DENVER – The Raiders set up a fake screen in the flat. Quarterback Derek Carr pump faked, then lofted a rainbow to tight end Mychal Rivera for a 16-yard touchdown that gave the Raiders a 15-12 victory over the rival Denver Broncos.
It was a big-time play by the third-year pro on a big day for Raiders' tight ends. Rivera had three receptions for 49 yards and a touchdown. Clive Walford had three more catches for 47 yards. The pair accounted for 71 percent of Carr’s passing total, which allowed the Raiders to squeak by in a close one.
Carr knew tight end production would be key in this one, especially considering Denver’s injuries at safety and talent at the cornerback spot.
“You’ve got (Chris) Harris (Jr.), (Bradley) Roby and (Aqib) Talib, those guys are three of the best corners in the whole NFL, and they’re all on the same team,” Carr said. “You’re going to have chances to go at them, take shots at them, but you’ve got to be smart about it. This is my fourth time playing all those guys, so you just know. (Offensive coordinator Bill) Musgrave did a great job of designing plays to get the tight ends involved and things like that. I thought that he did a great job at that.”
Amari Cooper was held without a catch despite eight targets, and Michael Crabtree had four catches for just 19 yards.
The tight ends were grooving, with steady production over the past few weeks. The Broncos were focused on shutting the Raiders’ explosive receivers down, leaving options in the middle of the field.
“We love our receiver buddies, but us tight ends want to be on the field all the time,” blocking tight end Lee Smith said. “When you can put two or three of us out there, we can do some different things offensively. It was nice to see those guys do their thing today. They’re hard workers and quality young players who are going to be key pieces of this offense for a long time.”
King’s big day: Raiders punted Marquette King conjured Ray Guy against the Denver Broncos, dropping a pair of unreturnable punts into the coffin corner. He helped set up a safety that turned the tide in this game, pinning Denver back to their own 2-yard yard line.
That was King’s best effort on a solid day, where he aided the battle for field position with 10 punts averaging 46-yard, and less than two yards per return. He dropped five punts inside the 20 and a few inside the ten.
King was surprisingly quiet about his big day.
“I don’t know man,” King said. “I just black out and go play.”
First-half woes: The Raiders had minus-12 yards in the first half, the worst offensive showing in a half in at least 30 years. Carr had just two completions for seven yards, but sack totals set the Raiders way back. They had just one first down in the first half and that came by penalty. The Raiders couldn’t do anything right early on, but played far better in the second half.
They scored on the third quarter’s opening drive, which put some pep in the Raiders step and allowed them to surge to victory.
“It was very important because of how ugly the first half was,” Carr said. “That’s what it was -- ugly. We all agree with that. It didn’t look like who we can be and who we are. It was very, very important for us to come down and keep that energy that I was talking about when we were in halftime and when we came out on the sideline—keep that energy up for our team. I think that our tight ends and receivers were all making such big plays, it kind of sparked everyone else.”
Defense stands tall in the red zone: Sunday’s game would’ve been over in the first half had the Raiders defense not stood tall in the red zone. They allowed just four field goals despite the Broncos going inside the 20-yard line three times in the first half. That kept the Raiders in it.
“It was so key,” linebacker Ben Heeney said. “We held strong in the red zone, when it mattered most. I think that was the reason we won the game. Hats off to our defense.”
The Raiders kept up the pressure in the second half, with three-and-outs on five of Denver’s eight offensive series.
Mack’s sacks: Khalil Mack had five sacks against the Broncos, which equaled a team record for sacks in a single game. He also became the sixth NFL player to have five sacks and a forced fumble. He’s the first player to have five sacks since Aldon Smith did it with the 49ers in 2012. He is the first Raider with three straight games with at least two sacks since 1995.
This and that: Carr threw two touchdowns against Denver, setting a career-high with 28 on the year. He tied Rich Gannon for the fourth-highest season sum in team history. … The Raiders held the Broncos offense out of the end zone for the second time this season. ... Charles Woodson had a fumble recovery, which was the 16th of his career.