The O'Reilly Report

The Denver Broncos' defense turned in another stellar performance in a 13-3 win over the Oakland Raiders on Sunday night. Read how Broncos Update contributor Dan O'Reilly grades the team's performance.

A win is a win, that's one of the truisms of football. This was a win, but frankly, a somewhat disconcerting one. To let a team like Oakland hang around doesn't bode well for the future when the Broncos have to go up against Pittsburgh once and San Diego twice. We can hope this was just plain coming out flat after two big games against New England and Baltimore - because if it's not, things could turn nasty later this season.

Offense: C
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Ineffective. You can't use that term enough, nor is it too strong a description. This was an Oakland defense ripe for the picking. It was the best chance this team had to come out and light up an opponent offensively, and they didn't do it. They were definitely saved by the play of the defense, and sooner or later that won't be enough (certainly not against a team like San Diego or Pittsburgh).

Nearly half of the first half's yards came on the single touchdown drive. A total of 91 yards came through the air for the game (over half of which came on one pass. Midway through the fourth quarter Denver only had 38 yards of offense for the second half. Denver LOST the time of possession by 2.5 minutes.

Some of the issue was the playcalling. Televison announcer John Madden had it right when he said that for whatever reason, Denver coach Mike Shanahan seemed to take the game out of quarterback Jake Plummer's hands. But that wasn't 100% of the problem by any means.

On the plus side, running back Tatum Bell did a pretty good job again. He continues to impress, after his troubles in training camp. Congrats to wide receiver Rod Smith for extending his streak of games with a catch to 113. And Javon Walker just plain produces first downs.

Defense: B+
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They made the plays when they had to, but on the other hand, they gave up at least two first downs by penalties after a big stop. The pass rush was ineffective for most of the game - there were times when even I could have made the plays they allowed Oakland to make, and they let a rookie quarterback make too many plays. The Broncos had to account for the presence of wide receiver Randy Moss, but overall their coverage was just plain soft. Time and again, they played four or five yards off a receiver and allowed Oakland to convert on long-yardage downs.

On the positive side - the linebackers had what has become their usual stellar performance. D.J. Williams is playing his best football now, after something of a letdown last year. Patrick Chukwurah really has some wheels. The guy can just plain fly, as can defensive end Elvis Dumervil (I like his intensity and speed coming off the end).

Special Teams: D
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This team needs a better punt returner than Darrent Williams. He's still far to east-west for the NFL, and he did a poor job of protecting the ball on his fumble. The other real problem is the number of penalties on returns that consistently negated decent runbacks and field position. I won't even mention (OK, I will) the illegal formation on a punt.

The bright sides here are punter Paul Ernster and kick return specialist Quincy Morgan. Both are doing their jobs pretty well. Morgan especially is improving weekly on kickoff returns. Kicker Jason Elam seems to have regained his form after some misses late last season and early this season.

Coaching: C
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It appeared that Shanahan coached not to lose, rather than coaching with passion. The game plan just seemed flat.



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