OAKLAND – The Raiders could've taken the cliché way out and said Monday night's game versus Denver was like any other, that it was all about cold-blooded execution and all that in a week-to-week league.
They didn't do that. They didn't shy away from the importance of performing well in what could be the final Raiders game played at Oakland. They were properly motivated, and it brought out the best in this bunch.
The Raiders played well in most every phase. They were well prepped to face this Broncos team and executed their instructions at high level (most of the time) in a 27-14 victory at Oakland Coliseum.
While there was plenty of emotion surrounding this game, let's grade the play itself in this week's report card:
Doug Martin had himself a day. The Oakland native was driven to send his hometown home happy, grinding out chunk yards and tough ones on the outside and the interior. He finished with 107 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries, marking his first triple-digit rushing total since Nov. 22, 2015. He maintained offensive balance, and had some big runs down the stretch to help ice an important victory. The offensive line deserves credit here, too, for getting good push and creating space for Martin.
The Broncos are tough to throw against, even with elite cover corner Chris Harris on injured reserve. Derek Carr only had 167 yards, but he had eight first downs through the air and had a quality connection with Jordy Nelson that kept the offense moving. Carr's streak without throwing an interception has reached 10 games, meaning he's being smart with the football and avoiding big mistakes. Carr missed some throws, but he ran Jon Gruden's offense well yet again.
The Raiders run defense gave up 4.2 yards per carry on 24 attempts, exactly 100 yards against a talented Broncos ground game. They didn't let Phillip Lindsay run rampant, however, even before he left the game with an injury. More important: They didn't give up the big run, which has plagued them throughout the season.
The Raiders secondary play Monday's game well despite operating without starting cornerbacks Gareon Conley and Daryl Worley. The safeties set a physical tone, with big hits from Karl Joseph and Marcus Gilchrist early on. That crew played physical football all night, and received solid efforts from Rashaan Melvin and Nick Nelson on the outside. Gilchrist even ducked down to play slot cornerback with so many corners down. Gilchrist and Erik Harris intercepted Denver signal caller Case Keenum, who was under more pressure than usual from a generally lackluster Raiders pass rush.
A game ball has to go to Rich Bisaccia, because the kicking game was downright excellent. Daniel Carlson nailed two field goals in as many tries. Johnny Townsend had a 45-yard net average, with three punts inside the 20-yard line.
Dwayne Harris stole the show in the first quarter, when he smartly picked up a punt Denver tried to down at the 1-yard line and returned it 99 yards for a touchdown. He caught Denver off guard, which allowed him to reach the sideline at full gallup and sprint for the end zone.
The Raiders understood how much this game meant to Oakland Raiders fans. They embraced the emotion and let it fuel them on to victory. The Raiders were solid in every phase, and put together maybe their most complete game of the season. The team gave fans a reason to cheer. That was all that mattered on this night.