In his NFL starting quarterback debut, Tim Tebow was outfitted with several layers of Oakland Coliseum turf stains, mud chunks, and grass smears. Oakland Raiders fullback Marcel Reese was the game’s real hero on offense in a 39-23 Raiders win.
Reese had another of his uncharacteristically-long-for-a-fullback catch-and-runs at a clutch moment, turning a tight game decisively in the Raiders’ favor in the fourth quarter by scampering 74 yards on a short dump pass for a touchdown.
A nailbiter was instantly transformed into a rout. Raiders linebacker Quentin Groves dragged Correll Buckhalter down a for a late safety, and Michael Bush had a one-yard touchdown run to put the finishing touches on the blowout.
The celebrating started early for the waterlogged Raider fans in the stands, when Jacoby Ford took an end-around reverse and ran 71 yards on the Raiders’ very first play from scrimmage. The Nation could be forgiven for hoping they were about to watch a replay of the Raiders’ Week 7 blowout win over the Broncos in Denver.
But Raiders turnovers on two consecutive first quarter drives kind of did that sentiment in.
After Jason Campbell threw an interception right into the hands of Bronco defensive end Kevin Vickerson, Tebow converted on third-and-24 by running 40 yards right up the middle for an immediate-response touchdown.
Darren McFadden fumbled on the Raiders’ next possession, and Tebow made them pay right-quick again by hitting Brandon Lloyd on a 33-yard touchdown pass.
Like that, Tebow had quickly notched two instant touchdowns, one on the ground and one through the air, and the Broncos led 14-7 just eight minutes into the game.
The Raiders had their own immediate-response touchdown up their sleeves. McFadden uncorked a 36-yard run down to the Broncos’ two yard line, and Michael Bush cashed it in for a one-yard touchdown.
Sebastian Janikowski was called in to make his first-ever career punt right before the two-minute warning in the first half, and the result was magnificent. Broncos return man Syd’Quad Thompson muffed the kick, the Raiders recovered, and Janikowski was able to come right back out and tie it 17-17 at the half with a 49-yard field goal.
For all the fireworks in the first half, it was nothing but field goals in the second half – until Reese’s explosive catch and dash in the fourth. The Raiders are 7-7, and have swept the Broncos for the season.
The Raiders remain perfect in their own division, now at 5-0 in the AFC West. They could even go a perfect 6-0 in the division this season, yet still not make the playoffs. They must win the AFC West to qualify for the post-season, the Raiders can no longer make it as a wild card.
Joe Kukura is a freelance writer who congratulates Darren McFadden on the first 1000-yard season of his career.