Week 13 Final: Rams 52, Raiders 0

Holy crap. Did that just happen? That just happened.

Whatever hopes that last game’s comeback drive and win against the Chiefs would translate into positive momentum for the Raiders were dashed on the field at Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis. I said that the Rams were the best 4-7 team in the league, given the elite opponents they had beaten. And one of the key differences between good teams and bad teams is that while bad teams might win one once in a while, it doesn’t matter whether the team they beat is good or bad, they’ll just squeak by on luck or circumstance, a good drive at the right time. But a good team will punish bad teams.

And that’s what happened here; the Raiders were historically awful today, in all phases of the game. The offense is a dead fish, unable to get a first down until they were already down 21-0. They barely got across the 50-yard line, forget the red zone. McFadden and Jones-Drew ran hard, as usual, but mostly got stuffed (as usual), and once the score got out of hand the running game was abandoned (as usual). Matt Schaub finally got in the game in the fourth quarter, just long enough to fumble the ball away, and then throw a pick-six. That was $8.5M well spent.

The defense was slow and listless, looking like they were running uphill, underwater, through snow. Tre Mason ran through multiple tacklers, over and over again, racking up yards and touchdowns, looking like Jamaal Charles last year, as the D looked like they had never seen a screen before. While the defense did play tighter and better in the second half, by then the Rams were up 38-0. Too little, too late. By that point Shaun Hill, a career scrub, looked like Kurt Warner. Rookie WR Stedman Bailey rolled up nearly 100 yards receiving in the first quarter.

Special teams was a big fail also; George Atkinson III returned kicks as if he had never done it before, running indecisively, fumbling the ball away deep in their own territory. T.J. Carrie almost broke off a nice punt return, only to be flattened by Ray-Ray Armstrong. This is how teams end up 1-11 (or 1-15, at the rate they’re going); this is how they get pounded 52-0.

Full game stats here, if you have the stomach for it.

There’s no way to sugar-coat this one, no way to put a positive spin on it. This is literally the worst loss for the team since 1961, just three points off their record 55-0 loss to Houston over half a century ago.

Three years into the Great Rebuild, this is the team we have — listless, indifferent, undisciplined, incompetent. On the one hand, successful teams are built on continuity and stability and consistency, which would seem to indicate that it might be best to stay the course on management and coaching, or at least not replace anyone until someone better is available. On the other hand, 52-0. And like so many of their blowout losses this season and the previous two seasons, it wasn’t even that close; the Rams just let off the gas in the second half. Amazingly, it could have been even worse.

But the contrast was stark right from the beginning. St. Louis played tight, focused ball on offense and defense, taking their game right to the Raiders, daring them to punch back. And the Raiders were having none of it.

One of the more disheartening moments was seeing Carr and Schaub on the sidelines, down 45-0, chatting and smiling and laughing. News reports from the locker room afterward said the locker room demeanor wasn’t “angry” or “disgusted,” but rather “disappointment” and “surprise”. Frankly, I want them to be angry and disgusted. They embarrassed themselves and their fans, once again. It’s becoming a habit with this team and these players. They played like shit, ineptly, without passion or purpose. It’s unbelievable that they had ten days — after their first win in an entire year — to prepare for this game, and came out so flat and incompetent in every single phase. It’s unacceptable to fans, and it should be unacceptable to players and coaches.

So we’ll see what happens next — the Niners, reeling from their own embarrassing Thanksgiving loss to their arch-rival Seahawks, come to Oakland next Sunday. Speculation about Jim Harbaugh coming to coach the Raiders next season has been rampant all weekend, and there are pros and cons to that (like anything else). San Francisco’s visit across the Bay Bridge comes sandwiched between their Seahawk games; they have to travel to Seattle the following week, for a must-win game if they are to make the post-season.

Will the Raiders step up, use this humiliating experience to take their jobs seriously and play hard and well, against a team that may be looking ahead to a game they desperately need to win? Or will the Niners use an incompetent Raiders team as a punching bag for their own frustrations, as a warm-up and an easy win before they have to play a division rival? It’s up to the Raiders players and coaches to decide which way they want to go, to start fighting back and playing like the team that shocked the Chefs, or continue to be the team that other teams’ fans don’t even hate or laugh at any more, because they feel sorry for them.

Three years (with 9 wins and 25 losses) into the rebuild, and they are basically an expansion team at this point. If the NFL had English Premier League rules, the Raiders would be relegated. Losing but being able to see tangible progress is one thing, but there has been no progress — they get blown out every few weeks, just suffered their worst beatdown in 53 years, are on pace to have the worst running game in 70 years, have no kick/punt return game at all. How many times this season have you seen receivers bumble into each other on crossing routes, struggle to get separation, drop easy passes, how many times have they failed to get a simple push for a single yard on 3rd down?

Reggie McKenzie refuses to talk to media at this point (which will probably have to change after this most recent embarrassment), but the only question for him is where is the progress? There are glimmers of hope here and there in the potential of rookies like Mack and Carr, but not nearly enough to overcome the chronic dysfunction that seems to plague this team and organization. So many areas need change and improvement, it’s hard to know where to start. But after three years and regular blowout losses, it doesn’t even seem like it’s been started yet.

Al Davis built this team’s greatness and legacy on the premise that “we’d rather be feared than respected,” but at this point, the team and fans have been relegated to where they’d just rather be hated — or even ridiculed — than merely pitied.

Game Preview: Raiders at Rams

After finally winning for the first time in an entire calendar year — against a very good team, at that — the Nation is ecstatic but cautious. Obviously it’s way too soon to tell if the Raiders are over the proverbial hump yet, but Sunday’s road game in St. Louis will provide more evidence of whether the Raiders are starting to get it together or not. The Rams may be the best 4-7 team in the league, as far as doing more with less is concerned.

Despite having to use their backup quarterbacks all season, and having a weak running game and no real #1 WR (sound familiar?), the Rams have managed to beat Denver, Seattle, and San Francisco in the last six weeks, and should have won on the road in San Diego last week. This is mostly due to a solid defense and some novel special teams plays. Jeff Fisher has shown a great sense of timing and a lot of guts in calling some of these plays, giving his team a sense of urgency and a willingness to play like they have nothing to lose.

Yes, the Rams are very much the Raiders’ doppelganger in the NFC — a team in the process of rebuilding, whose fortunes are at least in part driven by the fact that they’re in a tough division with three significantly better teams. Two significant differences:  on offense, Kenny Britt has emerged in recent weeks as the Rams’ go-to receiver, with 280 yards and 2 touchdowns over the last 5 games; on defense, while they only have 7 team interceptions, both of Janoris Jenkins’ INTs have been pick-sixes.

But the Rams are vulnerable, and four of their losses (including two at home) have been by at least 14 points. Oakland’s pass rush and coverage have improved the last several games, and if they can maintain that against a beleaguered Rams o-line that has given up 34 sacks, and get Latavius Murray and Marcel Reece rolling the running game again, they have a pretty solid chance in this one.

Game Grades: Raiders vs. Chiefs

Pass Offense:  Neither Derek Carr’s stats (18-35-174-1-0) nor those of his top receivers (Holmes, 5-55-0; Jones, 5-47-1) stand out, but what the numbers don’t show is that they were able to make things happen when they needed to. The key play here, of course, was Carr’s sole TD pass to Jones with 1:42 left to win the game. That final drive especially showed that the team was striving to hold together, and made a number of critical plays against a very good Kansas City defense that had just beaten the reigning Super Bowl champs last week, and flattened the surging Patriots earlier this season. Not spectacular, but again, they got it done when they needed to. Grade:  B

Rush Offense:  You almost need a different grade for each of the running backs. With just four carries, including a 90-yard rumble that brought back memories of Bo Jackson, Latavius Murray proved that he deserves much more consideration for a larger role in this offense. It’s a huge deal that, in a moribund running game, against a defense that hadn’t given up a single rushing touchdown all season, Murray breaks off two rushing touchdowns in the first quarter. If Kurt Coleman hadn’t taken Murray out of the game with a helmet-to-helmet concussion, who knows how many yards Murray could have rolled up at that rate? McFadden had a couple of decent carries, but ended up with 12 runs for 29 yards total. Jones-Drew continues to get stuffed with every attempt, finishing with 3 runs for -1 yards. Marcel Reece was clutch in the end, with Murray out with a concussion, finishing 8-37 with a 9-yard run at a key moment in the final drive. The Raiders ended with 8 rushing first downs, and 30:05 time of possession, both key stats that they needed to win any game.

As far as the running backs go, Jones-Drew is a great player, a fine person, and is clearly giving it everything he has. Personally, I was excited for him to come to Oakland; as a local, it was clear that his love for the team, the area, and the fans was sincere. And his legendary block on Shawne Merriman is just as much fun to watch the thousandth time as it was the first. But the numbers don’t lie — Murray has 14 carries for 166 yards this season, while MoJo has 36 carries for just 69 yards, a measly 1.9 average. Take away MJD’s 4-30 performance in the first Charger game, and he’s 32-39 total, just 1.2 yards per carry. Here’s hoping he has a breakout game to turn all that around, but it appears less and less likely, for whatever reason. In general, until the Raiders have a back run 15-20 times several games in a row (McFadden went 18-59 in New England, but no other back has more than 14 rushes in a game so far), it’s too soon to anoint anyone as the money back, but Murray and Reece seem to find the holes that Jones-Drew and (to a lesser extent) McFadden struggle with. Grade:  B+

Pass Defense:  While Alex Smith’s two touchdown passes, to Fasano and Charles, came in unconscionable lack of decent coverage, for the most part the pass defense did pretty well, forcing Smith to run and scramble for his life at key moments. Another key statistic that the defense has done well in changing is opponents’ third-down conversion rate — while they were on track to set a record in the first part of the season, Kansas City went 2-14 on 3rd down, continuing the recent trend of making key stops. That this has taken place against elite quarterbacks and receivers, with depleted linebackers and cornerbacks, points to the players’ resiliency, and the creativity of Jason Tarver’s scheme and play-calling. The defensive stand after Denarius Moore fumbled a punt at the 10 yard line, holding the Chiefs to a field goal, was outstanding, and may have ultimately made the difference, in what turned out to be a 4-opint game. Charles Woodson had a terrific game in particular, with three tackles for a loss, and a sack, becoming the only player to have 50 interceptions and 20 sacks. Grade: B 

Rush Defense:  Jamaal Charles finished with 19 carries for 80 yards and no rushing touchdowns, second-lowest in total yards and yards per carry since the first few weeks of the season for him. The Chiefs were ranked 4th in the league in rushing (141.2 yards/game), and ended up with 96 yards total. Overall, the defense did a much better job of stuffing the run than they have against other opponents with elite running backs. Grade: B 

Special Teams:  Between the dumb penalties, muffed punts, and poor return coverage, special teams (aside from the kickers) were the weak spot in this game. Not only did they give up too many yards to Kansas City’s kickoff and punt returners, but the penalties on the Raiders returns need to stop. One of the big reasons this offense has difficulty getting traction is that it keeps having to start at its own 10-yard line, because of an illegal block to the back penalty. It’s these small, seemingly insignificant details in fundamental execution that frequently make the difference between winning and losing. Denarius Moore continues to be a liability as a punt returner, even when he doesn’t fumble. Grade: D 

Coaching:   It took longer than it should have, but give Tony Sparano and Greg Olson credit for finally using Murray and Reece in the running game, with the positive effect most fans assumed it would have. It’s no coincidence that the pass-run ratio (37-28) was much more balanced than the 3:1 or even 4:1 ratios previous games have had. The outcome is a more balanced time of possession (Raiders had the ball 30:05), and a defense that isn’t exhausted by the 4th quarter. Give credit to the team as well for sticking with the coaches; heading into a game against a superior opponent after not having won in a year, it would be understandable if they had given up and folded. The Raiders still definitely need to use their coming high draft picks and huge salary cap surplus wisely to upgrade their talent, but there’s a lot of potential in players like Latavius Murray, Sio Moore, and Khalil Mack, and if they continue to play with the kind of heart and passion they showed against the Chiefs, they have a decent chance in every remaining game down the homestretch. Except the final game in Denver — the only way they have a shot in that one is if the Broncos start Brock Osweiler to keep Peyton Manning fresh for a playoff run. Grade:  B+

Week 12 Final: Raiders 24, Chiefs 20

Damn, it feels so good to type the Raiders’ WINNING score first, at long last. And welcome to the fold, Latavius Murray. Better late than never, though it does make you wonder what took them so long. Murray made the most of his four carries, gaining 112 yards (nearly twice the team’s rushing average per game so far) before being knocked out by a cheap hit from Kurt Coleman that probably will (and should) draw a fine from the league.

In addition to Murray’s brief appearance exposing most of the rest of the run game as a fraud, Derek Carr showed great poise in leading the final game-winning drive, finding Mike Rivera on a key third-down conversion, and getting the first-down on a 4th-and-1 keeper. As expected, getting the go-ahead touchdown with 1:42 remaining gave Alex Smith a bit too much of a chance to come back, but the defense held tight and shut them down when it counted the most.

Full game stats here.

That penultimate play, the 3rd-and-long sack on Smith that resulted in Sio Moore and Khalil Mack dancing a bit too long deep in the backfield, characterized the season in a nutshell. Justin Tuck has really stepped up his game the last few weeks, and his heads-up timeout call while Moore and Mack were fooling around — while Smith and the Chefs were getting ready to get a free play off against nine defensive players — may have been the single most important call of this awful season. It’s hard to fault players for celebrating, after the season they’ve endured, and they’ve held together as a team admirably, but jeez — you have just twenty-eight seconds to go. It really is those little things, paying attention to the fundamentals and executing them better than the guy across the line from you, that make the difference between 0-10 and the other way around.

Still, it was a great game and a solid win against a very good opponent. The Raiders finally have a complete performance this season that they can take pride in and build on.

Game Preview: Raiders vs. Chiefs

At 0-10, coming into a Thursday night matchup against a red-hot division opponent (the Chefs have won 7 of their last 8 games), there’s no mystery as to what the Raiders need to do, if they stand a chance at winning this one:  find the running game, and contain Jamaal Charles. We all remember what Charles did in Oakland last year, romping for 5 TDs in a 56-31 blowout, mostly on the strength of a single screen play that Kansas City ran repeatedly, defying the Raiders’ defense to stop them.

The rainy weather will work to the Raiders’ advantage, in at least keeping the point count down, but KC’s D is tight. Two interesting stats regarding the Chefs:

  1. While they are ranked 25th in yards allowed, Kansas City’s defense has not given up a rushing TD since Week 16 of last season. Only a handful of teams have had a longer streak.
  2. Alex Smith has not had a single TD pass to a wide receiver this season.

Look for one of these two records to break tonight. Chances are it will be the latter, but as always, if Oakland can put the two-yards-up-the-middle-and-a-cloud-of-derp rushing attack of McFadden and Jones-Drew on pause for a few drives, and see what Latavius Murray has to offer, it might be that first statistic that falls. Murray’s two consecutive late runs against the Chargers electrified the offense, however briefly, and Murray’s 23-yard gallop was, sadly, Oakland’s longest carry of the season by a running back so far.

Continuing credit has to go to Jason Tarver’s improving defense, which has shed its 3rd-down conversion problems, and has had elite division opponent quarterbacks guessing and on the run. Alex Smith has had something of a career resurgence since going to Kansas City, but is still inferior in talent to Manning and Rivers. If the Raiders’ D can get to those two, they should be able to get to Smith.

Most of the Thursday night games this season, all of which have been divisional matchups, have been blowouts. The spread on this game is 7 points, and between the weather and the Chiefs possibly looking ahead to their next game against the Broncos, I would actually put money on Oakland at least beating the spread. It’s probably too much to hope for a win, but that’s really why we keep tuning in to watch, right?

Game Grades: Raiders at Chargers

Pass Offense:  Derek Carr had a rough day right from the start, fumbling the very first snap of the game, which led almost immediately to the Chargers scoring the game’s only touchdown. Once he got going, Carr spread it around, hitting eight receivers over the course of the game, but nothing sufficient enough to get in the end zone. Receivers for the most part continue to have trouble getting separation, and at times even run into each other on their routes. The offensive line continues to do an excellent job of preventing sacks; while Carr was sacked twice during this game, his season total is just 12 sacks. Grade:  C-

Rush Offense:  Three words — more Latavius Murray. His four carries for 43 yards were just a teaser, a hint of what a competent running could be for this team. One of Murray’s runs was for 23 yards, amazingly a season high for Raiders running backs. By way of comparison to Murray’s 43 yards, the other four ball carriers (McFadden, Jones-Drew, Reece, and Carr) had a grand total of 28 yards on 19 carries. Any questions? Grade:  D

Pass Defense:  Antonio Smith and Khalil Mack each notched their first sacks for the season, and the line did a fine job keeping pressure on Rivers all day long. Rivers finished with subpar numbers for him (18-34-193-1-0), and came up limping after an especially nasty hit. They did get burned at critical moments by Malcom Floyd and Antonio Gates, but as each of them are 6’5″, Rivers is in the habit of throwing them jump balls, and even elite defenses have trouble with them. This unit continues to improve, despite being stuck on the field for 35 minutes a game. Grade:  C+

Rush Defense:  After last month’s squeaker in Oakland, the Raiders D has learned their lesson about Branden Oliver, holding him to just 36 yards on 13 carries, with a long of 8 yards, and no touchdowns. Ryan Mathews was more successful (16-70), but overall, the 120 total rushing yards was at least below the Raiders average for yards allowed. Grade:  C+

Special Teams:  Nothing particularly good or bad; Janikowski made both his field goal attempts, and King had 9 punts for a 44.7 average. Mike Scifres was San Diego’s most potent weapon by far, dropping punt after punt deep in Raiders territory, forcing hem to start drives with awful field position all day. Denarius Moore appears to have fallen off the wide receiver depth chart and into the punt returner doghouse; at the rate he’s going, he’ll never get out. Grade:  C

Coaching:  If there is an identifiable theme to this season as it progresses, it is something along the line of “too little, too late.” Whether it’s Greg Olson or Tony Sparano, the insistence on running McFadden and Jones-Drew up the middle for two yards, over and over and over again, is perplexing and tedious. They’ve done a good job in scheming the offense to keep Carr upright, but it doesn’t do much good when he’s 3rd and 7 every single possession, and opposing defenses just sit back 8 yards out in a two-deep shell. Maybe if they had brought Murray in a quarter or two earlier, the Raiders might finally have their first win. Someone from the press should ask them about this. Jason Tarver’s defensive unit, as banged up as it is, continues to improve. Brandian Ross, in his second stint with the team, has proven to be a more than adequate substitute for the injured Tyvon Branch, and Charles Woodson continues to play lights-out ball. Grade:  C-

Week 11 Final: Chargers 13, Raiders 6

Is there a team in the entire NFL more snakebitten than the Raiders? Literally from the very first play, the offense played like they knew they were doomed. Derek Carr fumbled what must have been a flubbed snap from Stefen Wisniewski, and of course the Chargers fell right on it, scoring an easy touchdown just a couple of plays later.

Full game stats here.

Another solid defensive effort turns out to be all for naught, as the offense continues to struggle. A glimmer of hope came late in the game, as Latavius Murray finally got a few carries, including one for 23 yards, incredibly the longest by a Raiders running back this season (Derek Carr had a run for 41 yards against Houston in Week 2). It’s a safe bet that the entire Nation hopes that Tony Sparano and Greg Olson see the spark Murray provides, and either start him or at least work him more into the offense against the Chiefs on Thursday. Murray has been a subpar kickoff returner, but clearly brought something to the running game in his four carries (for 43 yards total) that McFadden (8-21) and Jones-Drew (4-6) continue to lack.

Third-down conversions are improving for the defense (San Diego converted only 4 of 15), but are worse for the offense (3 for 15). Between the non-existent run game and the inability to sustain drives, Marquette King has to punt 9 times yet again, and the time of possession is barely 25 minutes for this game. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, the team will not win until those things improve; Derek Carr can throw for 500 yards, but unless he finds the end zone and the run game develops as well, it won’t matter.

Game Preview: Raiders at Chargers

Can Tony Sparano’s latest motivational ploy put the Raiders over the top for their first win against a suddenly reeling Chargers team? Maybe, but what will help them the most is if they put together a complete game in all phases, which they still have yet to do. The first matchup against San Diego last month was as close as they’ve come to that objective — and in fact, if the offense could have just generated a couple of first downs on either of their final two possessions, they would have had won that game.

It’s odd that, in that 31-28 loss last month, the Raiders had their worst time of possession (only 22:58) but by far their best running effort (McFadden 14 carries for 80 yards, Jones-Drew 4-30). Philip Rivers had a field day with Oakland’s pass defense, lighting them up for 313 yards and 3 TDs, while Derek Carr had nearly as many yards (282), 4 TDs and an INT. Branden Oliver also ran up 101 yards on 26 carries for the Chargers, which made the difference in the end (along with Janikowski’s missed field goal attempt).

Keys to Victory

Offense:  This could be a chance to find that running game they’ve been missing. Raider1015 over at Silver and Black Pride has a great breakdown of the Raiders running woes in the Seattle game. Much of it seems to revolve around RG Austin Howard getting blown up at the LOS with some frequency. Howard was a right tackle with the Jets (where Sparano was his line coach) , yet the Raiders moved him in to guard, and kept Menelik Watson at the RT slot. At 6’7″, Howard may be too tall to get low, and is getting leveraged underneath by defensive tackles. If Sparano can help him fix that, and they can get McFadden and Jones-Drew back on track, they have a decent chance in this one.

The other element of offense they need to work on is turnovers. Interceptions and fumbles, often at key moments, have made them even more vulnerable to getting blown out and being forced into a one-dimensional second-half offense. This team simply doesn’t have enough talent to get away with giving up the ball. They need to execute properly and maintain ball security.

Defense:  As we saw last week against the Broncos, the Raiders were able to keep the game close early on — and even led briefly — because they were able to create turnovers. If they can get to Rivers the way they got to Manning early on, and get points off those turnovers, they keep the offense in the game. Oliver ran over and through the defense last time, but the Chargers are ranked 30th in rushing. Rivers had a dismal showing in Miami two weeks ago, throwing for just 138 yards and 3 INTs in a 37-0 blowout. San Diego has lost three in a row, so this may be an opportunity for the defense to shine. As always, covering Antonio Gates and Malcom Floyd will be critical.

Game Grades: Raiders vs. Broncos

Pass Offense:  Derek Carr continues his learning adventure for this season, turning the ball over three times (two INTs and an ill-advised toss to offensive lineman Khalif Barnes, which was subsequently fumbled away), all on the Raiders side of the field. Carr spreads the ball around terrifically, hitting no less than 10 receivers (not counting Barnes). Yet for all the shots he takes downfield, only two plays went for more than 20 yards (Rivera for 25 and Moore for 28). James Jones had 8 receptions for a grand total of twenty (yes, 20) yards, with a long of 10, which might be a sign that they need to work on their WR screens some more. Third-down efficiency was a miserable 5-18 (27%), due to the down-and-distance circumstances of virtually every possession. Amazingly, though Carr was hurried and hit all day, he was not sacked. Grade: D+

Rush Offense:  Thirteen running plays by the running backs (and two unsuccessful end-arounds, by Moore and Thompkins), versus 47 pass attempts. Grand total of 27 rushing yards, not counting the end-arounds (which netted 1 and -2 yards respectively). You do the math. Can’t even give this a failing grade anymore, there’s just not enough there to fail. Grade: Incomplete

Pass Defense:  This is an area where you have to grade on a bit of a curve, Manning is simply too good and has too many weapons to play with, and the Raiders offense leaves the D on the field too much to hang in forever. After being flummoxed and frustrated by the defensive scheme in the first quarter, and two terrific interceptions by Hayden and Tuck, Manning began figuring it out and exploiting the defense at every opportunity. Pick one:  the end-zone throw to Emmanuel Sanders for a 32-yard TD, the short pick Sanders ran at the goal line to free up Julius Thomas for another easy TD, the back-breaking 51-yard TD on a screen pass to C.J. Anderson, where nearly half the defensive players completely whiffed on tackle opportunities. In a game where Demaryius Thomas has 11 receptions for 108 yards but no TDs, Wes Welker is a non-factor, and Manning still throws 5 TDs, you know the pass defense took a beating. Grade: C-

Rush Defense:  C.J. Anderson, meet the Raiders. Raiders, this is C.J. Anderson. A spot player who had 17 carries for 82 yards and 4 receptions for 34 yards over six games coming into this one, Anderson ended the day with 13 carries for 90 yards and 4 receptions for 73 yards and a touchdown. Aside from Anderson’s 6.9 yards per carry, the Raiders were actually quite effective against the run, allowing Ronnie Hillman and Juwan Thompson just 21 yards on 10 carries total. Still, they never quite had an answer for Anderson, who rolled through them much the way Branden Oliver did back in Week 6. Grade: D+

Special Teams:  Marquette King had something off an off-day, averaging just 37.6 yards on his 9 punts, but that may be at least in part due to having to punt nine times. Janikowski made his lone field goal attempt, though one holds out hope that with as many onside kicks as they’ve attempted this season in garbage time, they might actually recover one someday. The return game was almost non-existent, though to be fair, the Broncos punted only once the entire game. Grade: C

Coaching:  Greg Olson continues to play it safe with his rookie quarterback, which is probably the only prudent course of action at this point. There’s no percentage in getting Carr hurt trying to be a hero. Still, a nearly 4:1 pass-run ratio, even with some of that coming in late game catch-up mode, is not getting it done. The downfield shots almost never work, and the running game is nowhere to be found, so defenses are content to sit back short to midrange with a two-deep shell, and take what Carr gives them. The team is still playing hard, you have to give them that, but at the rate they’re going, Sparano may have to bury some more balls before they shake whatever curse is on them at the moment. Against a team like the Broncos, the Raiders needed to execute perfectly, get some breaks (which they did early on, and got points from them), and create some game-breaking plays. And they just don’t have the players to do those things; it’s hard to expect Olson or Sparano or anyone else to coach game-breaking talent when it’s in short supply on the roster. Maybe use Brice Butler more, and figure out what the deal is with the running backs. Grade: D+

Week 10 Final: Broncos 41, Raiders 17

It started off well enough — for this team, you could say it was a first quarter for the ages. Peyton Manning looked flustered, throwing two early INTs that translated into 10 points and a rare lead for the Raiders. But the wheels came off shortly after that, and between Derek Carr turning the ball over several times deep in the Raiders’ own territory, and the defense’s inability to stop someone named C.J. Anderson, the lead and the optimism were short-lived.

Full game stats here

Oakland’s performance has to be assessed on something of a curve here, the Broncos are simply that good. Where the Seahawks have muddled their way to a 5-3 midseason record, find themselves two full games behind Arizona, and may not even make a wild-card slot, the Broncos (aside from last week’s pummeling in New England) have performed like an elite team throughout, beating up on solid teams such as San Francisco and Arizona, and nearly beating the Seahawks in Seattle. They have an edge and a sense of urgency to make up for their dismal loss in the most recent Super Bowl, and should be considered one of the odds-on favorites to at least be in the next one, if not win it outright.

And that’s frustrating to watch, where a team picks up a few key free agents (yes, one of them just happens to be one of the two or three best QBs of this generation, but still) and steamrolls the rest of the league, while the Raiders throw record cap money at players who, I’m sure they’re good guys and want to win and have had great track records, just aren’t getting it done. There’s no running game. Only two pass plays went for over 20 yards. One of the wide receivers (James Jones) had 8 receptions for 20 yards, with a long of 10 yards. Twenty yards. That is not a typo.

What were the bright spots? D.J. Hayden got a sweet early pick, which the Raiders scored a field goal from. (Of course, Hayden was on the sideline by the end of the game, getting what appeared to be a groin or hamstring pull worked on.) Hayden’s coverage and tackling are solid, the question is just whether he can stay healthy or not. Justin Tuck had a great tip and pick, deep in Broncos territory, to set up a short TD for Oakland. Carr had a nice hookup with Brice Butler for a late garbage-time TD, as has been this team’s main consistency. Scoring late TDs long after the game is out of reach at least makes things more respectable and builds confidence for some of these young players, but it does not address the fact that this offense is incapable of doing those things when the game is closer in score.

Next week’s matchup in San Diego is the Raiders’ final chance to prevent going an entire calendar year without winning a game. Their last victory was a squeaker in Houston on Nov. 17, 2013 — where, as you might recall, the Texans were in meltdown mode for the season. Matt Schaub got pulled from the game and argued on the sideline with Andre Johnson, Arian Foster was not in the game to begin with, and the Raiders saved themselves with an end-zone interception of Case Keenum at the end of the game. Oh, and Matt McGloin threw for 3 TDs and no INTs, and some guy named Rashad Jennings had 150 rushing yards, including an 80-yard touchdown run. (For even more perspective on how miserable the running game has been, even though Jennings has been out with a sprained MCL since Week 5, his 396 yards and 2 TDs would lead the Raiders right now. Darren McFadden leads the team with 372 yards and 2 TDs, and the Raiders’ season rushing total is only 559 yards and 2 TDs. This includes Derek Carr’s 81 rushing yards.)