Saturday the Broncos signed running back Damien Nash off the practice squad - he'll take Mike Bell's spot as the second back today – Bell is listed as a healthy inactive. - Patrick Chukwurah, Ian Gold and Ebenezer Ekuban will sit
I'll start off by warning you that this could very well be a trap game for Denver - one that they take too lightly and end up getting smacked when the final gun sounds.... just a warning.
1st. QUARTER -
Broncos take the opening kick and promptly go nowhere – after dropping two on a Tatum Bell run he makes it up with a nine-yard carry – third down incompletion to Kircus brings in Ernster to punt – make that a terrible punt – 25-yards.
Oakland follows up with a nice 17-yard run by Zack Crockett but stumbles from that point and Shane Lechler traps them at their own 8 on a beautiful punt.
Here we go – like I said this could be bad –
STRIKE ONE- Plummer gets picked on his first pass and the Raiders have excellent field position at the Broncos 15 and a boat-load of momentum.
Walter pounds it out on the ground and after a third down holding penalty on D.J. Williams Lamont Jordan takes a one-yard plunge and Oakland pulls out a 7-0 lead.
Plummer take two – Broncos take over on the 40 thanks to an out of bounds kick by Sebastian Janikowski – Plummer to Smith is good for nine – Tatum for no gain brings up third – Sapp up the middle for nothing and Shanny decides to go for it on fourth.
STRIKE TWO - ANOTHER Plummer pick gives it back to the Raiders and it's beginning to look pathetic…
Broncos catch a break – Art Shell's crew busts a three and out - punt barely makes it to the end zone – Broncos ball on the twenty.
It's not that Plummer isn't on the same page as his receivers – he's not even in the same BOOK – three and out and no signs of life. Ernster trots out again. Raiders take over on the forty-two.
Anyone surprised here?
Raiders start to slow it down a bit and pull out with their typical three and out – Lechler punts – fifth punt of the game between two teams. Broncos "D" starts the pressure but still looks out of sync – entire Broncos team looks out of sync.
Denver takes over with a mile of real estate between themselves and the scoreboard. Bell off tackle good for two - Plummer incomplete again to Walker – back again – Plummer to Walker on a short one across the middle – Walker busts it out and heads to the end zone on a 39-yard scoring play – ties it up at 7-7.
Ernster's back to normal – 67-yard kick gives the Raiders possession on their own twenty-five. Short pass to Alvis Whitted and a two-yard gain off the run brings the first quarter to a close.
2nd Quarter -
Raiders gain a few but can't move it past the Broncos 42 and Lechler tags it again – Broncos take over on their own one-yard line - danger zone- and Plummer takes the field.
Nice toss to Cecil Sapp is good for nine – back to back runs by Bell move it to the 19-yard line - still a danger zone for Plummer. INCOMPLETE to Walker – false start penalty on Adam Meadows and another miscue to Kircus forces another punt – look at the bright side – no interceptions – no fumbles – no suicides…
Raiders don't move far – but they move far enough – starting at their own 43-yard line they march into Broncos territory where Janikowski connects on a 51-yard field goal to give Oakland a 10-7 second quarter lead.
Back to work on the twenty – and as Chris Berman would say…more stumbling - more bumbling... three and out with another false start penalty on Meadows tossed in for good measure. Ernster punts it to the Oakland twenty-five.
Justin Fargas on the run looses three but Walter comes back with an 11-yard toss to Whitted for the first. Walter comes back to Fargas on a beautiful 21-yard gain and suddenly the Raiders are taking it to town – winding down the clock and picking up crucial yardage.
Denver secondary might as well just mail in the coverage – Walter connects on a 25-yard toss to a wide open John Madsen putting the ball on the Broncos eleven. More movement to the two but the Broncos D holds and Sebastian J. grabs his second field goal of the half - Oakland extends the lead 13-7 with less than a minute remaining.
Jake heads out looking to try and put up a quick one – only one problem – with ess than a minute no one has enough common sense to step out of bounds and the first half winds down with the Raiders holding a 13-7 lead. TERRIBLE first half performance for a team looking to advane to the playoffs.
I think I've got it figured out – Shanhan hasn't busted out with the granny glasses yet – it worked last week in Pittsburgh.
Plummer's stats – 6 of 14 for 88-yards – 2 interceptions, 1 touchdown
Walter's stats – 12 of 20 for 135-yards to nine different receivers – no touchdowns, no interceptions.
Broncos rushing game has accounted for a grand total 25-yards – Raiders top that with a whopping 37-yards …. You can see what kind of day this is going to be (see above warning).
3rd Quarter -
Oakland pulls out a 30-yard kick return – take possession on their own 36. Walter moves the squad downfield with a nice pass to Williams for a first down. Drive stalls at midfield and the Raiders are forced to punt – kick hits the end zone and the Broncos take over on their own twenty.
Plummer bootlegs – hits Rod Smith for a 15-yard gain. Same play to Alexander on the opposite side is good enough to move it to the fifty and another first down. Bell gains one on the ground – Plummer scrambles for his life and it's good for six-yards bringing up third and three – toss to Nash is brought back by an illegal formation penalty (Stephan Alexander) – third and eight Plummer can't find a receiver - Warren Sapp takes him down for a 5-yard loss – here comes Ernster AGAIN – high kick to the 26 of Oakland.
Larry Coyer brings back the blitz – Walter gets nailed by D.J. Williams – looks pretty gun shy at the moment – pass to no one in particular brings up third and ten. No problem – avoids the blitz and picks up a quick 35-yards hitting Alvis Whitted in Broncos territory.
Raiders are chewing up the clock and moving the ball fairly easy – Walter moves it to the Broncos 33 and on third an two misses on a wide open RaShard Lee. Janikowski keeps it lose, missing his second foield goal of the game…Raiders maintain a 13-7 lead
STRIKE THREE – first play of the drive and Jake sails it out for Rod Smith – over fires by at least 5-yards – picked off by Oakland and a tired defense takes the field AGAIN.
Hey Jake, how's it feel to get schooled by Andrew Walter?
You might want to check the stats sheet.
Typical Raiders – they fail to take advantage of the turnover and go three and out – but there is hope - it gives Plummer another opportunity to hand it back to them.
Broncos show some improvement – they go three and out WITHOUT an interception – at this stage you've got to be happy - Ernster punts it to the Raiders
Time to tighten it up – pass rush starts to rattle Walter – third and nine and the guy rips out the old underhand shovel pass to Williams – falls short of a first and Lechler sends it deep.
Broncos dodge a bullet – Kircus fumbles the punt – Raiders recover but an unsportsmanlike penalty nullifies the play and Lechler trots back out for a re-kick – fans seem somewhat upset on the call … hide your wallet.
Kircus holds on and Jake takes over with a fresh set of downs.
Time to break out the tight ends – Plummer hits Stephan Alexander for a couple and the Broncos move into Oakland territory. Again to the tight ends - Plummer hits Nate Jackson and Denver's inside the ten. Back to Alexander moves it to the five - brings up second and goal. Damien Nash – signed yesterday off the practice squad, fumbles the handoff – fortunately for his career, he recovers his own fumble – toss to Smith on the right side comes up a few yards short and the Broncos are looking at fourth and goal.
Play is challenged by Shanahan – appears that Smith may have crossed the plane before he was touched. After the review – zebras call it short and it brings up fourth and inches… Broncos now are two time outs down for the half – could be a problem.
Plummer looks at a two tight end set – hits Kyle Johnson alone in the end zone and Denver pulls ahead 14-13
Ernster sails it for 61-yards and the Raiders look to regroup – Walter looks a little timid after several shots to the body – defense tightens the reigns and Lechler nabs some more TV time – kick sails to the one-yard line where Oakland downs it. Hopefully Ernster's taking notes – Raiders punting game has been phenomenal.
Plummer quick toss to Jackson moves it out nine-yards – Bell grabs the first going up the middle – Broncos have some breathing room. Bell – again on the ground is good for another eight-yards and it's second and one – Jake hits Jackson again and they're bringing out the chains – short by an inch – brings up third down at the 23 – Cecil Sapp pulls out a five yard gain and Denver's on the move. Plummer - 11 completions in a row – hits Walker for a nice gain into Raiders territory – just under five minutes remaining on the clock.
Someone wakes up Art Shell and he immediately calls a time out – wonder if he realizes he's only got one left for the game?
STRIKE FOUR (almost) - Plummer under-throws Walker and it's picked off by Washington – his third of the game. Zebras call it incomplete – Shell (remarkably still awake) challenges the call – ruling on the field stands and the Black Hole crowd looks ready to mug someone. Raiders loose their final time out on the challenge and Ernster punts it to the sixteen yard line. All told there's a four-yard differential between the punt and the would-be interception.
Was it really worth a time out Art?
Footbal gods smile on Denver – Raiders first down and Walter gets sacked – fumbles the ball - John Engelberger recovers and Denver takes over inside the twenty with a little over three minutes remaining.
Clock winding down – Short toss to Johnson - Bell up the middle – drive stalls out and Jason Elam makes his first appearance of the afternoon. Mr. Reliable splits the uprights and the Denver extends the lead 17-13 with just under two minutes to go.
Raiders implode – Walter fumbles the snap again and Elvis Dumervill falls on it at the 27. Plummer looks to close it out – Kill the clock – kneel down and all that's left is for Mike Shanahan to cross the field for the standard coaches hand shake to make sure Art Shell is still breathing.
I'll buy the fact that a win is a win – but similar to my senior-year prom date – this one was a double-bagger. Not a good sign with the Chargers heading to town after rolling out 49 points in their comeback at Cincy.
One thousand nine-hundred and twenty nine words later - anyone ready for a beer?
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
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