The Raiders came into this game ready to see the same thing they have always seen from Tim Tebow. A running, zone option read quarterback. And that is exactly what they got. It is no great secret. It is about as much of an illusion as your grandpa pulling a quarter from behind your ear. And in this game Tebow performed that same little magic trick over and over while each time the Raiders stood in in even greater amazement.
The Raiders scored first with a field goal by Sebastian Janikowski on their second drive of the day. The field goal was set up by a pass from Carson Palmer to Jacoby Ford that he took for 34 yards. He fumbled at the end of the run but Marcel Reece recovered it to keep possession.
The Broncos did get into the endzone in the first half, though. They scored near the end of the first quarter set up by a big 27 yard run by Tebow. He finished the drive hitting a wide open Eric Decker to put the Broncos up 7-3.
The remainder of the first half went as expected. The Raiders dominated the Broncos with a smarter offense and enough defense to stop the one trick ponies. The result was 14 unanswered points.
The first Raiders score was set up by a dropped punt attempt by Broncos’ Dustin Colquitt. It gave the Raiders the ball at the Broncos’ 14 yard line where they were able to score on a TD pass to Michael Bush from 11 yards out. It was Carson Palmer’s first touchdown pass as a Raider.
The next Raider touchdown was set up by another big connection from Palmer to Ford. This time it went for 31 yards. Then Palmer finished off the drive with a perfect strike in traffic to fullback Marcel Reece for the touchdown and a 17-7 lead they would carry into halftime.
Palmer wasn’t perfect in that first half, though. He threw a pass too high for Denarius Moore who tipped it in the air where it was intercepted. The defense held on the ensuing Broncos’ possession, allowing just four yards of offense and a punt.
The second half went much differently, however. That same offensive scheme the Broncos were running that was relatively ineffective in the first half, suddenly became a brilliant game plan.
The Broncos came out on the first drive of the second half and scored a touchdown, set up by a Tebow 19 yard run followed by a 12 yard run by Willis McGahee. Then, yet again, the drive was finished off with a touchdown pass to a wide open receiver. This time it was Eddie Royal who didn’t have a man within five yards of him as he jogged into the endzone.
The entire third quarter was a scoring extravaganza by both teams. The Raiders answered the Broncos touchdown with one of their own. Then the Broncos answered with a field goal. But this time the Raiders wouldn’t answer as Palmer was intercepted on a long pass intended for Denarius Moore.
The Broncos made the Raiders pay for their mistake in one play when a handoff to McGahee went up the middle 60 yards for a touchdown. No trickery. Just a handoff up the middle and no one was home. After leading for two quarters, the Raiders were now tied with the Broncos 24-24 heading into the fourth quarter.
The Raiders would not score again while the Broncos seemed unstoppable. Their next touchdown came on an 85 yard punt return. With the lead, the Broncos were content to go back to the read option well over and over again. Their next touchown came on a five play drive in which not a single pass was thrown. It featured a 28 yard run by Tebow, 17 yard McGahee run, and ended in a 24 yard touchdown run in which it looked like the Raiders didn’t even care about stopping McGahee.
The score put the Broncos ahead by two touchdowns with 1:53 left in the game, the proverbial nail in the coffin in a 38-24 loss.
The Raiders had two weeks to prepare for one of the most predictable offenses in the NFL. There was no mystery that Tebow would start this week as that is what Denver head coach John Fox had said all along. So what happened? The players claim it was lack of effort and missed assignments.
“The runs were the runs we saw on practice,” said Richard Seymour. “We knew exactly what they were going to do and we didn’t stop it. Plain and simple. We knew exactly what was going to happen and they ran exactly what we thought they were going to run, and we didn’t get the job done.”
Or in the immortal words of Dennis Green, “They are who we thought they were and we let ’em off the hook.”
Hue Jackson echoes this sentiment: “When we start the week we talk about potentially what can happen. What type of play [the zone read] is and that was the No. 1 football play for them with him. It’s the zone-read play and you either hand it or you pull it. And we worked it, I watched us in practice work it, I watched us in practice defend it. Obviously it’s different in practice than it is in a game. The quarterback made the play, the back made the play, they got us blocked and we didn’t get it defended.”
A different team came onto the field for the Raiders after halftime of this game. In the first half they had held the Broncos to 68 yards rushing and one touchdown. In the second half, they gave up 230 yards rushing, four touchdowns, and a field goal. The Broncos finished with 298 rushing yards with Tebow running for 117 and McGahee running for 163 yards.
Hue Jackson had no answers from the standpoint of the Raiders. He claims it was Tebow suddenly becoming good. “All of a sudden here’s a guy who’s making plays who hadn’t made those kind of plays for several weeks and then you go, ‘Wow’.”
Aaron Curry has a different theory.
“I think it all comes down to energy,” said Curry. “First half we came out we were lights out. We were energetic, jumping around, screaming at each other, we were getting the fans into it. The second half we kind of just showed up. “
Carson Palmer had an up and down day. On one hand he threw for 332 yards and 3 touchdowns. On the other hand he threw 3 interceptions. But despite the interceptions, this loss goes to the defense.
It could be energy, planning, or the less likely case of Tebow somehow playing like he belongs in the NFL. What we saw was what some people would be quick to call “the same old Raiders.”
Tommy Kelly summed it up as only Tommy Kelly can: “Sh*t, I don’t know. They were running the same sh*t in the first half they were running in the second half. The difference is we made the play in the first half to get off the field, and in the second half we didn’t… I mean, they have been running the same thing since they put him in there. They running that college sh*t, that zone sh*t, read it, quarterback gonna hold it. (sighs) Man, we practiced that sh*t all week. Not like they came out there with some new package or scheme. We ain’t seen nothing we ain’t been seeing. First half, we got off the field. Second half, we spit the bit out.”
The AFC West is surprisingly still up for grabs with the Chiefs falling to the previously winless Dolphins and the Chargers losing to the Packers. But with the Raiders heading to San Diego on a short week, that tie for the division lead will either end or be reduced to two teams.
|Denver Broncos (3-5-0)||Oakland Raiders (4-4-0)|