raiders head into their bye week atop the AFC West and in prime position to make a 2nd half run. With the signature win, the Raiders can certainly have their eye on what would be the first playoff berth since the 2002 Super Bowl loss season.

Here are various notes and observations from the first home win of the year, including all areas of the game — offense, defense, and special teams.

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

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

Road “GRaiders” and Tay Train – Offense

1. The Road GRaiders

On offense, the story of the game was the dominance of the Raiders’ offensive line vs. the vaunted Broncos defense. The maulers up front physically manhandled the Broncos’ athletic — but physically not large — defensive front.

The Raiders piled up 218 yards on the ground and controlled the ball. Three Raiders’ RBs put up more rush yardage than the Broncos’ entire team. The backs ran well, no question, but the big dogs up front made the night possible.

The OL also did relatively well protecting QB Derek Carr vs. the elite Denver pass rush. Though the Broncos did achieve two sacks, the Raiders only lost five yards in sack yardage and, generally, Carr had time to sling the ball.

The elite interior trio of LG Kelechi Osemele, C Rodney Hudson and RG Gabe Jackson each played all 88 (yes, 88) offensive snaps and punished the Denver DTs and ILBs. LT Donald Penn played 87 snaps, while Austin Howard took 79 of the snaps at RT with Menelik Watson playing 10.

Howard and Watson had the roughest assignment, matching up with All Pro Edge Von Miller. They were able to minimize the damage.

Additionally, rookie Denver Kirkland (ironic name), played 42 impactful snaps as a versatile 6th lineman. With blocking TE Lee Smith out, OC Bill Musgrave as become creative in utilizing extra linemen as 6th blockers. It was very effective on Sunday night.

Overall, the OL played an excellent game. They physically set the tone for the entire team and ultimately took down one of the most respected defenses in the game. It was surely an A+ effort.

Kudos to OL Coach Mike Tice and OC Musgrave for their design and execution in such a dominant performance.  And mainly props to the Road GRaiders on a signature performance up front.

2. Murray and the Backfield

Pro Bowl RB Latavius Murray has had his critics in Raider Nation. On this night, no one could question him, however.

The lead back logged 43 offensive snaps and rumbled over the Broncos to the tune of 114 yards on 20 carries (5.7 YPC). He was a workhorse and showed explosion and good vision, picking up key yards at key times and also making break away runs. He punched in three touchdowns, to take his total to a team-leading eight on the year. Murray did not fumble the ball and was effective in pass pro on top of his breakout game on the ground. Murray also caught one ball for 13 yards, which included a nimble run after the catch.

Rookie Jalen Richard served as an explosive complement on the ground. In just 21 offensive snaps, Richard put up 62 yards on 8 carries (strong 7.8 YPC). He ran with force and embarrassed outspoken Broncos SS TJ Ward on a particularly impressive run. Richard added 2 catches for 10 yards, including a circus catch.

Fellow rookie DeAndre Washington played 18 offensive snaps and contributed 10 rushes for 35 yards, which made him the 3rd back to top Denver’s total of 33 rush yards.

FB Jamize Olawale played just 16 offensive snaps, but made his presence felt as a lead blocker.

Overall, the Raiders run game was a force to be reckoned with on Sunday night. The stable of backs put the Broncos to shame.

3. Derek Carr

After a week where Carr put up over 500 passing yards and discussions began of Carr in the MVP conversation, this week, he settled in as a very effective game manager and chain mover.

Against a top tier pass defense, Carr was not asked to carry the team. Instead, he was simply effective running the offense and controlling the ball. Carr completed 20 of 31 passes and averaged a modest 5.9 yards per pass attempt, but his game management was excellent. He did not turn the ball over and limited the damage on the two sacks that the Broncos achieved. Carr also showed excellent footwork and escapeability in the pocket, extending plays and finding open WRs.

Overall, it was not Carr’s biggest day by yardage, but it was easily one of the better games he has managed in his three year tenure as Raiders’ QB. When your run game is romping, these are the types of games you want to see your QB be able to have.

4. Passing Targets

The pair of WRs, Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper, are an established strength of this team. And, despite Broncos top CB Aqib Talib being out, it still represented a match up of strength vs. strength. The Raiders wide outs did not break out, but they did plenty to help move the chains, and their quality route running forced a bevy of key penalties on the grabby Broncos defenders.

Cooper again led all Raiders WRs with 67 snaps played and also led in targets with 6 catches for 56 yards. He also drew several defensive holding and pass interference penalties, as the Broncos’ DBs feared him getting open for big plays.

Crabtree played 51 snaps and was quiet with just 2 catches for 27 yards as he drew the toughest match up facing Broncos star CB Chris Harris Jr.

Seth Roberts played a reduced slot workload as the Raiders went heavy personnel vs. Denver. Roberts checked in with 29 snaps, but still made several plays, reeling in 3 catches for 32 yards and helping to move the chains.

TE Clive Walford was fairly quiet with just 2 catches for 13 yards, but he did play a significant 74 snaps and was used more in a blocking capacity this week. He was effective in the run game, as was the entire WR corps.  You don’t run for 200+ without blocking from the WR and TE contingent.

Overall, the story on offense was the Raiders dominant run game. It was a signature performance for a run game that has shown flashes, but has rarely been the carrying force in 2016. Major props to Bill Musgrave for showing the ability to vary the game plan week-to-week.

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

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

Breakthrough on D – Defense

1. D-Line/Edge

On defense, the Raiders played their best game of the year when it mattered most. This side finally gave the home Oakland crowd a reward for their full throated noise. It was a beautiful combo that started with 4 straight three and outs for the mediocre Broncos offense.

Edge star Khalil Mack played 50 of 56 defensive snaps and had a night getting in Siemian’s grill and shutting the run down. Mack recorded two sacks, including a strip sack that resulted in the first turnover of the night. Mack was dominant on the night as the leader of the defense. He now has six sacks in the last four games.

Fellow edge Bruce Irvin also played well, as he was in on the sack that caused the fumble and played significantly on the right side. Like Mack, Irvin played 50 snaps.

Both Mack and Irvin have consistently seen a one series spell at some time in the game, usually by rookie Shilique Calhoun. Calhoun played 12 defensive snaps on the night.

The Raiders got home for the two sacks and also had six QB hits. Overall, the pressure was there.

The defensive interior again saw a rotation. Jihad Ward continued to improve and took 33 snaps, Denico Autry played 32 impactful snaps, Jelly Ellis and Dan Williams were part-timers with just 14 snaps each.

The most notable interior player on Sunday was rookie UDFA Darius Latham, who made a number of plays clogging up the run (including 3 solo tackles) in 27 snaps played. His continued development has been especially important with Stacy McGee and Mario Edwards Jr. being out with injury.

Edwards Jr. and edge Aldon Smith continue to be possibilities to return at some point after the bye.

Overall, the DL had their best game. With the Denver run game absolutely stuffed and continuous pressure on Siemian. It was a great game for the high-upside (and potentially improving) front.

2. Secondary 

The Raiders DB corps played fairly well considering they were missing starting CB Sean Smith. There were occasional breakdowns and the Broncos compiled 283 air yards, although 69 of those yards came on a screen, which is not the primary DB responsibility.

Veteran FS Reggie Nelson, rookie SS Karl Joseph, CB David Amerson and former first-round pick CB DJ Hayden (filling in as a starter for Smith) each played all 56 defensive snaps. Nelson had two passes defended and the game-clinching interception. Hayden made a key 3rd down pass defense.

The biggest air play of the day was 36 yard TD on a corner route to Jordan Norwood. On the play, Joseph was caught flat footed on a play action boot and Norwood was able to gain big separation. It was one of the rare defensive breakdowns of the day.

T.J. Carrie contributed 47 snaps as he moved up to the nickel CB role. The local product played well.

Overall, despite the breakdown by Joseph and the long screen through the entire defense, it was certainly one of the better games of the year from the Raiders’ DB corps, especially considering that Smith was out with a shoulder injury.

3. Inside Backers

Perry Riley Jr. continued to prove he was a huge midseason street free agent pick up, as the veteran played all 56 offensive snaps with the green dot. The defense has looked much more functional since Riley has taken that full time role. The veteran brings heads up play and clear passion.  What a coup to bring him in off the street.

Malcolm Smith played

the other LB position for 54 of the 56 snaps and paced the team with eight tackles. The two veterans seem to have a clear hold on the starting ILB spots, with rookie Cory James tallying just two snaps after Smith left with a minor injury.

Overall, defensively, the team continued to show that the promise of the offseason is still a major potential. The team has faced some high quality offenses, so the early struggles while the new pieces gelled can possibly be an aberration and not representative of how this defense will perform in the second half. On this night, they certainly looked like a team who was well built to shut down the defending champs.

November 20, 2014; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Raiders punter Marquette King (7) before the game against the Kansas City Chiefs at O.co Coliseum. The Raiders defeated the Chiefs 24-20. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

November 20, 2014; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Raiders punter Marquette King (7) before the game against the Kansas City Chiefs at O.co Coliseum. The Raiders defeated the Chiefs 24-20. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Good But For One Issue – Special Teams

1. Punter Got Swag

Marquette King better be a Pro Bowl punter. The guy is a force on the field and easily leads the league in punter charisma. And his dance moves absolutely killed the Broncos and got the crowd hyped right before the defense took the field. King is quickly moving into GOAT punter territory.  He had two perfectly placed punts inside the 5. What more can you say?

2. Finally, A Return Man

Since Jacoby Ford turned into a pumpkin, the Raiders have struggled to find a good return man. Right now, it looks like the rookie Richard is finally the answer. Richard’s return yardage was not spectacular (26 yards on one KOR and 26 yards on four punt returns), but every time he touches the ball, he makes at least somebody miss and gets upfield. The rookie is special in the role and it is only a matter of time until he houses one.

3. Missed FGs

Sebastian Janikowski yet again missed a field goal. As we move down the home stretch and, hopefully, the playoffs, it is imperative that Seabass get his accuracy up on field goals.

Despite the missed FG, overall, the Raiders’ special teams played a fine role in securing this win, with King’s punting being the highlight.

Oakland Raiders Week 9 Conclusion

The 2016 Oakland Raiders staked their claim to the AFC West lead after nine games. On a Sunday Night Football prime time broadcast, the team played their best game of the year and made a statement.

All three phases performed well enough to win, with the offensive line and run game dominating, and the defensive front controlling things on that side. The team got the crowd in the game early, and never let up.  It was an electric atmosphere and performance.

The Raiders couldn’t have asked for a better time to head into the bye week. Now they rest, recover, refocus, and then head to Mexico City to take on the talented, but certainly beatable, Houston Texans. Last time Khalil Mack went Osweiler hunting, he came home with five pelts. I expect the DL to be ready to get after it again.

While the game vs. Houston will be a “home” game, it will be in a new international environment.  It will be exciting to see how Mexico City responds to this match up.  I expect The Nation to do well in this international opportunity.

That was a great one folks.  See you here in two weeks for notes on what is hopefully another W for the AFC West leading Oakland Raiders.

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