This should be fun….
1st. QUARTER –
Perfect weather for an all out AFC West rivalry - although a blizzard would have added some fun. Broncos look impressive on the opening drive, but the running game stumbles and Denver is forced to punt despite getting into Oakland territory. Paul Ernster enjoys his first punt as the starting kicker, nailing it to the Raiders 16-yard line. Apparently no one's missing Todd Sauerbrun or his baggage at this stage.
Despite starting a quarterback that most have never heard of, theRaiders come out pretty strong, making it as far as the Broncos 36-yard line where they decide to hang their hopes on Sebastian Janikowski, who promptly shanks the field goal attempt wide right. So much for the effort…
Plummer Part 2 – Jake connects on the first play of the second drive, hitting Javon Walker for a sweet 54-yard gain to the Raiders 2-yard line. Tatum Bell finishes the job going off left guard for the games opening score. Elam's automatic and the Broncos grab a 7-0 lead as the first quarter nears completion.
Oakland takes over – marches backward, marches forward – lots of dancing, very little production - 1st. quarter comes to a close with Al Davis is left scratching his head. The season couldn't get any more embarrassing could it?
Broncos "O" looks to get on track, and against the junior varsity defense of the Raiders the pickin's come fairly easy. Plummer pushes the team on a 29-yard drive that sets up Elam – straight down the middle from 51-yards out and the Broncos climb out to a 10-0 second quarter lead.
Stumble, stumble, bumble - Oakland's heading backwards. Elvis Dumerville nails QB Andrew Walter at the four-yard line on third and seventeen, forcing another Shane Lechler punt. Keeping in mind that the Raiders offense is just two steps above pitiful – Denver's defense continues to shine. While they gather little, if any national pub, they're without a doubt one of the top three in the league. Just ask Walker….
Best play of the season – Plummer hands off for a double reverse, then heads out thirty-yards downfield as the lead blocker for Javon Walker. Broncos move inside the red zone where Cecil Sapp forgets how to catch a football when it hits you in the hands. Denver settles for an Elam chip shot and a 13-0 lead.
Ernster is a rock on kickoffs – four-yards deep in the end zone. Raiders take over on the twenty with the realization that they're getting their shorts handed to them. Walker responds on third down by hitting Randy Moss (who?) on a beautiful 51-yard gain to the Broncos 28-yard line. Clock winds down to the two-minute warning and for the first time all evening the Raiders stand a chance of actually scoring.
Here they go – false start on the offense moves it five-yards in the wrong direction. Playing catch up, Lamont Jordan reaches the original line of scrimmage, and on third and ten Walker promptly connects with Champ Bailey on the one-yard line. Second interception in as many games for Bailey and Denver looks to wind out the clock for the first half, carrying a 13-0 lead.
Oakland takes the second half kick and gives a carbon copy performance of their first half mistakes. The saving grace comes during a punt to Darrent Williams when the Broncos returner fumbles the ball after streaking down the sideline. Raiders recover and get a second chance at life from the 48-yard line.
Look out now – Oakland's on a roll, moving it down to the 32-yard line and a fourth and one call. Lamont Jordan up the middle for two and there may be a score on the horizon. Fifteen-yard gain to WR Alvis Whitted moves it to the sixteen and the Broncos are backpeddling. Ok, maybe it's Oakland backpeddling – back to back sacks drop fifteen-yards - with no other choice Janikowski finally hits paydirt on a 47-yard field goal. The dust is shaken off the scoreboard and Oakland avoids a shutout, 13-3 with 7:11 remaining in the quarter.
Nice special teams play – Quincy Morgan returns the kick and races untouched downfield into Raiders territory – unfortunately two holding penalties are called on Denver and Plummer takes over on his own 18-yard line. That's twice in a row that Oakland kickoffs have been returned for long gains, only to be brought back by penalties or a fumble.
Plummer grabs some breathing room, moving it out to the twenty-seven before the "Raiders Suck" chants takes control. Briefly lived, Denver is forced to punt and Ernster sends a high spiral that comes up short, giving the Raiders possession at their own 27-yard line.
After another long song and dance the Raiders are forced to punt from their own 33-yard line. Rather than try and trap the Broncos deep, Lechler's punts sails into the end zone and Plummer and Co. take over on the twenty as the third quarter comes to a close.
Denver kills three minutes off the clock but manages to only advance it to their own 41-yard line – Ernster punts – Raiders take over on the 18. Walter connects with some guy named Moss and the Raiders grab a first down as they head toward midfield.
Raiders give it a good effort on fourth and six from the 43, but Walters attempt to hit Moss falls about ten yards wide right and the Broncos take over on downs. The reoccurring question running through my mind is why Denver has only managed one touchdown and two field goals against the winless Raiders? The Broncos haven't even hit the fifteen points that oddsmakers favored them by. I'm certainly no math genius, but I do know that if you're strong enough to be favored by fifteen, you should at least be able to score fifteen.
Broncos catch a break – Raiders were quickly on their way to a score when Michael Myers picks up a Lamont Jordan fumble and Denver takes over on the 34-yard line.
The Broncos get a first down when the Raiders pick up another penalty, this one for unsportsmanlike conduct when defensive tackle Terdell Sands body slams Denver running back Tatum Bell to the turf in the best WWF fashion.
The two minute warning and one more Oakland time out and all Jake Plummer has to do is take a couple of knees and the Broncos post their second consecutive 13-3 win and run their record to 4-1 with their fourth consecutive win.
Love the fact they won - hate the fact they missed the spread (15 big ones)- completely jacked my picks for the week.
Michael John Schon has covered the National Football League and the Denver Broncos for the past ten years. As a member of the Pro Football Writers Association he has published and syndicated columns to both newspapers and magazines throughout the United States and Canada. His syndicated radio broadcast: "Schon Live" airs weekly on various radio stations around the country.
Schon can be reached at Schon@prostarmediagroup.net