The Oakland Raiders went into Denver on Sunday hoping to bounce back after a fourth-quarter implosion in their 34-to-20 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs last week.
Sticking to their motto of "one game at a time", the Raiders were able to shake off the struggles from last week by beating the Broncos in Denver 15-12 in a battle of attrition.
But it wasn't easy for the Raiders.
After throwing three interceptions in the fourth quarter, second-year quarterback Derek Carr and the Raiders offense were unable to get anything going in the first half against the Broncos. Offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave and the Raiders couldn't get in a rhythm, finishing with negative offensive yards (-11) haeding into the locker room at halftime.
Meanwhile, the young Brock Osweiler got the Broncos offense rolling early and often. Osweiler got the start again as future Hall of Famer Peyton Manning remains out with a foot injury.
Making just his fourth start of his career, the tall quarterback displayed his talent by completing 22 of 29 first-half passes, throwing for 199 yards in just the first half of the game. Fortunately for head coach Jack Del Rio, the Raiders defense remained stellar and didn't allow any touchdowns, forcing the Broncos to settle for four field goals to take the 12-to-0 lead haeding into halftime after 224 total yards of offense.
Things changed a bit for the Raiders offense after receiving the ball on the opening kickoff of the second half. Facing a 3rd and three, Carr rolled right and found his veteran wide receiver Michael Crabtree for a four-yard gain and the first Raiders first down of the game. On the very next play, Carr threw a perfect ball to tight end Mychal Rivera for a 29-yard gain.
Carr went to his other tight end a couple of plays later, finding the rookie Clive Walford for a 25-yard gain over the middle after a beautiful fingertip catch.
Following a false start of Walford, Carr threw a perfect ball to his young wide receiver Seth Roberts after a beautiful move to get open, hauling in the 11-yard touchdown to make it a ballgame. The nine-play, 80-yard drive brought the Raiders back to within one score, just down 12-7.
The Raiders defense would build off of the newly found confidence formed by the Raiders offense, forcing a three-and-out and then forcing a turnover of their own. Rookie linebacker Ben Heeney flew in for a tackle on wide receiver Demaryius Thomas, knocking the ball free before Raiders safety Charles Woodson scooped up the fumble to give the offense the ball on the Denver 41-yard line.
Unfortunately, the Raiders offense could not capitalize despite getting the ball into field goal range at the Broncos 32-yard line. Facing a 3rd and inches, Musgrave dialed up a play-action pass but Carr was unable to get rid of the ball and took a 12-yard sack to force the Raiders to turn to Marquette King for another punt.
With both offenses stalling, King used another beautiful coffin corner punt to pin the Broncos back on their own two-yard line. Smelling blood, second-year lineback Khalil Mack continued his stellar day by beating right tackle Michael Schofield and got to Osweiler for his second sack of the day, stripping him in the process but the Broncos recovered making it just a safety instead of a touchdown.
Unable to get a touchdown, punter King made a big impact in the game once again on fourth down. King boomed a punt high in the ball as Broncos return man Emmanuel Sanders who muffed the ball as long-snapper Jon Condo recovered to give the ball to the Raiders on the Broncos 11-yard line.
Facing a third-and-long, Musgrave dialed up the perfect play call. After throwing a couple of bubble screens earlier in the game, Carr pump faked to the same play and then found his tight end Rivera in the back of the end zone for the go-ahead touchdown. Already with a three-point lead, head coach Jack Del Rio elected to go for two instead of the extra point after Condo went to the locker room with a should injury. The pass fell incomplete, leaving the Raiders up just three points.
Osweiler drove the Broncos back down the field, but once again the Raiders defense would force a field goal attempt from Brandon McManus, this time from 49 yards out. Having already made four, the kicker pulled it left and hit the upright, making it no good.
Carr and the Raiders offense drove back down the field, bringing them within range for Sebastian Janikowski to extend the lead. But Condo's snap was high and left, as Janikowski pulled the kick wide left to keep it just a 3-point lead at 15-12.
Broncos head coach Gary Kubiak faced a tough spot on fourth down, with just over four minutes remaining and two timeouts. Kubiak elected to go for it as tight end Vernon Davis got wide open down the field but he flat out dropped the ball to give the Raiders the ball on downs.
The Raiders had another chance to get more points on the board, but rookie wide receiver Amari Cooper was called for a block in the back to put them out of field goal range, giving the Broncos one more chance.
But that's when Mack took over with his pass rush. The young linebacker recorderd two more sacks on the drive, making it five on the game to force a fourth-and-12. From there, Denico Autry got into the backfield to bring Osweiler down to turn the ball over on downs.
Carr would take a knee, securing the Raiders 15-to-12 win against the Broncos, and also making it eight straight quarters that the Raiders have held the Broncos without an offensive touchdown.
The Raiders will return home to take on the Green Bay Packers next week.