Raiders-Broncos Game Grades

The Raiders have a record-setting day as they dominate the Broncos, 59-14. It's a dramatic turnaround for the offense, after a dismal performance against the 49ers. Jason Campbell has his best game in Silver and Black and Darren McFadden rushes for a career high three touchdowns and also hauls in a score through the air.

Quarterback: A

Jason Campbell had his best game as an Oakland Raiders, throwing for 204 yards and two touchdowns on 12 of 20 passing. He also carried the ball once for a 15-yard gain.

It was quite the bounce back performance for Campbell, after perhaps the worst game of his career against the 49ers, in which he had a passer rating of 10.7. Against the Broncos, that number was 127.9.

Although Campbell attempted only 20 passes on the day, he did exactly what he needed to do. That was, managing the offense, avoiding turnovers and getting the ball to his two main weapons, Darren McFadden and Zach Miller.

Even though Tom Cable made the switch to Bruce Gradkowski earlier in the season, Gradkowski's injury has given Campbell the opportunity to win back his coach, team and the fans. One good performance will not erase a terrible one, but if anything, it's bought Campbell at least one more game to reassert himself as the starter. Gradkowski might be ready to go next week against the Seahawks, but given the Raiders offensive explosion on Sunday, Campbell deserves at least one more shot.

Running Backs: A+

Talk about having a career day.

If it weren't for the two weeks he missed due to a hamstring injury, Darren McFadden could easily be the talk of the NFL this season. As I said in the in-game chat, when McFadden's been in there, he hasn't played at just a Pro Bowl level, but at an All Pro level.

McFadden finished with three rushing touchdowns and 165 yards on 16 carries. That's an average yards per carry of 10.3 yards. His 57-yard touchdown run was the biggest offensive play the Raiders have had all season long. In addition, McFadden was also effective in the passing game, catching two passes for 31 yards and a touchdown. If it weren't for the big lead, McFadden could have easily gotten to 200 yards on Sunday.

But it wasn't all just McFadden. Michael Bush was equally as effective, rushing for 52 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries. He also caught one pass for 13 yards. Versatile fullback Marcel Reece was a big part of the offense, running for 39 yards and a touchdown on seven carries. He made an incredible sideline 19-yard sideline grab of a pass that was thrown a bit too high, as well.

Raider Nation. This is the running game that was promised you last year, when Justin Fargas was on the team and talks of Oakland's three-headed monster made its way around the S&BI message boards. A few weeks ago, we questioned how Hue Jackson would use a healthy Darren McFadden and Michael Bush. Well, Sunday's game against the Broncos was the answer. McFadden has easily played himself into the role of the primary back, but on Sunday, Jackson did a masterful job of spelling him with the power running of Bush. Add to that, the versatility of Marcel Reece, and you have yourself a scary scenario for opposing defenses.

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends: B+

Perhaps a bit harsh after a 59-point explosion, but what hurts is the near non-existence of the Raiders top two wide receivers, Louis Murphy and Darrius Heyward-Bey.

Heyward-Bey made the start, but was taken out of the game due to an apparent illness.

In his defense, Murphy was banged up a bit in the second half and had to go into the locker room to nurse a sore left shoulder. Murphy got good yardage, 29, off only two catches. However, in order for the Raiders to become a complete offensive machine, Murphy needs to be making more grabs. A lot of that is on the quarterback, of course, but again, the Raiders wide receivers need to do a better job of making themselves available. They did that on Sunday, but much more is still needed.

With Heyward-Bey out and Murphy banged up, the youngsters Nick Miller and Jacoby Ford stepped up for the Raiders. Miller, in addition to having a great day on special teams, made an incredible 32-yard catch that also went down as his first career NFL reception. Like Miller, the rookie Ford had a nice day on special teams as well. In the receiving game, he finished with 15 yards on two catches.

Zach Miller got the offense started with his 43-yard touchdown reception on the Raiders opening drive. Miller was wide open on the play, thanks to—and it should be noted—the route running of Louis Murphy and Darrius Heyward-Bey. While the two receivers ran off the coverage to the right, Miller snuck underneath from the right to the left sideline, leaving himself wide open for the catch. He finished with 65 yards on three receptions.

Offensive Line: B+

It was easily the best performance of the season for the offensive line. Not only did they pave the way for 328-yards on the ground and five touchdowns, but they also did a good job in pass protection, limiting Campbell's sack total to two.

Rookie Jared Veldheer made the start at left tackle, and did an admirable job before replacing the injured Samson Satele at center. Perhaps the one knock on the day for Veldheer was in the penalty department—as it was for the entire unit and team—but you can't ignore the fact that he was a third-round rookie charged with protecting his quarterback's blindside, on the road and against a hostile crowd. Veldheer has plenty of room to grow and he still has to develop his mental poise to avoid those pre-snap penalties. But still, moving forward, Veldheer might be the better option at left tackle than Mario Henderson, and he is certainly a larger investment for the future of this offense.

Another point of the in-game chat was the need for consistency. It's one thing to have one good performance or a bounce back game, but the true hallmark of a good team is the ability to maintain that ability over the course of a season. So far, the 2010 Raiders have shown they can compete. They have also shown that they know how to recover from a poor performance. Now, all that remains is to avoid having to recover, and instead, main one good performance after another. The best way to do that, at least on offense, is to have consistently good play from the offensive line.

Defensive Line: A

Whenever I write these games grades, I have to fight the urge of asking myself, "Yes, but what more can you do?"

The defensive line still has a long way to go before becoming a consistent and dominating threat. The pieces are there, but the play isn't as aggressive or dynamic as it should be… yet.

Still, all in all, Sunday's performance was a statement performance by the line. Not only did they hold the Broncos to under 100-yards rushing on the day, they also forced two fumbles that led to points on the board for the Raiders.

Trevor Scott was back at defensive end in place of Matt Shaughnessy. Shaughnessy finished with two tackles to Scott's one sack-assist, but it's a clear indication that defensive coordinator John Marshall is looking to mix things up to find the right combination on his line. Although Shaughnessy has had a good season this year, no one play, except for Richard Seymour, is privileged enough to consider their position solid. Whether or not that's good for consistency can be argued, but if anything, it's keeping guys on their toes.

Seymour and Tommy Kelly both had great games, each finished with a sack apiece. Lamarr Houston is steadily improving as the season progresses, and although he didn't have a tackle, he had an important fumble recovery that led to a Raiders touchdown.

Linebackers: A

It was a heck of a day for the linebackers. Certainly, there are some things that are open to criticism, but then you would just be nitpicking.

Kamerion Wimbley has been a great weapon this year for John Marshall. Has hasn't done a terrible job in coverage, but the Raiders are a different defense when he's sent on the blitz. Rolando McClain finished with only one tackle, but it was a big one. He only got credit for half a sack, but really, it was all him. A game like this does wonders for a rookie's confidence, and hopefully it's something that McClain can build on for next week.

Secondary: A

Holding Kyle Orton and the Broncos offense under 200-yards passing is no small task. Coming into the game, the many, like myself, thought that the secondary was in for a long day. But thanks to a combination of Broncos mistakes and decent pressure form the pass rush, the corners were able to play physically and the safeties were able to be aggressive against the run.

It was a throwback performance to what Raiders secondary play is all about. In two consecutive weeks, the secondary was burned on long pass plays while playing in zone coverage. On Sunday, they stuck with their man-to-man and were physical at the snap. In an offense that relies so much on receivers getting separation, the Raiders corners doubled their efforts in tight coverage. You saw that from the get-go on Chris Johnson's pick-six in the first quarter.

Of course, when the corners can play as well as they did on Sunday, that also means the safeties can be aggressive and take more risks in the box. With Tyvon Branch slowed by injury, Mike Mitchell got some more playing time and had a standout performance. He led the Raiders with four tackles and also forced a fumble. As I said in the in-game chat, Mitchell hasn't played like a second round pick should, but as he's gotten more playing time, he's justifying the pick more and more. Mitchell was a demon in the box and the Raiders would be wise to get him in there more often, from here on out.

Special Teams: A

Sebastian Janikowski nailed all eight of his extra point attempts and also had a field goal of 31 yards. It was perhaps the easier day of Shane Lechler's career, as he only had four punts on the day with two being downed inside the 20-yard line.

And it finally looks like the Raiders have something going in the return game. Although no kickoffs were taken out of the endzone, Nick Miller had an impressive day returning punts. On six returns, Miller gained 47 yards, including a long of 17 yards.

For the first time this season, a Raiders punt returner actually looked comfortable with the ball in his hands. Whereas Johnnie Lee Higgins has been guilty of doing a little too much dancing on the field, when Miller had space to work with, he made one cut and exploited it. Now with Miller handling punts, and rookie Jacoby Ford poised to bring one back on kickoff duties, the Raiders have two youngsters they can work with on special teams.

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