Raiders Lock up Drew, Broncos

Don’t be fooled by the score in the Las Vegas Raiders’ 37-12 win over Denver Sunday at Allegiant Stadium. This game belonged to the defense and the special teams.

The defense intercepted Broncos’ quarterback Drew Lock four times, twice by safety Jeff Heath, and the Raiders’ coverage on kickoffs and punts was outstanding, pinning Denver deep in its own end. The Broncos’ average starting field position was at their own 20. Four times, Denver started from its own 7 or less.

“We needed to create more turnovers and we ran the ball well,” Raiders coach Jon Gruden said after his team improved to 6-3 thanks to five takeaways. “That’s the formula we’re looking for.”

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With 10 minutes to play in the game, Denver’s total offense for the second half was one measly yard. The Las Vegas pass rush was giving Lock all sorts of issues and he never found a rhythm all day. He was sacked twice and under duress a bunch of others. He finished throwing for 257 yards but helasn’t able to orchestrate the kind of fourth-quarter comeback Broncos fans are used to seeing from Lock.

“Paul Gunther and his staff deserve a lot of credit,” Gruden said. “They tweaked a few things the past few weeks and when you create five turnovers, that’s a big statement we made that we’re getting better.

“I think Jeff started it off. He’s not 100 percent but he got the fire started.”

Heath said: “The coaches had us prepared. We knew what was coming and we were able to capitalize. We made (Lock) one-dimensional and it’s easier to play defense when you know what the other team is going to do.

“We count on those guys to make the quarterback get rid of it a half-tick early and they allow us to buy some time in the back. The five takeaways is big, but getting the win is what counts It feels great to be 6-3.”

This was being touted as a showdown between the two former Alabama rookie wade receivers Henry Ruggs III for the Raiders and Jerry Jeudy of the Broncos. Neither dominated and in the statistical battle, Ruggs had three catches for 31 yards while Jeudy had four for 68 yards. Neither reached the end zone.

Instead, it was the veterans who stole the show. Josh Jacobs rushed for 112 yards and a pair of TDs while former Bronco Devontae Booker also scored twice and had 81 yards on the ground. Derek Carr threw for 154 yards without an interception or taking a sack and Hunter Renfrow had three punt returns, two of which were wiped out by penalties, including a second-quarter touchdown.

“I think it’s a testament to the O-line,” Jacobs said of the team’s patchwork unit that offensive line coach Tom Cable has managed to juggle week after week due to injuries and illness. “It feels good that we’re putting their dominance on the game.”

As these divisional games involving the Raiders tend to do, this one got a bit chippy down the stretch. A fourth-quarter skirmish after a penalty between the Broncos’ Tim Patrick and Las Vegas’ Isaiah Johnson resulted in both being ejected. The two teams racked up a combined 119 yards in penalties, 82 by the Raiders. 

Still, the Raiders, who were 3.5-point favorites, were able to overcome the penalties and were never threatened. They were up 23-6 early in the fourth quarter and cruised home from there. The total of 50.5 barely stayed under as the teams scored 20 points in the final 10 minutes.

Carr said it’s great to see such diversification in the offense with Jacobs and Booker averaging 5.5 yards per carry and he credited Gruden and the coaches for having the team prepared to play each week.

“We put 37 up there and we left 21 out there,” he said. “I think today proved we can win any kind of way. 

“Anytime you win in this league, that’s all you care about. However you have to do it, that’s what I want to do. It makes it a lot more fun to go to work when you’re winning. We’re 6-3, 3-0 in the division and that’s unbelievable. But the division runs through Kansas City and they’re here next week.”