The O'Reilly Report

Poor play by the Denver Broncos offense against a surprisingly good Oakland Raiders defense and an injury-depleted Denver defense made for a tight game today.Read Dan O'Reilly's report on how the team graded in its 17-13 win over the Raiders.

Oakland is always a scary place to play, and today was no exception. Poor play by the Denver Broncos offense (specifically, quarterback Jake Plummer) against a surprisingly good Oakland Raiders defense and an injury-depleted Denver defense made for a game that was tighter and more in doubt for a longer time than it should have been. Right now, every division win is precious, particularly because of the way San Diego has been playing, and the bottom line is - today's game was a win. Three of the next four games (San Diego twice and at Kansas City) are critical, but perhaps a bit less so because of the Chiefs loss today.

Offense: C+

Maybe the Broncos QB should be called "Dr. Jake-ll and Mr. Hyde". Today, it was feast or famine. Jake Plummer made his usual quota of ill-advised and just plain poor throws, and it cost the team. His three interceptions should have been four (I thought the officials missed the call on the fourth one), but his two touchdown throws were enough to put the game away. In addition, to be fair, there were a couple of dropped balls, but the onus must be on Plummer's poor play at times during the game.

The run game was ineffective again today, but a lot of that was just a very good Oakland defense. If they ever get their offense playing to match their defense, Oakland could be a very tough team. I was surprised that Mike Bell and Cedric Cobb were benched.

The offensive line play was interesting, in that George Foster was replaced by Adam Meadows (who didn't really distinguish himself very much). I suspect this is another message being sent by coach Mike Shanahan to a player (Foster) who's underachieved somewhat this season.

All season long, the tight ends have been missing from the game. Yet today, when Stephen Alexander and Nate Jackson became involved, the offense clicked. That's a direct result of great threats at wide receiver in Javon Walker and Rod Smith. This is something the Broncos can build on for the future, even when the running game isn't going well.

Defense: B-

I think it's too easy to look at the defensive effort (big plays given up) and say it was a continuation of the previous two games. The Broncos were missing linebacker Ian Gold and defensive end Ebenezer Ekuban and it showed, especially in the run game. It was also obvious the secondary was a bit dinged up in the person of cornerback Darrent Williams. However, there were still way too many missed tackles that let short gains turn into long ones. All of that, though, is coachable and correctable, and safety Sam Brandon's is the only injury of long-term consequence to the defense right now.

The defensive line did a pretty good job of pressuring Raiders quarterback Andrew Walter, probably the best they've done all year, but that must be tempered with the knowledge that Oakland's offensive line isn't exactly stellar in the best of times, and they were missing two starters today. Still, it was a good effort and something that can be built upon.

Special Teams: C

Punter Paul Ernster has been floundering lately. His punts over the last few games haven't had the distance and hang time they had earlier in the season, and that was costing the team field position. David Kircus in the runback role was interesting, and he definitely showed a burst of speed on a couple of occasions.

Coaching: B-
I was mystified by the choice of benching running backs Mike Bell and Cedric Cobbs. Perhaps Shanahan thought this would be enough of a cakewalk game to give Damien Nash a good workout without risking the running game. I also wondered about some of the play calling (a draw on a third and long at a time when the running game was doing absolutely nothing).

The defensive game plan was better today. It was good to see the Broncos blitz Walter when he got going in the middle of the game.

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