By Chad Bellin. The Oakland Raiders have gone through a gamut of emotions the past few weeks, and now limp into the playoffs after Sunday’s 24-6 defeat in Denver to the Broncos. At 12-4, the Raiders had a tremendous season, and still captured the AFC West Division title. But the tide turned last week, when the Raiders lost starting quarterback Derek Carr to a broken leg. This week, there was still a fair amount of optimism moving forward with backup Matt McGloin. But after McGloin left Sunday’s game with an apparent left shoulder injury, rookie Connor Cook could not get the offense moving.
The Broncos played their game, and sent retiring head coach Gary Kubiak out on a high note. The Broncos’ stingy defense and improving offense will be the focus in the offseason as they look to rebuild and return to Super Bowl form.
Here are notes from the game and reflections on the season.
1. Matt McGloin’s injury really seemed to sap the Raiders energy. Connor Cook came in and put on a brave face even throwing a late touchdown to Amari Cooper but it wasn’t nearly enough. Had the injuries to Carr and McGloin happened in the middle of the season, the Raiders season and those of many fantasy football team owners would have been wrecked too soon as receivers Cooper and Michael Crabtree may have struggled to produce offense for the team. There is still a chance McGloin can play in the Wild Card round against the Texans.
2. It was curious that Trevor Siemian played as much as he did, and rookie Paxton Lynch saw no real action. Fans and fantasy football team owners must trust that the retiring Gary Kubiak and — from a bigger picture — John Elway know what they’re doing in developing a quarterback. But with the Broncos out of playoff contention, was there really harm in playing Lynch?
3. Similarly, it was interesting (if not downright annoying) to see Justin Forsett get 22 carries ahead of Devontae Booker. Forsett is obviously a Kubiak favorite, but is the 31-year-old even going to be on an NFL roster next season? Booker ground out 14 carries for 57 yards and a touchdown, but it would have been nice to see the carries flipped. In fairness, Booker added 52 yards and another touchdown receiving.
4. The Raiders had 57 yards rushing on 16 carries. This was a missed opportunity. If there’s a weakness to the Broncos defense, it’s defending the rush. The Broncos were keying on the run with backup quarterbacks in the game for the Raiders. But that could have been a chance to run more motion and play-action. DeAndre Washington led the Raiders in rushing again, with Latavius Murray sliding farther and farther back. This part of the attack must be fixed going into the playoffs.
5. The Broncos receivers were unremarkable this season. Demaryius Thomas had 90 catches for just less than 1,100 yards and 5 touchdowns following a 4-47-0 line Sunday. Emmanuel Sanders, who left Sunday’s game early with a foot injury, had almost identical production on the season despite being shutout Sunday. Improved quarterback play needs to boost the numbers out of these two in 2017 if the team is to get back to its winning ways.