If only it were always this easy. A new year gave way to a dominant-looking Denver Broncos team that played what was perhaps their best game of the year, defeating the Oakland Raiders by a score of 24-6, handing the AFC West title to the Kansas City Chiefs in the process.
http://www.scout.com/nfl/broncos/story/1681565-5-reasons-you-should-go-p... Of course, the Broncos had plenty of motivation in what was a meaningless game in terms of their own playoff fate. Rumors swirled before the game that this would be the last game for Gary Kubiak, who is now ready to step aside from football after three decades as a player and a coach.
What a great tribute his team paid him.
For all intents and purposes, this game was a Kubiak special--the Broncos ran the ball with more effectiveness than they have since the loss of C.J. Anderson in October. Justin Forsett and Devontae Booker lead the way and picked up the lion's share of a 143-yard rushing performance from the team.
Things got started with an opening drive touchdown in which Trevor Siemian started sharp, finding Cody Latimer, Virgil Green, and Jeff Heuerman for a 19-yard pick up before Booker scooted 11 yards into the end zone, following a terrific block from Juwan Thompson.
The offense was as smooth to start the game as it had been all season, and the momentum was not lost when the defense took the field. Already working with a touchdown lead, the pass rushers teed off on Matt McGloin, who was woefully inaccurate during the first half, completing 6-of-11 passes for a meager 21 yards.
Eventually, McGloin took a vicious shot from Jared Crick that appeared to injure him in maybe more ways than one. The Raiders' backup passer stumbled around and acted oddly after taking a hit on his head and, perhaps, his shoulder or hand as well.
http://www.scout.com/nfl/broncos/story/1741484-denver-broncos-2017-there... Meanwhile, the Broncos were controlling the ground. Forsett split defenders and ran for 64 yards, the longest carry of the year, to set up a field goal from Brandon McManus.
On the other side, there was not much room to be found for the Raiders. After dominating on the ground in the first matchup in Oakland, the Raiders picked up just 57 yards rushing, 43 from DeAndre Washington.
Late in the second quarter, the Broncos found themselves backed up with a 3rd-and-18 from their 43. Just looking to get back into field goal range, Siemian tossed a quick screen to Booker, who got a couple nice blocks and took off down the sideline for a touchdown, giving the Broncos a commanding 17-0 lead into halftime.
When the Broncos kicked off in the second half, McGloin took a seat and rookie fourth-round pick Connor Cook assumed the quarterback position in just the first game he's even dressed for this season. Considering the difficult circumstances, Cook played fairly well, but made a couple of mistakes that all but sealed Oakland's fate.
Denver's offense took advantage of the nice field position, working the ball into the red zone after Siemian hooked up with Demaryius Thomas for 26 yards. Siemian faked the run, backed up, and then tossed a floater into the back corner of the end zone to Virgil Green for a touchdown.
That was the second touchdown pass of the game for Siemian, who finished 17-of-27 for 206 yards, a pair of scores and a lone pick. Contrary to what was expected, Paxton Lynch never entered the game, despite Kubiak himself saying both quarterbacks would see the field. The decision will provide the kindling for many a hot take in the coming weeks.
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Down 24, the Raiders did not give up entirely. Cook flashed his arm and touch nicely on a drive where he hit Clive Walford for 17 yards and then perfectly hit Amari Cooper on a corner route for 32 yards and a touchdown.
Unfortunately for them, that was it. The Broncos would force two more turnovers before the game was over. The first came when the Raiders tried to catch Denver off guard with a reverse to Johnny Holton, but Von Miller was thoroughly unimpressed and knocked the ball out of his hands. Corey Nelson fell on the loose ball for the Broncos.
The second was a fairly unforced error by Cook. He had Mychal Rivera wide open over the middle, but he sailed the pass too high and Justin Simmons was there to snag it out of the air and return it 45 yards, his second pick in as many starts in relief of T.J. Ward. It looks like the Broncos nailed their third-round pick.
After unsuccessfully faking a punt late in the fourth, the Broncos defense held the Raiders once more with a sack by Dekoda Watson and Forsett iced the game with a couple of runs. Siemian took a knee, the teams shook hands, and Gary Kubiak headed quietly back into the locker room.
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Will Keys is an Editor for Mile High Huddle. You can find him on Twitter @WillKeys6.