The O'Reilly Report

Broncos Update contributor Dan O'Reilly weighs in with his grades for Denver's 23-20 overtime win over the Oakland Raiders.

Well, a W is a W, no matter how you get it. It was easy to fall into the trap of saying "Well, the Raiders were a 2-14 team last year, how scary can they be?".

I believe everybody found the answer to that today, and it showed that the Raiders-Lions game last week was no fluke either. Still, it was a satisfying win, even if it did have me on pins and needles for the last half of the fourth quarter. And how about Coach Mike Shanahan's pretty much exquisite timing, getting that TO called to cool off Raiders kicker Sebastian Janikowski?

A big complaint I had about this game was Rich Gannon in the TV booth. The guy still hasn't figured out how to be neutral calling a Raiders game, and it sounded at times as if he thought he was a coach on the team.

Offense: A
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Quarterback Jay Cutler looked much better today. The kid just has a very accurate rifle arm and isn't afraid to show it. I just wish we could have seen more of it on long, down-field passes. I was also wondering where the tight ends were today. But back to Cutler - he is blessed with a short memory. He can throw an INT and come right back and thread the needle for a beautiful pass. I just wish we weren't seeing that short memory so often. Defensive coordinators around the league are going to pick up on how to fluster him pretty quickly now.

The offensive line concerned me a bit as well. I noticed especially that tackle Matt Lepsis was getting pushed around today by that young DT from the Raiders. Hopefully it was just a bad game, but he was pretty badly manhandled on the safety and on the last INT the Cutler threw.

But overall, the offense was a whole lot better. They were over 50% on third down conversions, and Cutler was able to throw to eight different receivers (how about Brandon Stokely - a couple of amazing catches!). Travis Henry is turning out to be everything the Broncos hoped for, and Cecil Sapp is fast earning my admiration (I've been a bit skeptical of him up to now).

Defense: B-
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Overall, great against the pass (save for cornerback Dre Bly getting faked out of his shorts by Joey Porter on the long TD pass), but the run defense has GOT to improve. The Raiders ran for 200 yards today, and that's just not acceptable. Let's face it - if you can run for 200 yards, who needs to worry about passing for much more than making the defense think about it once in a while?

Rookie defensive end Jarvis Moss is starting to make a believer out of me. For somebody who had the rep of not being able to play the run efficiently, he did an excellent job today, and he also showed some great pass rush moves. Elvis Dumerville is just flat-out a rushing maniac, and it was interesting seeing the Raiders pointing out Simeon Rice when he ran out onto the field. I also think the Broncos got a bargain in Amon Gordon.

There was a lot of concern expressed in the papers and by media pundits on the radio over the last week, about the size and quality of the Broncos linebacking corps. This game helped put at least some of that to rest. Ian Gold, the prime tackle-misser last week, had a much improved game today, as did D.J. Williams. From all indications, Nate Webster is going to improve week to week and will be making a lot of noise at linebacker as well.

Special Teams: B
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Kicker Jason Elam is starting to worry me. His field goal percentage so far this year is pretty abysmal, particularly by his historically high standards. But the kick coverage teams looked MUCH better today, as did Todd Sauerbrun's punting. I can't really fault the team for getting fooled by the onside kick. Very few would have anticipated it, and even if safety Curome Cox did play it wrong, I don't think there's any way he gets to the ball.

Coaching: B+
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This was a Mike Shanahan "Raider Special" game plan. And generally it worked. But it really seemed at first that during the OT, they were playing too conservatively. As I mentioned before, I wondered where the long pass was as well.



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