DENVER (AP) — Derek Carr sliced up the Denver defense for 341 yards and two touchdowns, Maxx Crosby made three sacks and the Las Vegas Raiders started the post-Jon Gruden era with a 34-24 thrashing of the bewildered Broncos on Sunday.
The Raiders (4-2) gave longtime special teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia a win in his debut as interim head coach and offensive coordinator Greg Olson was masterful in his first play-calling duties for Las Vegas since Carr’s rookie season in 2014.
The Raiders began by ending an 11-game streak without a score on their opening drive. They never let up, burning the Broncos’ beleaguered secondary that couldn’t keep up with Carr and his targets.
Nor could Denver’s deficient offense keep pace. Teddy Bridgewater threw a season-high three interceptions and lost a fumble, negating his 334 yards passing and three TDs.
The Broncos (3-3) lost their third consecutive game, but the other defeats came at the hands of Ravens and Steelers and their veteran head coaches John Harbaugh and Mike Tomlin.
This one had to sting coach Vic Fangio, whose Broncos have a short week before a Thursday night game at Cleveland with the possibility they’ll fall below .500 just 25 days after starting 3-0.
Moreover, the Broncos’ humiliation came on a day they inducted former coach Mike Shanahan into their Ring of Fame and honored Steve Atwater’s long-awaited entrance into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
The Raiders appeared to have a season on the brink after Gruden resigned Monday night when it was revealed emails he sent before being hired in 2018 contained racist, homophobic and misogynistic comments directed at several people in the NFL.
But the Raiders didn’t seem one bit bothered by the chaos as they moved into a tie atop the AFC West with the Chargers, who were throttled 34-6 by Baltimore.
Crosby was in on four sacks — he had two himself and two he shared — one of which came just before halftime, right after the Raiders took a 17-7 lead on Carr’s 31-yard touchdown toss to running back Kenyon Drake. Linebacker Alexander Johnson never turned his head as Drake hauled in the pass and tiptoed down the Raiders sideline, capping a five-play 82-yard drive that took just 31 seconds.
Drake’s 18-yard touchdown run made it 24-7 in the third quarter, essentially ending any doubt Bisaccia’s head coaching debut after spending two decades as a special teams coordinator would be a success.
Las Vegas opened the scoring on a 48-yard pass from Carr to Henry Ruggs III, who sped past cornerback Ronald Darby, playing for the first time since pulling a hamstring in the opener. The Raiders failed to score on their first possession in the previous 11 games for the longest active drought in the NFL.
The Broncos had gone even longer without scoring a TD on their first possession, the last one coming on Dec. 8, 2019, against Houston. They ended their 24-game streak when Bridgewater found Tim Patrick on a 23-yard pass to tie it.
Daniel Carlson’s 50-yard field goal put Las Vegas up 10-7, but he hit the right upright on a 43-yarder as the Raiders failed to capitalize on cornerback Brandon Facyson’s interception at midfield.
The Raiders didn’t fritter away linebacker Denzel Perryman’s recovery of Bridgewater’s fumble in the second half. They cashed in on Josh Jacobs’ 3-yard touchdown jaunt after Ruggs hauled in a 40-yard pass at the Denver 4 with Darby flailing at the floater.
The Broncos challenged the catch but lost — just as they were denied their challenge when they argued Noah Fant came down in the end zone with a 14-yard reception that would have pulled them within seven points in the third quarter.
Raiders LB Nick Kwiatkoski (foot) went out in the first half and S Roderic Teamer (shoulder) early in the fourth period. The Broncos announced at halftime that Johnson (chest) was out along with rookies linebackers Baron Browning (concussion) and Andre Mintze (hamstring). Johnson was replaced by Micah Kiser. Patrick slid on the tarp and into the Broncos bench in the fourth quarter and it appeared trainers were looking at his left leg.
Raiders: host the Philadelphia Eagles next Sunday in advance of their bye.
Broncos: visit the Cleveland Browns on Thursday night.
PREGAME: This will be the Raiders first game since Jon Gruden resigned and Rich Bisaccia took over as interim head coach.
FIRST QUARTER: Raiders receive the opening kickoff.
Raiders TD pass Derek Carr to Henry Ruggs 48 yards. RAIDERS 7, BRONCOS 0. 11:50 left in quarter.
Broncos Teddy Bridgewater passed to Tim Patrick to the right for 23 yard touchdown (Brandon McManus made PAT). RAIDERS 7, BRONCOS 7. 6:57 left in quarter.
Raiders Daniel Carlson kicked a 50-yard field goal. RAIDERS 10, BRONCOS 7. 2:45 left in quarter.
Raiders Derek Carr passed to Kenyan Drake to the left for 31 yard touchdown (Daniel Carlson made PAT). RAIDERS 17, BRONCOS 7, halftime
THIRD QUARTER: Raiders Kenyan Drake rushed to the right for 18 yard touchdown (Daniel Carlson made PAT). RAIDERS 24, BRONCOS 7. 11:32 left in third quarter.
Broncos Brandon McManus kicked a 32-yard field goal. RAIDERS 24, BRONCOS 10. 6:42 left in quarter
Raiders Josh Jacobs rushed to the right for 3 yard touchdown (Daniel Carlson made PAT). RAIDERS 31, BRONCOS 10, :30 left in quarter.
FOURTH QUARTER: Broncos Teddy Bridgewater passed to Courtland Sutton to the right for 12 yard touchdown (Brandon McManus made PAT). RAIDERS 31, BRONCOS 17. 11:16 left in fourth.
Raiders Daniel Carlson kicked a 30-yard field goal. RAIDERS 34, BRONCOS 17, 8:00 left in fourth
Broncos Teddy Bridgewater passed to Noah Fant to the right for 4 yard touchdown (Brandon McManus made PAT). RAIDERS 34, BRONCOS 24, FINAL
DENVER (AP) — Denver Broncos star linebacker Von Miller still sees the Las Vegas Raiders as Jon Gruden’s team even after their rival’s iconic coach resigned in disgrace.
While acknowledging “how they call the game will definitely change because they have a new play caller,” Miller insisted, “what they do is what they do.”
“They’re not going to come out here and be an option team. They’re not just going to come out here and change their whole identity because Gruden’s gone,” Miller argued. “They’re still going to do some of the things that they do well. We just don’t know when they will do it.
“To be honest, that’s really every week that we go out there,” Miller added. “We really don’t know what the other team is going to present.”
Longtime special teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia makes his debut as the Raiders’ interim head coach Sunday, with offensive coordinator Greg Olson taking over play-calling duties in a matchup pitting 3-2 teams who are seeking their first win in October.
“No one wants to be a head coach in this particular situation, no one wants to be put in front of this under these particular circumstances,” said Bisaccia, whose first NFL job was under Gruden in 2002, when he was hired as special teams coordinator for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
“But it’s an incredible opportunity, not only for me but for all the other coaches to see what we can do with this adversity, see what we can do with this challenge.”
Olson’s voice isn’t an unfamiliar one to Raiders quarterback Derek Carr.
“My rookie year he called plays,” Carr said. “I’ve heard his voice through the headset. I know how he calls the game and I know how he thinks. We’re in the same room. Every conversation I had with coach Gruden, I had with Oly this whole time.
“It’s not going to be anything crazy new but there are philosophies that some people have. So, I don’t want to give Oly’s secrets away, but could things be different? Yes. Could things be similar? Yes, absolutely.”
Other subplots Sunday when the AFC West archrivals meet for the 123rd time:
RUN INTO GROUND
The Raiders have been unable to get the running game going at all, hindering the offense. Las Vegas ranks 31st averaging 3.25 yards per carry as the line has been unable to create consistent holes for Josh Jacobs.
The Raiders made some switches last week on the line, moving rookie Alex Leatherwood from right tackle to guard and inserting Brandon Parker at tackle. That didn’t help much as the Raiders were held to 71 yards on 22 carries and allowed three more sacks.
Jacobs has had success against the Broncos, however, rushing for 286 yards and three TDs in three games.
The Broncos haven’t scored an opening-drive touchdown in 21 games under second-year offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur, and their skid of 24 games without one is the longest current streak in the NFL.
“We just got to have some energy,” quarterback Teddy Bridgewater said. “We might need to do like the colleges and go goal line in pre-game or something, just bash heads or something to get the blood flowing, the juices flowing.”
Nothing else has worked since the last time they reached the end zone on their first possession, at Houston on Dec. 8, 2019.
TAKE IT AWAY
The Raiders’ defense has taken big strides this year under new coordinator Gus Bradley, but the one thing Denver hasn’t been able to do is force many turnovers.
The three takeaways are tied for third fewest in the NFL and they haven’t had one since intercepting Ben Roethlisberger in the first quarter of a Week 2 win at Pittsburgh. Las Vegas ranked 30th in takeaways season with 15, but five of those came in a Week 10 win over the Broncos with Drew Lock at quarterback.
A key question that arose in light of the racist, homophobic and misogynistic thoughts expressed by Gruden in emails he wrote from 2011-18 to then-Washington club executive Bruce Allen: Just how pervasive are those sorts of attitudes around the sport these days?
Bridgewater demurred, saying he was too wrapped up in Raider Week to pay much attention to the Raiders’ imbroglio. But Broncos safety Justin Simmons raised the point that representation matters: “You get different backgrounds, you get different opinions.”
Denver coach Vic Fangio had a strong reaction to Gruden’s words that led to his resignation Monday night.
“I just think there’s no place in the world, let alone our league, for the opinions that were expressed, and especially the words used to express those opinions,” said Fangio.