ALAMEDA – The Raiders won Sunday’s coin toss and, as always, deferred. They prefer to let defense set the tone and give the offense a chance to kick off the second half.
The defense has been good on opening drives. Not against Denver. The Broncos marched right downfield, scoring a touchdown on an eight-play, 84-yard drive.
“That’s the worst thing you can do for an offense that’s playing with a new quarterback,” Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio said. “Now they’re feeling more pressure than they need to feel.”
Matt McGloin and the Raiders offense didn’t deal with it well. That unit struggled moving the football and punted on all five first-half series. The Raiders couldn’t run, and McGloin couldn’t get the pass game going in his first start since Derek Carr broke his fibula.
“I think (with) the magnitude and the opportunity, I think he pressed a little bit,” Del Rio said. “But at the end of the day was that the end-all and be-all? No. It’s a team game. We made it harder.”
The Raiders quarterbacks were behind from the start and never recovered. McGloin wasn’t good before injuring his neck and shoulder in the second quarter. Connor Cook had some nice moments in his NFL debut, but he had one touchdown and two turnovers in nine series.
Del Rio wasn’t overly critical of his signal callers a day after his Raiders lost 24-6 at Denver. He was more upset that the rest of his roster didn’t help those guys out.
McGloin and Cook are in a tough spot. They’ve been thrown into the fire without a safety net, no weak teams to ease a transition to the starting lineup. They faced the Broncos first, and now open the playoffs on Saturday in Houston.
The Raiders didn’t pick up their quarterbacks in Denver. The run game sagged. The defense allowed big plays and the team was penalized far too often to compete against Denver’s tough defense.
That, above all else, bothered Del Rio the next day.
“Quarterbacks are going to give us what they have and do the best they can,” Del Rio said. “We have to play well around them. We can’t expect them to come in and put us on their shoulders. We need them to come in and do their job and that’s what we expect them to do this week.”
The Raiders didn’t run consistently, with rare blocking issues against the Broncos. The defense gave up a few big plays, including a 64-yard Justin Forsett run that set up Denver’s first touchdown. They also allowed a short pass to Devontae Booker to go 43 yards for a touchdown. On 3rd-and-18. Del Rio didn’t like that one bit. It put Denver up 17-0 in the second quarter, a massive deficit that made life difficult on the quarterbacks.
The Raiders must do the opposite to have a chance against Houston whether McGloin or Cook starts the game, though signs are pointing to Cook becoming the first NFL player to make his first start in the playoffs.
“Either way, you know you’re dealing with a tough situation,” Del Rio said. “You’re dealing with your backup, maybe a third-stringer. For us, it’s so much more important that we focus on second-and-13, not giving up a 64-yard run, third-and-18, not giving up a 43-yard touchdown on a screen pass. Those are the ways we can help the quarterbacks.”