There wasn’t much for either the Raiders or Broncos to play for when they faced each other in the last regular season “Monday Night Football” contest of 2018.
Both teams have been eliminated from the playoffs, both will finish the year with losing records and both are expected to go through a rebuild.
The only story line in this game was that it could be the last home game the Raiders will ever play at Oakland Alameda Coliseum, and that was enough to motivate them to get their fourth win of the season. The Raiders got out to an early lead with a savvy punt return for a touchdown and used a late interception to seal a 27-14 victory.
Quarterback Derek Carr continued his streak of no interceptions — this was his 10th game in a row he has avoided a pick. He was 19-of-26 passing for 167 yards. He didn’t have a touchdown but still led his team to a win with the help of a strong run game and a defense that kept Case Keenum at bay.
Here are three takeaways from the Raiders win over the Broncos:
Oakland used two big plays to get ahead
It was an improbable play that should not have happened.
The Broncos’ special teams tried to down the ball near the goal line to force the opposing offense to take over with tough field position. But, as Denver’s Isaac Yiadom tried to keep his foot out of the end zone to prevent the Raiders from starting on the 25-yard line, the ball slipped from his grasp.
Oakland’s Dwayne Harris, who was ready to return the punt, picked up the ball and ran it back 99 yards for the team’s first score, which gave the Raiders a lead they would not relinquish.
WHAT A PLAY.
Dwayne Harris goes 99 YARDS for a punt return TD! #RaiderNation
— NFL (@NFL) December 25, 2018
Later in the second half, after Keenum led back-to-back touchdown drives, the Broncos were finally threatening the Raiders’ advantage.
Oakland had just gone three-and-out and punted the ball to give Denver yet another chance to score. But, Keenum threw a deep pass down the middle of the field that was picked off, giving the Raiders the ball back with a little more than five minutes to play.
— NFL (@NFL) December 25, 2018
Denver’s linebacker duo was silent
The Broncos have the threatening pass rush duo of veteran Von Miller and rookie Bradley Chubb. The two have combined for 26 1/2 sacks this season and were facing a team that allowed its quarterback to get brought down a career-high 47 times.
By all accounts, Carr should have been under pressure all game. However, that just wasn’t the case.
The announcers chalked it up to bad field conditions because of the weather — there were reports of showers at kickoff — and, that seemed to have been the case.
It wasn’t as though Oakland boasted strong enough pass protection to contain the two linebackers. The Raiders offensive line is ranked 28th in the league in sacks allowed. But somehow, they managed to take Miller and Chubb out of the equation.
Phillip Lindsay has had an impressive rookie year
It’s hard to remain optimistic when the postseason is out of the picture and the coach’s job is on the line. But, running back Phillip Lindsay continues to be a bright spot for the struggling Broncos.
Despite leaving the game with an injury (wrist) in the fourth quarter and having just 46 yards before his departure, he’s making history in his first season in Denver.
Lindsay became the first undrafted rookie offensive player to be named to the Pro Bowl and has broken franchise records in the process.
He also became just the third undrafted rookie in the Super Bowl era to rush for 1,000-plus yards. But, he isn’t the only rookie in the Broncos’ backfield. Royce Freeman, who was selected in the third round of the 2018 draft out of Oregon, has the potential to be just as impressive and, depending on the severity of Lindsay’s injury, can prove that in Week 17.