By Shawn Lealos
The Oakland Raiders kept their name in the AFC playoff race with a win over the division rival Denver Broncos, 21-14. This game was a rematch between the two teams, with Denver winning their last meeting in Week 4 but then dropping six games in a row (the loss to the Raiders marks the Broncos’ seventh-straight loss).
The win for Oakland moves the Raiders to 5-6 on the season tied for second place in the AFC West. The Raiders are also one game out of first after the Kansas City Chiefs dropped their third game in a row to the Bills on Sunday. With Oakland keeping its season alive with this big win, here is a look at the Raiders team grades for Week 12 of the NFL season.
The Oakland Raiders played well against the solid Denver Broncos defense, but finished the game with some losses that could possibly hurt them next week against the New York Giants. Amari Cooper had to leave the Broncos game with a concussion after catching only one pass, albeit for a touchdown. Michael Crabtree, who finished without a reception, suffered an ejection after getting into a fist fight with Aqib Talib. Starting offensive guard Gabe Jackson was also ejected when he pushed a referee while trying to get involved.
About the incident, head coach Jack Del Rio said, “The bottom line is that we can’t afford to lose one of our top receivers and then our starting guard because he went over there to help his buddy. We can’t get two guys tossed like that.”’
To the Raiders credit, they overcame the losses. Derek Carr passed for 253 yards and two touchdowns with Cordarrelle Patterson (3 for 72 yards) and Johnny Holton (2 for 53 yards) stepping in as his top receivers on the day. Marshawn Lynch also had a solid day, running the ball for 67 yards and a touchdown while catching three passes for 44 yards. It was a nice win, but the injury and ejections could have ruined everything.
The Oakland Raiders defense played a good game under new defensive coordinator John Pagano. However, there is no telling if there is real improvement or not because Denver also had a brand-new offensive coordinator coaching his first game in Bill Musgrave. Denver started former first-round draft pick Paxton Lynch for the first time in his career and the team struggled. Lynch finished his first NFL start with only 41 yards on nine completions and one interception to Navorro Bowman, the first pick of the season for the Raiders defense. Oakland also sacked him four times.
Trevor Siemian replaced Lynch and led the Denver Broncos on two touchdown drives, throwing for 149 yards along the way. The Raiders did sack him once, and both Bruce Irvin and Denico Autry finished with two sacks while Khalil Mack recorded the fifth one. It was also a good game on defense when stopping the run. Denver’s top running backs C.J. Anderson and Devontae Booker combined for just 23 yards on 11 carries in the game.
Special Teams: B
The Oakland Raiders special teams didn’t have the best game outside of punter Marquette King. The return team only had one kick return (five yards), and Jalen Richard returned four punts for a combined 25 yards. Kicker Giorgio Tavecchio missed his only field goal attempt from 35 yards out but hit all three of his point-after attempts. The one positive was their punter. King continued his Pro Bowl quality year with six punts for an average of just 43.5 yards, but he put four of the six inside the 20.
Jack Del Rio coached his team to a win. That is a good thing, especially with a brand-new defensive coordinator on the field. Del Rio risked losing his players, as two of his defensive stars showed anger at the change in their coordinator this past week. However, the defense played well in response to the change, so that is also a positive. However, when Michael Crabtree and Gabe Jackson were suspended, it was a huge black eye to the coaching staff, who lost control of their players and almost lost the game in an instant. The Raiders held on to win, and Del Rio has his team now ready to fight for the playoffs.
Up Next: In a crazy turn of events, the Oakland Raiders have a losing record after 12 weeks of the 2017 NFL season, but control their playoff destiny. Since the Raiders are only one game back of the Kansas City Chiefs and beat the Chiefs last time they played, if the Raiders match the Chiefs and Chargers in wins but beat the two teams next time they play, the Raiders can win the AFC West. The next game up for the Raiders is one they should win as they host the two-win New York Giants before hitting the road to meet Kansas City on Dec. 10.