David Zalubowski) / Associated Press
Published Sunday, Oct. 17, 2021 | 2 a.m.
Updated Sunday, Oct. 17, 2021 | 4:35 p.m.
Rich Bisaccia’s first game as coach was the Raiders’ best game of the year.
Las Vegas snapped a two-game losing skid with a 34-24 victory at Empower Field at Mile High on Sunday afternoon. The Raiders never trailed after a 48-yard touchdown pass from Derek Carr to Henry Ruggs on the game’s opening drive and led by multiple scores throughout the entire second half.
The Raiders preached focus after coach Jon Gruden resigned Monday evening following the leak of several offensive emails and lived up to their vow to bounce back under Bisaccia. They now sit 4-2, tied for first place in the AFC West with the Chargers (though Los Angeles holds the tiebreaker after beating the Raiders in Week 3).
In addition to staying the course and not allowing themselves to be distracted by the Gruden, the Raiders hit on a number of other particulars they emphasized. The defense talked for the last week about forcing turnovers and came up with four big ones against the Broncos.
Recent free-agent signing Brandon Facyson had an interception in the first quarter while Solomon Thomas forced a fumble that Denzel Perryman recovered late in the third quarter.
The second long completion of the day from Carr to Ruggs followed, leading to a 3-yard Josh Jacobs touchdown run to make the score 31-10 heading into the fourth quarter.
Rookie cornerback Nate Hobbs nearly had another interception on the Raiders’ next possession after he ripped away a pass from Kendall Hinton, but it was overturned on replay. Teddy Bridgewater threw his second touchdown pass a few players later, to Courtland Sutton, but the Raiders again answered.
Another long third-down conversion pass, this time from Carr to Bryan Edwards, led to a 30-yard field goal from kicker Daniel Carlson, who went 2-for-3 on his attempts throughout the day. Rookie safety Tre’von Moehrig picked up the Raiders’ final turnover of the day, an interception, to all but end the game.
Carr got back to the form he showed during a three-game winning streak, passing for 341 yards and two touchdowns on 18-for-27 passing. Las Vegas also got its run game going behind Josh Jacobs and Kenyan Drake as the duo combined for 87 yards on 20 carries.
Drake, who was signed as a free agent this offseason, had a long-awaited breakout with a pair of touchdowns – one rushing and one passing. Edge rusher Maxx Crosby had arguably the best game of his career with 4.5 sacks.
Check back to lasvegassun.com for more coverage and read below for live updates from throughout the game.
It’s not over yet.
The Broncos have cut the Raiders’ lead to 31-17 at Empower Field at Mile High with a 12-yard pass from Teddy Bridgewater to Courtland Sutton. Bridgewater now has two touchdown passes on the day.
It looked like Las Vegas had an interception inside the 10-yard line two plays earlier when cornerback Nate Hobbs ripped the ball away from receiver Kendall Hinton, but replay overturned it. Eleven minutes remain, so Denver still has plenty of ground to make up but Las Vegas could use a long drive or two.
Josh Jacobs scores
The Raiders are running away with the game against the Broncos.
Las Vegas leads Denver 31-10 after a 3-yard touchdown run from running back Josh Jacobs at the end of the third quarter. The latest touchdown drive was set into motion by a Solomon Thomas forced fumble, recovered by Denzel Perryman, at the Broncos’ 42-yard line.
It took Las Vegas five plays and just more than two minutes to find the end zone. The biggest play came on a third-and-12 when Derek Carr hit Henry Ruggs on a deep route for 40 yards down to the Broncos’ four-yard line.
Las Vegas’ defense has a pair of turnovers while the offense has out-produced Denver 355-233 in total yardage.
Kenyan Drake breaking out for Raiders
Kenyan Drake is getting the most opportunities he’s gotten all season this afternoon, and he’s making the most of them.
The veteran running back out of Alabama just scored a touchdown for the second straight Raiders’ possession, bursting through a hole on the right side of the line for an 18 yard score. The Raiders lead the Broncos 24-7.
Las Vegas got into the red zone via a 29-yard screen from Derek Carr to Josh Jacobs. Carr is 15-for-21 for 242 yards and touchdowns, while Jacobs and Drake have combined for 62 yards on 11 carries.
Raiders score right before halftime
The torrid pace of the opening 12 minutes slowed significantly over the rest of the first half.
The Raiders were able to get back going eventually, however, and added a second touchdown on a 31-yard pass from Derek Carr to Kenyan Drake on a wheel route out of the backfield with 36 seconds remaining in the half. The Raiders lead the Broncos 17-7 at halftime.
The Broncos punted on three straight drives as the Raiders’ defense stiffened with recent free-agent signee Brandon Facyson picking off a pass and defensive end Maxx Crosby tallying three sacks.
Daniel Carlson makes a 50-yard field goal attempt
Three combined possessions, three scoring drives.
Las Vegas didn’t get into the end zone the second time it had the ball at Empower Field at Mile High but Daniel Carlson did make a 50-yard field goal to add to the scoreboard. The Raiders lead the Broncos 10-7.
The biggest play of the drive was a 25-yard completion from Derek Carr to Hunter Renfrow.
Broncos answer Raiders with their own touchdown
Well, this hasn’t started as the defensive struggle many expected.
The Broncos answered the Raiders’ game-opening touchdown drive with one of their own, as Teddy Bridgewater found Tim Patrick for a 23-yard touchdown.
It took the home team two more plays, though six fewer yards, to score as the Broncos went 64 yards on eight plays and were assisted by a pass intereference against linebacker Cory Littleton. Denver hadn’t scored an opening-drive touchdown in 24 games, while Las Vegas hadn’t score points on its first drive in 12 games.
Raiders score on opening drive for first time this season
The Raiders’ first drive under new coach Rich Bisaccia couldn’t have gone better.
Derek Carr hit Henry Ruggs for a 48-yard touchdown pass on a third-down play from midfield to put Las Vegas up 7-0 in Denver. The scoring drive officially lasted six plays and went 70 yards.
The new braintrust of Bisaccia and offensive coordinator went run-first to start with rushing plays on four of the first snaps.
New coach, new roster construction.
The Raiders just released their list of inactive players for today’s game against the Broncos, and it’s looking a lot different than the past few weeks. Quarterback Nathan Peterman, defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins, running back Peyton Barber and defensive tackle Darius Philon are the new additions.
The first three weren’t all that unexpected.
Peterman cedes the backup role to Marcus Mariota, who returned from an injury suffered in the first game this week. Hankins was also doubtful after getting hurt last week against the Bears. Barber, despite rushing for a Raiders’ season-high 111 yards earlier this season, loses his spot to Jalen Richard, who’s also returning from injury.
Philon is the surprise, as he had been a key part of the Raiders’ defensive-line rotation throughout the year and made several big plays. A pair of inactives stayed the same from recent weeks — tackle Jackson Barton and defensive end Malcolm Koonce.
Rich Bisaccia’s tenure as the 21st head coach in Raiders’ history begins on the road in the team’s second AFC West divisional matchup of the year. Bisaccia was an easy choice for owner Mark Davis to name interim coach after the release of a string of hateful and offensive emails forced Jon Gruden to resign less than four years into a 10-year contract. Three other coaches on the current staff have NFL head-coaching experience — defensive coordinator Gus Bradley, defensive line coach Rod Marinelli and offensive line coach Tom Cable — but promoting the former assistant head coach/special teams coordinator in Bisaccia allows their important duties to go unchanged. Bisaccia wants stability. He believes the Raiders are more like the team that clicked in a three-game winning streak to start the season than the one that’s struggled to get on track offensively during two straight losses to the Chargers and Bears. The Broncos enter in the same situation, having lost two straight with subpar offensive performances after looking like a potential surprise contender in the first three weeks.
• Who: Raiders (3-2) at Broncos (3-2)
• When: 1:25 p.m.
• Where: Empower Field at Mile High
• TV: Channel 8, KLAS-TV
• Radio: Raider Nation Radio 920 AM, KOMP 92.3
• Betting line: Raiders -3.5, over/under 44
Favorable matchup: Raiders’ defensive backfield vs. Broncos’ receivers
Both these units have cluster injuries, but Las Vegas appears to be handling the absences of cornerbacks Trayvon Mullen and Damon Arnette better than Denver has managed without Jerry Jeudy and KJ Hamler. Courtland Sutton is now the Broncos’ undisputed No. 1 receiver and expected to play through an ankle injury for the second straight week. He may frequently be matched up against Las Vegas’ Casey Hayward, who’s been one of the best cornerbacks in the league this year. Meanwhile, Nate Hobbs has been one of the best rookie cornerbacks in the league for the Raiders. Second-year cornerback Amik Robertson has also been pressed into a bigger role, and while he’s not playing on the level of Hayward or Hobbs, a progression from his rookie season has been evident. The Raiders sit third in the NFL in giving up only 5.7 yards per pass attempt. The Broncos are league-average at 7.6 yards per pass attempt behind quarterback Teddy Bridgewater but that number has steadily dropped as their pass-catching options have thinned.
THEY SAID IT
“The summers, I was still working at Waldbaum Egg Factory, so I wasn’t thinking about being a head coach. I was thinking about feeding my kid.” - Bisaccia on the humble origins of his coaching career at Wayne State University
“He’s the most natural leader of men that I have ever been around.” -General manager Mike Mayock on Bisaccia
“We’re 3-2. We have everything out in front of us that we’ve wanted from the beginning. It’s not going to be with the same room of people, which is hard, but at the same time, nobody cares.” -Quarterback Derek Carr on staying focused amid a week of upheaval
“If you watch film like I watch film, I’m like, ‘(expletive), sometimes, I don’t know what y’all want me to do, honestly.’ But I’m very optimistic about the guys getting better and I believe in the guys.” -Running back Josh Jacobs on the offensive line’s struggles.
Problematic matchup: Raiders’ offensive line vs. Broncos’ defensive front
The Raiders’ offensive line will remain in the problematic category indefinitely, until it proves it’s not the glaring weak link of the team. The unit is particularly troublesome going up against the Broncos, the Raiders’ second straight opponent that ranks in the league’s top 10 in sack rate. Former Super Bowl MVP and long-time Raider rival Von Miller is having a resurgent year after missing all of last season with an ankle injury. Miller has tallied 4.5 sacks and 13 pressures through five games, and will likely look to attack right tackle Brandon Parker, who had a rough outing in his first start of the year against the Bears. The offense could never get on track last week, averaging only 4.2 yards per play, largely because the skill players never had any room to operate. The Bears sacked quarterback Derek Carr four times, including once on a two-point conversion attempt, and limited running back Josh Jacobs to 3.2 yards per carry. Too many unblocked defenders were getting through the line no matter how Las Vegas tried to adjust.
Gamebreaker: Linebacker Denzel Perryman
The Raiders are adamant it wasn’t because of the distraction caused by Gruden’s situation, but for whatever reason, they admittedly came out flat and didn’t have enough fire against the Bears. ‘Bringing the juice,’ as safety Jonathan Abram says, will be an emphasis against the Broncos to avoid a fourth straight slow start. And no one has juiced the Raiders up quite like their veteran middle linebacker this season. Perryman has been the most energetic presence on the roster as teammates feed off his hard hits and fiery attitude. It’s a role Abram largely held last year, but the coaches asked him to scale it back this season because his aggression resulted in several game-altering mistakes. Abram has been much improved this season, partly because he’s played more under control, and Perryman has filled the motivator void both from a vocal and physical standpoint. If the rest of the team can match his energy from the onset, the slow starts should be left in the past.
Big Number: 38
That’s how many years it took in the coaching industry before Bisaccia landed his first head-coaching gig earlier this week. It wasn’t for lack of trying. The role has been a lifelong dream of the 61-year-old Yonkers, N.Y., native. He started his career in 1983 as defensive backs and special teams coach at Division II Wayne State in Nebraska. He went on to serve on the staffs of four major college football programs and four NFL teams, occasionally coming up as a head-coaching candidate. Raiders general manager Mike Mayock said he ironically endorsed Bisaccia for several jobs over the years, but none of them ever materialized until now. Bisaccia said he was beyond excited and characterized it as “an incredible opportunity” even though “no one wants to be put in front of these particular set of circumstances,” in succeeding Gruden. Bisaccia credited his longtime boss for changing his life by hiring him to coordinate special teams with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2002 and said they will forever remain friends despite his disappointment with the contents of Gruden’s email.
Best Bet (2-3): Josh Jacobs over 52.5 rushing yards
Gruden had been quick to abandon the run game all season when it wasn’t producing. Call it a hunch, as there at least hasn’t been any concrete evidence, but Bisaccia and new playcaller/offensive coordinator Greg Olson might be more stubborn with their efforts to get Jacobs going. It might not be a bad idea this week, either. Jacobs, who’s missed two games, was completely off the injury report this week for the first time this season. Denver’s rush defense also rates as above-average on the year, but it hasn’t been quite as strong as its pass rush or coverage. Jacobs couldn’t get any room to breathe for most of the game against the Bears and still totaled 48 yards on 15 carries. This could be a buy-low spot for a player who’s more than capable when given the opportunities.