After having a bad game against the New England Patriots, the Denver Broncos defense put up an excellent showing against the Oakland Raiders. Their run defense was dominant, as it has been for the majority of the season. Their pass defense struggled at times, but mostly played at a high level. They also kept up their knack for finding a takeaway to give the ball back to their offense.
From start to finish they played a good game. They did allow 17 points to the Raiders, 10 of which came from a turnover by the offense to put the Raiders in good field position. The only time the Broncos allowed the Raiders to move the ball down the field to put up points, was late in the game when it was all but over. The way the defense played against the Raiders, was how they've mostly performed all season, with the only exception being against the Patriots. Going forward, the defense needs to keep this level of play up.
Now, onto the player grades. For the defense, we will start off on the defensive line. Each player starts at a C grade. A positive play increases their grade, while a negative play decreases it.
Snaps: 33. Stats: 2 QB hurries, 2 tackles, 1 missed tackle, 2 stops. Targeted 1 time, giving up 1 catch for 1 yard.
Ware was consistently in the Raiders backfield, causing some kind of disruption. He did struggle some in the run game, but not as much as he has in the past. The biggest issue he has in the run game is with draws. He gets up-field so quickly, that it opens up a run lane with the draw. His grade: B.
De Derek Wolfe
Snaps: 35. Stats: 1 QB hit, 1 QB hurry, 1 tackle, 2 missed tackles, 1 stop.
Wolfe took a small step back from his previous performances in stopping the run. He was still strong, but he missed a couple of tackles that should have been easy. He was stronger rushing the QB by getting consistent push. His best play was hitting the Raiders QB on the arm as he threw, which resulted in an interception. His grade: B.
DT/DE Malik Jackson
Snaps: 29. Stats: 2 QB hurries, 1 tackle, 1 stop. 1 forced fumble.
Jackson played a really good game. He was strong in maintaining his positon in the run game, putting himself, or another, in a position to make a play. Where he really excelled was in the pass rush, like usual. He does a great job of generating push with either his speed or strength. His grade: A-.
Snaps: 33. Stats: 3 QB hurries, 2 tackles, 1 stop.
Smith has been a vastly underrated component in the depth of the defensive line. He has had some rough games, but he also has had a major impact at times. When he is hot, he is hot and against the Raiders, he was just that. He was getting pressure on the Raiders QB left and right, along with setting the edge to stop the run, something he has struggled with mostly on the season. His grade: B+.
Snaps: 18. Stats: 1 QB hit, 1 QB hurry, 1 tackle, 1 stop.
Knighton saw few snaps against the Raiders, but he had a major impact on those snaps. He was stout vs the run. The Raiders could not move him to make any kind of running lane, which allowed the players on the edge to collapse on the ball carrier. In the passing game, he was able to push the interior of the pocket, making it impossible for the Raiders quarterback to step up into his throws. His grade: A.
Snaps: 31. Stats: 1 QB hurry, 1 tackle, 1 missed tackle, 1 stop.
Williams played a solid game. He showed his strength as an interior pass rusher, getting solid push to keep the QB from stepping up. In run defense, he still has room to grow. He flashes moments of brilliance, but between those flashes are a series of cringe-worthy plays that make one want to pull one's hair out. His grade: C+.
Snaps: 18. Stats: None.
Austin is excellent at penetrating the offensive line. The issue is, he has been unable to penetrate and cause disruption. What often happens is that on run plays, the ball carrier is already up field, or moving away from Austin. In the passing game, the ball is normally thrown or the quarterback is rolling out, away from Austin. His grade: D+.
DT Mitch Unrein
Snaps: 12. Stats: 1 QB hurry.
In his first action since week 2 of the season, Unrein put out a solid showing. He is a player that will do whatever is asked of him. Against the Raiders, he lined up all over the defensive line in a variety of looks. He was strong stopping the run, he set his base and was hard to move for the Raiders offensive line. When getting after the quarterback, he was only credited with one hurry, but got great pressure multiple times. His grade: B.
SLB Von Miller
Snaps: 61. Stats: 1 QB hit, 6 QB hurries, 5 tackles, 1 assisted tackle, 3 stops.
Miller played an excellent game, as usual. He was all over the Raiders QB from start to finish. The Raiders offensive line could not find a way to slow him down at all, even in the running game. He was causing disruption on every snap of the ball. His grade: A+.
WLB/MLB Brandon Marshall
Snaps: 63. Stats: 1 QB hit, 12 tackles, 1 assisted tackle, 8 stops. Targeted 9 times, giving up 8 catches for 42 yards. Defensed 1 pass.
Marshall played an excellent game defending the run. He was so smooth in his movements that he was able to sneak by the Raiders offensive linemen to make the stop. In coverage, he was up and down. He still bites on play-action, which is where he has struggled all season. His grade: A-.
MLB/WLB Steven Johnson
Snaps: 19. Stats: 2 tackles, 1 missed tackle, 2 stops. Targeted 2 times, giving up 2 catches for 12 yards.
Despite the injury to Nate Irving, Johnson was limited vs the Raiders. In fact, Johnson didn’t really take over Irving's role. Marshall spent more time at the middle linebacker position, with Johnson on the weakside. Johnson played a good game in his limited snaps, but was taken out of the game early. His grade: C+.
SLB Lerentee McCray
Snaps: 2. Stats: None.
McCray say only two snaps, one as a pass rusher and the other in coverage. He did nothing positive or negative to note. His grade: C.
CB Aqib Talib
Snaps: 63. Stats: 1 tackle, 1 assisted tackle, 1 missed tackle, 1 stop. Targeted 6 times, giving up 1 catch for 10 yards.
Talib rebounded from a rough game against his former team. The only catch he allowed vs the Raiders, he ended up missing the tackle on, but that was early in the game. After that he was a shutdown corner, keeping his assignment from catching the pass. His grade: B+.
CB Chris Harris
Snaps: 62. Stats: 1 QB Hurry, 4 tackles, 3 stops. Targeted 6 times, giving up 4 catches for 8 yards. Recovered 1 fumble.
Like Talib, Harris rebounded from a down game against the Patriots. He did allow four catches, but kept the play in front of him and never allowed the receiver to break free. He also showed up in a major way as a run defender. He was coming up and making plays when needed. His grade: A.
CB Bradley Roby
Snaps: 44. Stats: 3 tackles, 1 missed tackle, 1 stop. Targeted 8 times, giving up 4 catches for 44 yards and 1 touchdown. Intercepted 1 pass.
Being the worst player to take the field at your position is normally not a good thing. But, with Roby, it was hard to do a better job than Harris and Talib. Despite being the worst Broncos cornerback, he still played a great game. He did allow a touchdown, which he could have covered better, but it also was a great play by the Raiders. In coverage, Roby was good. He did allow multiple catches, but was quick to bring the ball carrier down. Also, Roby made a great play on the ball to get an interception. His grade: B.
SS T.J. Ward
Snaps: 63. Stats: 1 QB hit, 4 tackles, 3 assisted tackles, 1 missed tackle, 2 stops. Targeted 10 times, giving up 9 catches for 69 yards and 1 touchdown. Intercepted 1 pass.
Ward has struggled in coverage all season for the Broncos, and that continued against the Raiders. However, he was able to make a great read on the quarterback to get his first interception on the season. Ward’s strength has come in his run defense and playing closer to the line of scrimmage, something the Broncos did more this past game. He was better than some of his previous efforts, but still has areas to improve. His grade: B-.
FS Rahim Moore
Snaps: 63. Stats: 1 tackle.
Moore has had some rough games this season. He rebounded somewhat against the Raiders. He was used more often as a single deep safety, with Ward and Carter playing closer to the line of scrimmage. Moore kept the majority of the plays in front of him and showed good decision making. There were a few questionable decisions Moore made, but not as many as previous weeks. His grade: B-.
Snaps: 44. Stats: 3 tackles, 1 stop. Targeted 2 times, giving up 1 catch for 6 yards.
When the Broncos pulled Johnson, they put in Carter at SS and dropped Ward into the box as a LB. He saw his first major action since week 1. Carter played a strong game, both in run defense and in coverage. He was flying all over the field, making the play when it was needed. His grade: B.
The Broncos defense rebounded from a horrible overall game in week 9 to execute at a high level last Sunday. Many will take away from their performance because they played the Raiders. But after getting destroyed by the Patriots the way they did, rebounding can be difficult for any unit. Even though it was the Raiders, the rebound was great and needed to happen. It restores confidence in the players. However, they need to keep that confidence without inflating their heads and keep playing that way for the rest of the season and beyond.
Now, the Broncos prepare to head to St. Louis to take on the Rams.
Check out the Broncos offensive grades from week 10 here.