It was a great day to be a Las Vegas Raiders fan as the Silver and Black marched into Mile High and came out with a victory, 34-24.
The game was not as close as the final score would indicate. The Denver Broncos scored in garbage time long after the game had been decided. Las Vegas kept its foot on the gas from the beginning till the end. A refreshing change from their normal conservative (and sometimes sluggish) play style in recent weeks.
In such a one-sided affair, some players will stand out with their excellence and others with their lack thereof. So who blew up and who fizzled out on Sunday?
You’d never know this was Bisaccia’s first game as a head coach following the resignation of former coach Jon Gruden. The Raiders looked focused and ready to play and gave maximum effort with superb execution of the game plan. It would have been easy for the Raiders to come out flat considering the tumultuous last week, but they dominated, and that’s a testament to both the players and Bisaccia. Whether he gets to continue as Raiders coach beyond this season will depend on how consistent the Raiders play, and we’ll get a good idea about that when they play the Eagles on Sunday. So far, so good.
Right now, Maxx Crosby is playing like the best defensive end in the NFL. The numbers certainly support that. Crosby has 18 quarterback hits (the most in the league) and five sacks, tied for tenth. Crosby terrorized Denver and its quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, sacking him three times and hitting him five times, adding a tackle for loss and a batted pass. ‘98‘ showed that he is a viable candidate for Defensive Player of the Year honors.
Henry Ruggs III
The speedy receiver enjoyed another massive game on Sunday, finishing just shy of 100 yards on the day. He scored a long touchdown on the Raiders’ first drive, beating the Denver secondary, and later caught a long bomb from Derek Carr against tight coverage.
Carr and the Raiders offense made a concerted effort to push the ball down the field against Denver, in stark opposition to their dink-and-dunk style from earlier in the year, and it paid off as Carr had 341 yards through the air. Ruggs will only get better, and Carr and the rest of the receiving corps will benefit from that fact.
The difference in this week’s offense and the rest of the year was apparent in the team’s focus on Drake. He rushed four times for 34 yards and a score while catching a pair of passes for 39 yards and another score. Drake averages over ten touches in Raider victories this year, and he’s a mismatch for most linebackers he winds up faced off with, so it will be imperative for the Raiders to keep feeding him the ball.
Few Raiders players did not have a good game in Denver, butÂ RobertsonÂ stands out as the top choice. He struggled against both the pass and the run, missing a tackle on a Javonte Williams off-tackle run that wound up going for 30 yards. Robertson was toasted repeatedly in coverage and may have been usurped by new corner Brandon Facyson. Gus Bradley has this defense playing at a high level, but Robertson has been uneven all year.
What we saw from Bridgewater on Sunday was par for the course for his career. He looks amazing for a few weeks and then comes crashing back to Earth. Bridgewater is an average to a below-average quarterback, and the Raiders made him look even worse than that, sacking him five times and picking him off three times. If Bridgewater doesn’t get back to his strong play from earlier in the year, we may see Drew Lock under center again soon.
If you look at the stat sheet, Fant had an impressive day; he caught nine passes for 97 yards and a touchdown. But he also had two holding penalties that killed Denver drives. He is too inconsistent to enter the top echelon of tight ends and will cost his team just as much as he provides.
When Fangio was hired in Denver following the disastrous Vance Joseph regime, many thought he’d be a breath of fresh air. Instead, he’s made Denver stagnant, a decidedly average team with no identity on offense that relies on a defense that isn’t good enough to carry them. Fangio wasted two challenges on desperate calls against the Raiders, costing his team timeouts they might have needed. Just an all-around awful game for Fangio, who finds many fans calling for his head.
*Top Photo: Michael Clemens/Las Vegas Raiders