It was the same story, but a different chapter on Sunday as the Denver Broncos held off the Oakland Raiders to win 16-10 at Mile High. Despite having complete control of the game for nearly four quarters, it came down to a late interception by Justin Simmons to put the final nail in the coffin.
“That play he (Simmons) made tonight was a big time play and that’s what we have seen from this guy the last four or five months,” said Vance Joseph. “Moving forward he’s going to get better and better as he plays more football, but I’ve been very pleased at how he’s handled himself as a first time starter.”
This game had no business being close, but Sunday’s game was nothing new for the Broncos. For the second time this season Denver’s offense failed to deliver the knock out punch. Specifically, red zone struggles continue to hinder the ability of the offense to put points on the board. The Broncos made four trips to the red zone only to come away with three field goals including a late chip shot miss from kicker Brandon McManus that would have put the game out of reach.
“It wasn’t very good,” noted Joseph. “We’re zero for four and again (in the red zone). It’s really self inflicting wounds; you know it’s a false start; it’s a holding penalty so we can’t do that we got to score points down there and score touchdowns down there and we had a missed field goal so that part of our offense we need to fix quickly.”
Trevor Siemian was well on his way to exploiting a poor Raiders’ secondary after starting seven of nine for 115 yards and a touchdown in the first quarter. However, for the next three quarters Siemian went on to go just nine of 17 for 64 yards. Siemian was also sacked four times including two from Raiders’ linebacker Khalil Mack.
“It was interesting I thought that we were always one play away from really getting momentum and seizing momentum,” said Siemian. “We just didn’t really have a rhythm and they did a really good job mixing up coverages and defenses and safety pressures and some good things on their end that kept us on our toes, but we got to find a way to stay in that rhythm, stay on the field and get it to our guys.”
Oakland’s defensive game plan was clear; take away wide receivers Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders. Oakland succeeded as they held the pair to a combined five catches for 38 yards. The attention to the two allowed tight end AJ Derby to have his best day as a Bronco. Derby led all pass catchers with four catches for 75 yards including a one handed grab for the 22 yard score early in the first quarter. The attention outside also created a soft front from Oakland allowing Anderson to finish with 95 yards on the ground. Charles was effective early, but after taking a helmet to the knee he was held out for most of the second half.
While the offense has plenty of questions yet unanswered, the defense is setting team records. Through four games Denver’s front has only allowed 203 yards on the ground, the fewest in four games in team history. Marshawn Lynch finished with 12 yards on nine carries and just 24 total team-rushing yards. “With a back like that and a offensive line like that, that’s a really special 24 yards,” said Joseph.
The shutdown of Beast Mode made the Raiders one-dimensional. With receiver Amari Cooper put on lockdown by Aqib Talib and company, as well as the fact that Michael Crabtree was out with a chest injury, the Raiders had little to fight back with.
Denver said earlier in the year that they wanted their run defense to send a message, and it has. The Broncos once again have a Super Bowl caliber defense, and one that might need to carry the offense again.
It wasn’t pretty, but Denver took care of business in a game they absolutely needed to win. Coming into the season starting the year well was vital. By winning their first three home games, including two in the division, Denver is in position heading into the bye to reload before the schedule intensifies with three of the next four on the road. Luckily for Denver, dominating defenses travel well.