DENVER – The Raiders dominated the first half of Sunday’s game against the Denver Broncos. Once more for effect: Dominated it.
The offense rolled along. The defense pitched a shutout.
The Broncos slowly chipped away at the lead in the second half, leading to a finish that came down to the wire and didn’t fall in the Raiders’ favor.
Denver kicker Brandon McManus drilled the game-winning field goal with 10 seconds remaining to secure a 20-19 victory at Broncos Stadium at Mile High.
Here are three quick takeaways from a disappointing loss kept the Raiders winless after two weeks.
Raiders can’t finish: The Raiders played a game at altitude, in the hottest NFL game in Denver’s history. Those effects didn’t show up until late, when the Raiders defense looked tired. That was especially true up the middle, where late-week signings fortified a banged-up crew of defensive tackles.
The Raiders gave up a few second half scores, and allowed the Broncos to get in field goal range as time wound down for a game-winning field goal.
The defense doesn’t have a closer with Khalil Mack now in Chicago, and that unit couldn’t put the Broncos away when given the chance.
The attack had it’s chances as well, but Keith Smith dropped a key fourth-down pass in the fourth quarter and the Raiders couldn’t sustain a drive designed to close out the game.
That led to the Raiders going 0-2 to start the season, leaving Denver with a loss that should’ve been a victory.
Carr on target: Raiders quarterback Derek Carr threw an incompletion on the Raiders’ second series. He didn’t throw another one until late in the third quarter.
The Silver and Black’s signal caller was on target all day versus the vaunted Broncos defense, making accurate throws and smart decisions during this contest. He was aggressive going downfield, throwing the ball with purpose and pace.
It was an improvement over last week’s performance, where Carr cooled after a hot start and threw three interceptions.
Carr looked like the polished, efficient passer he can be in Gruden’s system. He completed 29-of-32 yards for 288 yards, a touchdown and a 114.6 passer rating.
Amari shows up: Amari Cooper had one nine-yard catch in the season opener. He was targeted just three times in a loss to the Rams, leading to a week’s worth of pondering why the Raiders’ best skill player wasn’t used more.
That wrong was righted with at Denver. Cooper’s number was called early and often, which allowed him to find early rhythm. He kept the good play going throughout, and was a main reason why the offense looked so strong against the Broncos.
He finished with 10 catches for 116 yards on the day, despite playing against a talented Broncos secondary. He should be a vital part of every game, given his big-play ability and elusiveness is space.
Coaching matters: The Raiders were well prepped to play the Denver Broncos, and in turn played smart, disciplined football. Defensive coordinator Paul Guenther called an excellent game, and Jon Gruden got Raiders skill players – Amari Cooper, in particular -- involved early to establish a rhythm.
They clearly put a disappointing performance against the L.A. Rams in the rearview and executed a gameplan that kept the Broncos off balance for most of the game.
It’s clear that this year’s staff is superior to the one it replaced, and seemed to get the most out of a group with some deficiencies on the depth chart.
The Raiders came to Denver with a solid gameplan and executed it well. Adjusting to new schemes doesn’t happen overnight. Kinks must get worked out. This game was a sign of progress.