DENVER – The Raiders ran 43 times in their previous meeting with Denver. Left tackle Donald Penn estimates nearly half of those were the same play, with a back finding space between him and guard Kelechi Osemele. The Raiders kept running it because the Broncos knew the call and couldn’t stop it.
The Silver and Black rushed for 218 yards and three touchdowns in a dominant victory, totals they’d love to replicate in Sunday’s rematch. The Broncos are expecting a carbon copy, and should add numbers to their run defense. That seems especially likely given that Matt McGloin will start at quarterback for an injured Derek Carr against an all-world Broncos secondary comfortable in single coverage.
That could create favorable matchups downfield. As proven during the last meeting, head coach Jack Del Rio likes to run when the world knows what’s coming.
The Raiders have done that well, with a hulking offensive line and three running backs that churn out 124.3 yards per game. That’s fifth in the NFL. They’ve only finished below average five times, and have exceeded 130 yards in each of the last four games.
The Raiders are capable of being bullies up front and playing old school football if it’s required to win or create better matchups in the passing game. The ground attack would become McGloin’s best friend if he shouldered a significant load on Sunday afternoon in Denver.
“I’m not sure how defenses want to look at us with Matt in there, but we need to run the ball well regardless of who is taking the snaps,” running back Latavius Murray said. “We’re going to continue to get better there and need to be better now more than ever.
"If we can be the spark to this offense, the sky's the limit. We want the ball in our hands. We're up for the challenge.”
Offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave wants to stay balanced on offense, but running well and often would take some pressure off McGloin, making the sudden transition from Carr to his backup a bit easier.
“I think everyone’s taking a little more on their shoulders because Derek went down,” running back DeAndre Washington said. “He’s a vital leader of this team. He’s the MVP of this team. When someone like that goes down, everybody else needs to step up.”
The Raiders have three attack dogs that want to get the ground game going early against Denver. Murray leads the pack and has 12 touchdowns, but rookie Jalen Richard and Washington have been valued contributors who take yards in chunks. In fact, Richard and Washington have an equal number of carries average a combine 5.7 yards per carry.
Washington took control last week against Indianapolis, 99 yards and his first two professional touchdowns on just 12 carries.
That was a positive sign for Washington, who was a healthy scratch in Weeks 11-12 and didn’t have a carry in Week 13. He wasn’t inactive due to performance. He lost a numbers game, with the Raiders filling in for injured defensive backs.
“A couple of guys talked to me. I was a little down,” Washington said. “They told me it’s a long season. It’s like I said, you never know when you’re going to be needed. Today we were all needed as a group. I’m glad we had good success running the ball (against Indianapolis).”