It has been 24 hours and I still can’t tell if the Las Vegas Raiders were lucky to escape with as comfortable of a win as they did against the Denver Broncos on Sunday, or if the Broncos were the fortunate ones in that the score was as close as it was.
On one hand, the Raiders forced four interceptions and a fumble — matching their season total for takeaways — while on the other, they dropped two touchdowns and had a stupid penalty wipe out a punt return for a touchdown.
There were moments Sunday early on when it seemed like everything was working against a Raider team that was lacking the focus we’ve become accustomed to, and yet, before the third quarter ended, the game was a wrap. All in all, the Raiders won and how they got there isn’t the most important thing — as they improved to 6-3 on the season and a perfect 3-0 in the division.
Offensive MVP: Josh Jacobs and Devonte Booker
The Raiders scored 37 points and yet it’s safe to say the offense was fairly disappointing — outside of the offensive line and the two guys running behind them. Jacobs and Booker finished with a combined 193 yards on 37 carries (5.2 YPC) and four touchdowns despite missing both starting tackles and a starting guard again. If Tom Cable isn’t the winner of the best assistant coach in the league at the end of the season, it will be a crime.
Defensive MVP: Jeff Heath and Nicholas Morrow
There were honestly a couple other guys who probably belonged on this list — Maxx Crosby and Nick Kwiatkoski chief among them — but Heath and Morrow get the nod. Heath got the Raiders’ first two interceptions, including one in the endzone that was more of a good play on his part than a bad play from Broncos quarterback Drew Lock. His play has been inconsistent this season, and yet, it’s safe to say all three of his interceptions came at absolutely critical moments.
Morrow gets a shoutout here as well, mostly because I dogged him all week and he proved me wrong. I joked that Raider fans who were frustrated with Cory Littleton, who missed the game while on the Reserve/COVID-19 list, would be longing for his average-level play after watching Morrow. I was wrong. Morrow wasn’t perfect, but he was far better than average and might have even done enough to steal some of Littleton’s snaps.
Special Teams MVP: Hunter Renfrow
How much would it suck to be Renfrow, the Raider punt returner who had not one but two huge punt returns wiped out by penalty? The big one was a 60-yard return that would have been a touchdown if not for a stupid penalty by Johnathan Abram nowhere near the play. Considering that was at a moment in which the Raiders led by only four — and then punted after a three-and-out — it was a potential back-breaker that thankfully didn’t end up mattering.
Also, shoutout to Daniel Carlson who continues to kick like one of the best in the league at his position.
- Derek Carr deserved better than he got on Sunday. As Jerry McDonald pointed out, Carr had the lowest rating of the season Sunday (81.1), but that was mostly the result of Nelson Agholor and Darren Waller both dropping easy touchdowns. If those guys catch both passes, Carr finishes with this line: 18/25, 215 yards, 2 touchdowns — and a rating of 124.5.
- While I’ve been clamoring for more Henry Ruggs III touches, I couldn’t help but notice that Ruggs also dropped an absolute dime from Carr early on. On the Raiders’ second drive, facing third-and-3, Carr went deep to Ruggs down the sideline and the ball passed straight through his hands.
- How bizarre was the Raiders’ drive-by-drive chart? Touchdown, punt, punt, punt, field goal, field goal, touchdown, field goal, punt, touchdown, touchdown. And all four punts came after three-and-outs!
- Third downs were the key to the offensive turnaround for the Raiders. After converting just 1/5 in the first half, they were 5/8 in the second half.
- I mentioned the three touchdowns that were either dropped (Waller, Agholor) or wiped off the board by penalty (Renfrow). Those three drives resulted in a total of just six points.
- I have to give some credit to the Raiders’ front seven as well: they finished with two sacks, four tackles for loss and seven quarterback hits while also holding the Broncos to just 66 yards rushing on 19 carries. Pretty darn close to what I predicted…