The O'Reilly Report

Read Broncos Update Columnist Dan O'Reilly's analysis of the Denver Broncos 31-17 win over the Oakland Raiders.

It's always satisfying under any circumstance to beat the Oakland Raiders, but it's particularly gratifying to go into the pit and take care of business so thoroughly. This was a Raiders team that the pundits all seemed to label "dangerous", and a "trap game". But this isn't the same Denver Broncos team as it's been the last few years. I think the danger of a second-half fold is pretty much beaten down now.

Also on the plus side is the fact that the Broncos have a two-game lead on the rest of the AFC West now. That's going to be very important with away games in Kansas City and San Diego yet to come. And I find it very interesting that the much-vaunted KC offense couldn't put a TD on the board in Buffalo.

However, on the bad side, this was yet another example of the real weakness in the Broncos team this year, and that's the inability to put a team away. It took the help of a couple of well-aimed Raider shots at their own foot to help the Broncos do the job, and that's not going to be enough for some of the games coming up. Not only did the defense get porous in the 4th quarter, but the offense went back into their shell, finding it difficult to pick up a third down.

Offense: B-
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A three-quarter effort by the offense is the reason for the mark-down here. The ball also hit the ground way too many times today for my liking. However, to be fair, this was the worst case of fumble-itis this year (they've done very little of that compared to the last couple years), so I'm not going to worry at this point. Let's face it: this team went around 28 quarters without a turnover! And, I'm sure the coaching staff won't forget to mention a word or two on the subject this week in practice and meetings.

To be positive, Jake Plummer had another very good day. The offensive line did another great job of pass protecting, and given the fact that the Raiders obviously were trying to take the run away and force the Broncos into a passing game, the OL did a very good job of opening up some running room (combined over 120 yards rushing today). I also love the way the Broncos are finally getting the tight ends into the game. The more they use that weapon, the more they can open things up. The wide receivers, at least in the persona of Rod Smith and Ashley Lelie, were a big part of the game again. I find it interesting that the Broncos seem inclined to use Charlie Adams as some fairly non-conventional roles (reverses, etc). There's obviously something there the coaches think will work well.

Defense: B
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Again, a good three-quarter effort (if only the games could be shortened by 15 mintues!). One interesting thing I didn't know - the Broncos have only given up 10 points from turnovers this season. Remarkable, but perhaps less so given they went the equivalent of 7 games without giving up a turnover.

I love the team speed. The defensive line and the linebackers are playing lights-out ball, especially in run defense and pass rushing. The missing sacks are starting to add up, and the turnovers are coming in a way they haven't the last couple of years.

The big concern I have now is the defensive backs, especially the cornerbacks. Domonique Foxworth had a good game, but he's becoming spotty (and, frankly, I thought he was overdoing the celebrations on the good plays he made, given how badly he was burned on other plays). It was apparent that Champ Bailey was only about 90%, and the Broncos got lucky Randy Moss was less than that. For this team to advance very far in the playoffs, the DB's must play better, plain and simple.

Special Teams: B+
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Those da...er...darned penalties on kick returns! I can't believe Ronnie Bradford doesn't buy Maalox by the case. The Broncos are consistently putting themselves in a hole after kick returns by way of the penalty. That's the biggest single area of needed improvement for the special teams.

OK, now that's off my chest, kudos toJason Elam for reverting to form. Todd Sauerbrun demonstrated again the value of a punter who can help put the opposing team in poor field position. One question, though - why was Roc Alexander doing the kick returns?

Coaching: A
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The usual Mike Shanahan masterpiece against the Raiders, and the usual Shanahan masterpiece when he has two weeks to plan a game. I would like to see tighter play by the DB's, but this was still a well-coached game by any measure.



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