Defensive end Greg Ellis got a hand on Kyle Orton's arm as just as the Denver quarterback was throwing his first pass of the game, forcing an incompletion. It was a sign of things to come from the Raiders' defense.
In one of its best all-around efforts of the season, defensive coordinator John Marshall and Oakland's defense repeatedly slammed the door on the Broncos with big plays that kept Denver's own offense out of the end zone for most of the day.
They held the Broncos to four field goals, including late in the game after Denver had a 1st-and-goal at the 2.
The stars were everywhere:
• Cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha was paired against Denver wide receiver Brandon Marshall most of the day, and although Marshall had a good game (7-73, 1 TD), he did most of his damage when the Raiders went to zone formations. Asomugha's best play, though, came in the first half when the Broncos tried some trickery and threw a screen to offensive lineman Ryan Clady, but Asomugha made a great read and came flying in to drop Clady for a 3-yard loss.
• Rookie defensive end Matt Shaughnessy had a sack when the Raiders rushed just three players. Shaughnessy, who added another tackle for a loss and a quarterback hurry, keeps getting better and better with each week.
• John Marshall will probably get another earful from owner Al Davis but the Raiders blitzed more frequently and with more effectiveness. That forced Orton out of his comfort zone and kept him from getting the Broncos' passing game going. The best part was that the blitzes came from everywhere, from the linebackers to safeties. Keeping everyone involved like that is huge for a defense, and Marshall deserves a game ball for doing it while knowing Davis dislikes it immensely.
• Tommy Kelly came back after getting hurt and made a huge stop against Knowshon Moreno near the goal line late in the fourth quarter.
• Tyvon Branch had 11 tackles and is playing better than any Oakland safety has since Rod Woodson was around. Branch has had some issues in pass coverage but his tackling is solid and he does a great job of reading where the ball is going.
• Oakland's other safety, Michael Huff, also deserves credit for making a jarring hit against Marshall on Denver's last third-down play. Marshall had beaten Asomugha by two steps and appeared to catch Orton's long pass but Huff came roaring in and drilled Marshall to knock the ball loose.
• Stanford Routt, like Russell, has taken a lot of heat this season and deservedly so. But Routt saved the game when he caught Brandon Stokely from behind after Stokely had caught a 63-yard pass from Orton. Though he got called for a horsecollar tackle penalty on the play, Routt's speed kept Stokely from scoring and Denver had to eventually settle for a field goal.
Other news and notes:
• Charlie Frye didn't put up great numbers and he made one incredibly poor throw that was picked off, but by and large he looked decent running the offense and did a good job scrambling out of trouble.
• Michael Bush didn't get to take a single snap on offense last week against Washington but he was a major factor against Denver, rushing for 133 yards on 18 carries. He scored Oakland's first points on a 23-yard touchdown in which he was untouched and later added a 40-yard run, but it was his consistency helping move the chains that was the biggest factor.
Darren McFadden added 74 yards on 12 carries but had a key fumble and was also stopped short of the end zone on 4th and goal in the fourth quarter.
• Speaking of Bush's touchdown, he doesn't get in if rookie tight end Brandon Myers doesn't come up with two big blocks, the second of which sealed off Denver safety Brian Dawkins and prevented him from getting to Bush.
• Kicker Sebastian Janikowski kicked a pair of field goals, including a 54-yarder, and added four touchbacks on his five kickoffs.
• Punt returner Johnnie Lee Higgins didn't have a huge game but did manage a 12.0-yard average against the Broncos and is looking a lot better and more confident than he was for the first 12 weeks. A lot of Higgins' hesitancy stemmed from a big hit he took in the season-opener against San Diego but it looks like he's more relaxed now.
• Rookie wide receiver Louis Murphy has to learn how to control his emotions better. He's been excitable since Day 1 and has been lucky not to get flagged on numerous occasions but he couldn't tone it down enough Sunday after missing a pass from Russell and then spiking the ball hard off the turf. That drew a 5-yard penalty for delay of game but the refs could have hit him with an unsportsmanlike call, too. He's going to have to control his temper better, because the kid definitely has big-time skills.
Defense slams door on Denver's offense
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