There are a lot of seemingly appropriate terms to describe the Raiders matchup with the defending AFC-champion Denver Broncos this Sunday.
Challenging would be one. Difficult might be another.
After all, the 0-8 Raiders are 11½-point underdogs to the 6-2 Broncos.
But Raiders defensive coordinator Jason Tarver used a different term this week in speaking with the media about Sunday afternoon’s game at O.co Coliseum.
“It’s going to be exciting,” he said.
Tarver said he’s eager to see how his defense will respond to the challenge of stopping Denver’s high-powered offense and how important it will be for defenders to pay attention to their assignments. Also, how key it will be to have crisp, effective tackling to keep the Broncos from turning small gains into big plays.
“It’s paramount,” he said. “The teams that can, when the ball is thrown underneath, go run and hit and know where your help is, know how to use where all the other players are within the coverage, are the teams that are able to limit yards after contact. That’s obviously where we need to improve.”
The other challenge for the Raiders this week is to patch together an effective secondary because so many players are hurt. Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning is great at finding mismatches and exploiting them. Denver has a great stable of receivers in Demaryius Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders, Wes Welker and Julius Thomas, and if the Raiders can’t put any pressure on Manning, he’ll be able to take his time, let plays unfold and find someone open on every play.
Over the past four Broncos-Raiders games, Denver has scored at least 34 points in three of them and Manning has thrown 11 touchdown passes. Recent history shows Denver has been dominant against the Oakland defense.
Tarver, however, is dismissing what’s happened in the past, saying this unit “is a new group.”
“Every week we’re getting better,” he said. “Any of that history doesn’t concern us. What concerns us is getting better every week.”