Broncos QB Peyton Manning was brilliant in victory over Raiders Sunday. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
The Raiders in 2013 lived down to expectations. Even before the season began, some NFL observers were predicting Oakland would be the worst team in the league.
In the end, they were almost dead-on. Despite the Raiders going 3-4 over their first seven games – causing some to wonder if the team might be a darkhorse playoff candidate – Oakland belly-flopped down the stretch, losing its final six games to finish 4-12 for a second straight season.
The final straw was Sunday’s 34-14 loss to the AFC West champion Denver Broncos at O.co Coliseum that could have been even worse.
The game was essentially over at halftime, when Raiders fans loudly booed when their team headed for the locker room trailing 31-0. Realistically, the game was over even earlier.
Setting the tone, the Raiders went three-and-out on their first possession of the game, punted the ball away and then watched Peyton Manning lead a 12-play, 71-yard drive for a 7-0 lead.
On the Raiders next possession, quarterback Terrelle Pryor fumbled the ball away on the first snap at Oakland’s 20, and the Broncos were up 14-0 four plays later. The Broncos’ next three drives ended with: field goal, touchdown and touchdown.
The first half came to an end with Pryor going to the ground to let the clock run out, prompting longtime Bay Area columnist Ray Ratto to tweet: “Pryor takes a knee without fumbling, missing snap or just toppling over. Best Raider play of half.”
The Raiders defense was helpless and their offense was lost. If this was Pryor’s audition for 2014, it was a failure. Pryor completed 21 of 38 passes for 207 yards, with most of that total coming long after the game was decided. The Raiders head into the postseason poised to look for a starting quarterback in 2014 – unless they believe rookie Matt McGloin is the long-term answer.
Manning, meanwhile, played just the first half before being replaced by Brock Osweiler. Manning was brilliant completing 25-of-28 passes for 266 yards and four touchdowns while breaking Drew Brees’ NFL record for passing yards in a season. Manning finished the game with 5,477 yards, one more yard than Brees’ total in 2011. Manning and the Broncos -- who finished 13-3 -- now go into the postseason as the AFC's No. 1 seed.
The 4-12 season for the Raiders, meanwhile, marks the 11th consecutive non-winning season for Oakland since the Raiders went to the Super Bowl after the 2002 season.
The question now is, will head coach Dennis Allen be back for a third season on his four-year deal? And what kind of changes will be made in the offseason?