Raiders take down Broncos 27-14 in potential last game at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum

Photo credit: @Raiders

By Joe Hawkes-Beamon
SRS Contributor

OAKLAND, Calif. — In what may or may not have been the final game at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, the Raiders provided Raider Nation some much needed joy on Christmas Eve with a 27-14 win over their AFC West rival Denver Broncos on ESPN’s Monday Night Football.

Oakland (4-11) picked up their first division win of the season, the last team to win a game within their division. Additionally, the win snaps Oakland’s seven-game home losing streak on Monday Night Football, dating back to the 2002 season.

The Raiders are set to play in Las Vegas starting in 2020, but have no lease signed to play at the Oakland-Alameda Coliseum for the 2019 season. The city of Oakland filed a lawsuit against the franchise contesting the move two weeks ago. The Silver and Black are looking into options for next season, including playing at AT&T Park in San Francisco.

The NFL wants to have a resolution to the situation by early February, at the latest.

The franchise has called the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum home from 1966 through 1981, then in 1995 through now after spending 13 seasons in Los Angeles.Raiders quarterback Derek Carr finished 19-of-26 for 167 yards and most importantly, no interceptions in his last 325 passing attempts. Per the Elias Sports Bureau, that is the third longest streak in NFL history by a quarterback.

Carr hasn’t thrown an interception in 10 games, dating back to Oct. 7 against the Los Angeles Chargers. Carr threw his eighth interception at the time into the waiting hands of linebacker Melvin Ingram in the end zone.

For the season, Carr has thrown 3,864 yards with 19 touchdowns to just eight interceptions. Carr needs just 136 yards in Oakland’s season finale against the Chiefs in Kansas City for his first 4,000-yard season.

The Raiders jumped on the board early and gave their fans something to cheer about, after punt returner Dwayne Harris returned a punt 99 yards for the game’s first score. The Broncos failed to down the football at the 1-yard line and Harris alertly picked up the football, juked a few defenders and raced down the Broncos’ sideline for the score.

The 99-yard punt return for the touchdown, was the second-longest in NFL history according to the Elias Sports Bureau, tied with Patrick Peterson’s 99-yarder in 2011, and trailing Robert Bailey’s 103-yarder in 1994.

According to NFL Next Gen Stats, Harris ran 157.5 yards on his touchdown return, the longest distance covered by any ball carrier in the past three seasons.

With Oakland native Marshawn Lynch lighting up the Al Davis Torch before the game, fellow running back Doug Martin ran all over the Broncos on Monday night, rushing for 107 yards on 21 carries and a touchdown.

Martin, who was born in Oakland, scored untouched on a 24-yard run before throwing up an “O” before Raider Nation to give the Raiders a 14-0 lead in the second quarter.Oakland added a 43-yard field goal from rookie kicker Daniel Carlson to give the Raiders a 17-0 lead heading into halftime. Per the Elias Sports Bureau, the 17-first-half points were the most by the Raiders since scoring 21 points in the first-half against the New York Jets in Week 2 of the 2017 season.

When watching the first-half, it felt like Oakland was playing more inspired football than Denver, who appeared to be ready for Christmas morning rather than a football game against one of their greatest rivals.

In six first-half drives, the Broncos punted five times and missed a 58-yard field goal from kicker Brandon McManus as time expired for halftime. Denver’s offense was nonexistent for the majority of the contest as penalties crippled them throughout the night as the Broncos were called for 11 penalties racking up 91 yards.

That’s not a recipe for success in the NFL.The Broncos didn’t get on the board until midway in the third quarter when quarterback Case Keenum threw a pair of touchdowns to rookie wide receivers DaeSean Hamilton and Courtland Sutton.

Oakland would quickly respond, thanks to a 3-yard touchdown run by running back Jalen Richard, but Keenum’s two fourth quarter interceptions to Marcus Gilchrist and Erik Harris sealed the victory for the Raiders.

Keenum completed 23-of-37 passes for 202 yards and two touchdowns and two interceptions. Now at 6-9, the Broncos are assured of back-to-back losing seasons for the first time since 1971-72 which has put head coach Vance Joseph squarely on the hot seat.

Denver finished 5-11 last year in Joseph’s first season and entered this season with playoff aspirations, but have stumbled in 2018 and now have lost three-straight games following a 6-6 record.

Last week’s 17-16 loss at home to the Cleveland Browns eliminated the Broncos from postseason contention. Tonight’s performance by Denver could’ve possibly sealed Joseph’s fate, who is rumored to be fired at season’s end. The Broncos finish up the regular season against the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 17 in Denver.

Broncos running back Phillip Lindsay eclipsed the 1,000-yard rushing mark in the first half, joining Dominic Rhodes and LaGarrette Blount as the only undrafted rookies to rush for 1,000 yards in the Super Bowl era per the Elias Sports Bureau. Lindsay rushed for 46 yards before leaving the game with a right wrist injury and didn’t return.

With 1,037 rushing yards on the season, Lindsay needs just 68 yards to break Rhodes’ record (1,104) that was set in 2001 as a member of the Indianapolis Colts.

If this was the last game at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum for the Raiders, it was a fitting send off.

Not only did the Raiders defeat one of its biggest rivals in the Broncos, who came into the game with the most victories (22) by a visiting team per the Elias Sports Bureau, but Oakland made the game feel like a celebration rather than a funeral as some suggested.

The Raiders will wrap up the 2018 regular season in Kansas City against the Chiefs where Derek Carr will try to earn his first win at Arrowhead Stadium where he’s 0-4 lifetime.

Raiders travel to Denver looking to bounce back after home loss

Photo credit: @Raiders

By Joe Hawkes-Beamon
SRS Contributor

OAKLAND — After a very poor showing at home against the Los Angeles Rams, the Raiders travel to Denver to take on the Broncos in an AFC West matchup Sunday at 1:25 p.m. PT. The two teams will meet each other later this year on ESPN’s Monday Night Football on Christmas Eve in Oakland.

Last season, the two teams split their two-game series winning on their home turf.

The Raiders (0-1) fell flat on their faces to the Rams 33-13 in front of a sold out Raider Nation crowd of 53,857 at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on ESPN’s Monday Night Football to closeout Week 1. Oakland held a 13-10 lead at halftime in head coach Jon Gruden’s return to the sidelines after a nine-year hiatus, before the wheels fell off for the Silver and Black in the second half as the Rams scored 23 unanswered points to claim the victory.

In the battle of franchise quarterbacks, Rams signal-caller Jared Goff clearly outplayed Derek Carr in front of a nationally televised audience. Both quarterbacks played a handful of snaps in the preseason and there was bound to be some rust in the first game.

For Goff, he completed 18 of 33 passes for 233 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions picking up right where he left off engineering the NFL’s top scoring offense from a season ago. The Rams averaged 29.9 points per game last year.

Oakland’s defense couldn’t generate a consistent pass rush against Goff, only sacking him once in the game by Bruce Irvin.

Neither could they stop last year’s NFL Offensive Player of the Year Todd Gurley. The Rams running back looked in midseason form, carrying the ball 20 times for 108 yards. Gurley also hauled in three passes for 39 yards and a touchdown.

After a hot start to the game where he completed 20 of 24 passes for 199 yards, Carr played pedestrian finishing 29 of 40 for 303 yards and three interceptions. Carr did have good chemistry with tight end Jared Cook, who caught a game-high nine balls or a league-high 180 yards.

Seven of Cook’s catches went for first downs, which tied for the most in Week 1.

Cook’s 45-yard catch-and-run down the middle of the field in the first quarter on the Raiders’ opening drive did set up Oakland’s first touchdown of the season, a 10-yard powerful run by running back Marshawn Lynch that gave the Raiders a 7-0 lead, but those were the only real highlights for the Raiders offensively as Oakland settled for two Mike Nugent field goals.

Wide receiver Amari Cooper, who Gruden said would be a “focal point” to the offense this season, was missing in action as he caught just one pass for nine yards.

Cooper looked out of place on opening night, matched up with cornerback and Oakland native Marcus Peters for most of the night. If you go back and look at the game film, Cooper appeared open down the field on occasions but for some strange reason, Carr couldn’t get him the ball.

Peters would take Carr’s third interception 50 yards for a touchdown that punctuated a night to forget for Carr.

Oakland could find it difficult to get back on track against Denver (1-0), who prevailed over the visiting Seattle Seahawks 27-24 last Sunday at Broncos Stadium at Mile High.

Broncos starting quarterback Case Keenum completed 25 of 39 passes for 329 yards, with three touchdowns and three interceptions in his first game with the team.

Keenum enjoyed a career-year last season in Minnesota, throwing for 3,547 yards with 22 touchdowns to just seven interceptions while leading the Vikings to a 13-3 regular season record, an NFC North title, and appearance in the NFC Championship Game before signing a two-year, $36 million (with $25 million guaranteed) with Denver in the offseason.

Wide receiver Emmauel Sanders led the Broncos with 10 catches for 135 yards and a touchdown (fellow wide out Demaryius Thomas chipped in with six catches for 63 yards and a touchdown), while Denver’s ground game anchored by rookie running backs Royce Freeman and Phillip Lindsay (15 carries for 71 each), found holes to run through in Seattle’s defense. Lindsay also caught a 29-yard touchdown pass from Keenum.

Denver’s defense had a huge day against Seattle forcing three turnovers and sacking Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson six times, three by linebacker Von Miller, who finished with six tackles (one assisted).

Miller also forced two fumbles, one of which where he ripped the ball away from running back Chris Carson for a Broncos takeaway.

Linebacker Todd Davis led Denver with eight tackles.

Following Sunday’s game, both teams head east as the Broncos travel to Baltimore to face the Ravens, while Oakland invades Miami for a matchup with the Dolphins.

Sports Monday: The NFL Playoffs never lacks excitement

Photo credit: @NFL

By Joe Hawkes-Beamon
SRS Contributor

Like most football fans, I was glued to my couch for most of the weekend watching the NFL’s best weekend of the year: the divisional round of the playoffs.

The divisional round usually features the best competitive games of the year as the eight remaining teams fight for their right to play in the conference championship games the very next week; with the winners heading to the Super Bowl.

With the Falcons losing to the Eagles, 15-10, in Philadelphia to kickoff the divisional round Saturday, their will be a new NFC Champion heading to Minneapolis on Feb. 4 for Super Bowl 52.

Sixth-seeded Atlanta (11-7) was trying to make a return trip to the NFC Championship Game and eventually back to the Super Bowl after last year’s painful loss in the Big Game to the New England Patriots after dropping a 28-3 lead, but Matt Ryan and Co. couldn’t get pass an Eagles team that were heavy underdogs coming into the game even as the NFC’s top seed with a 13-3 regular season and home field advantage.

And oh yeah, Philadelphia was playing without MVP front-runner and franchise quarterback Carson Wentz, who was lost for the season with a torn anterior crucial ligament in his left knee he suffered against the Rams in Los Angeles in Week 14.

Backup quarterback Nick Foles made every Eagles fan hold their collective breaths whenever he took a snap, played efficient football throwing for 246 yards on 23-of-30 passing with no touchdowns, but more importantly, zero interceptions. Foles kept Atlanta’s defense off guard for most of the afternoon as Philadelphia controlled the football for 32 minutes, compared to 28 minutes for the Falcons. Philadelphia converted 6-of-13 on third downs, while the Falcons were just 4-of-13 on third down conversions.

But the Falcons still had a chance to win a game, but Ryan and superstar wide receiver Julio Jones couldn’t connect on fourth-and-two from the Eagles’ own two-yard line with 1:05 left in the game. Jones, who finished with nine catches for 101 yards, slipped in the end zone and saw the pass slip right through his hands. Even if Jones makes the catch, his feet would’ve been out of bounds when you look at the replay.

Jones felt that he should’ve came up with the catch and made no excuses after the game.

“It was a sprintout, a rollout to me,” said Jones after the game per ESPN’s Vaughn McClure following the game. “Trying to take advantage of one-on-one [coverage] down there.

“I don’t know, but at the end of the day, I can make those plays. I ended up on the ground when I came out of my route. And that’s a tough call [for the official] to make during that situation in the game. That was it.”

Ryan finished the game throwing for 210 yards on 22-of-36 passing. Atlanta’s franchise quarterback did throw a six-yard touchdown to running back Devonta Freeman to give the Falcons a 10-6 lead in the second half, but Atlanta’s red zone woes that haunted them in the regular season (23rd in the NFL in red zone efficiency at 49.1-percent per ESPN Stats and Info), reared its ugly head.

“Just keep on disrespecting and we’re going to keep proving people wrong,” said Eagles wide receiver Alshon Jeffrey after the game to David Murphy of the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Philadelphia (14-3) will host the Minnesota Vikings next Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field for the NFC Championship at 6:40 p.m. ET, which should be a great matchup given what the Vikings had to do to setup a date with the Eagles with a chance to play the Super Bowl in their own building, which would be the first time a team would play in the stadium where the Super Bowl is being held in NFL history.

Minnesota (14-3) had to rely on a 61-yard touchdown thrown from quarterback Case Keenum to wide receiver Stefon Diggs with 10 seconds remaining down the sideline to pull out an improbable 29-24 victory over the New Orleans Saints in the other NFC divisional playoff game Sunday. The play was reminiscent of a walk-off home run in baseball for the home team.

Diggs’ heart-pounding score sent a raucous sold out crowd at U.S. Bank Stadium into a frenzy as the stadium reached 118 decibels per reports. Diggs finished with six catches for 137 yards and the game-winning touchdown that cemented the Vikings’ first trip to the conference championship game in eight years.

“It’s a storybook ending — and it never ends that way,” Diggs said after the game to Ben Goessling of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. “Usually, it’s reality. It’s real life. Things go, you walk home and worry about tomorrow. But today had other plans. I give it all to God, because things like this just don’t happen.”

After falling behind 17-0 to the Vikings at halftime, the fourth-seeded Saints stormed back with 14 unanswered points behind two touchdown passes from quarterback Drew Brees to wide receiver Michael Thomas that trimmed Minnesota’s lead to 17-14. Thomas’ two touchdowns came within a span of 3:09 that spanned into the fourth quarter.

Following a 49-yard field goal from kicker Kai Forbath that gave Minnesota a 20-14 lead early in the fourth quarter and an interception thrown by Keenum to rookie safety Marcus Williams that set up the Saints at the Vikings’ 40-yard line, Brees threw his third touchdown in the second half when he connected with rookie running back Alvin Kamara from 14-yards out that gave the Saints a brief 21-20 lead.

Brees finished the game throwing for 294 yards on 25-of-40 passing with three touchdowns and two interceptions, both coming in the first half.

“We’re still a bit shell-shocked after what happened there at the end,” said Brees after the game per the Associated Press.

But it was the big play by Diggs, who avoided a would-be hit by Williams and never looked back as he raced for the end zone for arguably the biggest touchdown in Minnesota’s history, a perfect delivered pass from the NCAA’s all-time passing leader in Keenum, who threw for 318 yards and matched Brees’ 25-of-40 passing.

On the AFC side, the top-seeded Patriots (14-3) made short work of the visiting Tennessee Titans (10-8), winning 35-14 on Saturday night advancing to their seventh straight AFC Championship Game next Sunday in Foxborough with a dominating performance over the sixth-seeded Titans in the chilly New England weather where game time temperature were in the 20s.

After taking a 7-0 lead in the first quarter, Tennessee saw New England roll off 35 unanswered points that led to the Patriots’ dismantling of the Titans. Patriots quarterback Tom Brady threw for 337 yards on 35-of-53 passing and three touchdowns, his 10th career postseason game in which he’s thrown three touchdowns moving past Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Montana for most in the NFL per the Elias Sports Bureau.

“To be in the playoffs, to play well and to advance, that’s just really great for this team,” Brady said to Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald. “We’ve got to do it again next week.”

Wide receiver Danny Amendola, one of Brady’s most dependable pass catchers, finished with a team-high 11 catches for 112 yards. Tight end Rob Gronkowski hauled in six catches for 81 yards and a touchdown over Titans safety Kevin Byard, who predicted that Tennessee would make the future NFL Hall of Famer look like Blake Bortles.

More on Bortles and the Jacksonville Jaguars, who stand in the way of Brady from making his eighth Super Bowl appearance in his 18-year career that includes five wins in seven appearances, in a bit.

After the game, Brady was business as usual after leading New England pass by an overmatched Titans team that were doomed from the start. Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota played through a strained quadriceps muscle that he suffered on run in the first quarter that limited the Mariota’s mobility and Tennessee’s playcalling for the remainder of the game.

Mariota completed 22-of-37 passes for 254 yards and two touchdowns, but was under siege from Patriots’ pass rush that sacked Mariota eight times on Saturday night, a franchise record for one postseason game.

“Embarrassed,” said Mariota, standing at the podium after the game per the Associated Press.

“You play to win the whole thing. Yeah, it’s nice to be in the playoffs, but again, you don’t play to get in, especially coming into the divisional playoff losing the way we did.”

Raise your hands if you had the Jacksonville Jaguars heading to their first AFC Championship Game since 1999 at the start of the 2017.

Anybody?

Don’t feel bad if you didn’t because you aren’t alone, especially with the aforementioned Bortles leading the way. For most of his four seasons in Jacksonville, Bortles was the favorite punching bag for Jaguars fans (and the media) to hit for the team’s lackluster play even with a vastly improving defense with to lean on.

But the perception of Bortles is rapidly changing, especially after help leading the third-seeded Jaguars (12-6) to 45-42 victory over the second-seeded Steelers (13-4) at Heinz Field to close out the divisional round weekend. Bortles didn’t have earth-shattering numbers, completing just 14-of-26 passes for 214 yards and a touchdown, but didn’t throw an interception nor was he sacked in Jacksonville’s second win in Pittsburgh this year. Pittsburgh set a franchise record with 55 sacks this season, leading the NFL this season.

Jacksonville dispatched Pittsburgh 30-9 in Week 5 behind a punishing defense that forced five interceptions, returning two of those interceptions for touchdowns.

In that regular season game, Bortles was a non factor as he threw for just 95 yards on 8-of-14 passing and an interception, but the offense was carried by ground game as rookie running back Leonard Fournette rushed for a career-high 181 yards on 28 carries and two touchdowns, one of which went for 90 yards, the longest scoring run by a rookie against the Steelers per the Elias Sports Bureau.

This time around, Bortles appeared more confident and comfortable against Pittsburgh.

Jacksonville’s 45 points are the most points scored by an opponent against the Steelers in franchise history. Fournette scored two first half touchdowns, while backup running back T.J. Yeldon added another score that gave Jacksonville a 21-0 lead early in the second quarter before the Steelers answered with a touchdown of their own from quarterback Ben Roethlisberger to wide receiver Antonio Brown that cut Jacksonville’s lead to 21-7.

Fournette, who left the game briefly with an ankle injury, rushed for a 109 yards on 25 carries and scored three touchdowns.

Shortly before the two minute warning and with Pittsburgh on the Jacksonville 47-yard line, defensive end Yannick Ngakoue sacked Roethislisberger forcing a fumble which was returned by middle linebacker Telvin Smith that gave Jacksonville a 28-7 lead. It was Smith’s second defensive touchdown against the Steelers this season, also finished with a team-high 14 tackles.

Roethlisberger would throw a 36-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Martavis Bryant before the end of the first half, then a 19-yard touchdown pass to running back Le’Veon Bell pulling the Steelers closer, 28-21, in the third quarter.

But Bortles made the biggest play of the game in my book, throwing a 45-yard bomb down the middle of the field in double coverage with 11:55 left in the fourth quarter that was hauled in by rookie wide receiver Keelan Cole that set up the Jaguars at the Pittsburgh 3-yard line before Fournette plowed into the end zone for his third rushing touchdown that re-opened a two-touchdown lead for Jacksonville making the score, 35-21.

“These guys played with confidence all day,” Bortles said after the game per the Florida Times-Union.

Jacksonville would add 10 more points in the fourth quarter, while the Steelers played catch up (pun intended) for the majority of the day despite big performances by Pittsburgh’s “Killer Bs” of Roethlisberger, Bell and Le’Veon Brown.

Roethlisberger threw for 469 yards on 37-of-58 passes, with five touchdowns and one interception. Brown, who appeared healthy following a torn left calf muscle he suffered in Week 15 against the Patriots that caused him to miss the Steelers’ final two games of the year, finished with seven catches for 132 yards and a pair of spectacular touchdowns.

Bell finished with 155 total yards from scrimmage (67 rushing and 88 receiving) and two touchdowns (one rushing and one receiving).

“Its disheartening” said Brown per the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “I thought we had the right group of guys.”

The conference championship games between Minnesota-Philadelphia in the NFC and Jacksonville-New England in the AFC weren’t what people imagined when the 2017 season started, even though most fully believed that the reigning Super Bowl Champion New England Patriots had the strongest chance at making another Super Bowl run.

Minnesota and Philadelphia did enter the season with postseason expectations, and should be a fierce matchup led by unwanted quarterbacks in Keenum and Foles along with strong defenses, and fan bases thirsty for a major championship.

Jacksonville wasn’t suppose to crash the postseason party, but here are the Jaguars who now must travel to New England and try to dethrone Brady and the Patriots to earn the franchise’s first trip to the Super Bowl.

“I’m sure there will still be tons of people that are going to disapprove and talk negative or hate or do whatever they want,” Bortles said before the Jaguars left Pittsburgh. “But we get to keep playing and we get an opportunity to play in Foxborough next week  for another week. Just honored to be able to do this especially with this group of guys.”

“Its been an awesome year. Just want to keep it going.”

McGloin leads Raiders to victory

By Jeremy Kahn

With Terrelle Pryor out with a knee injury, Oakland Raiders head coach Dennis Allen was forced to go with undrafted free agent Matt McGloin.

In his first NFL start, McGloin threw three touchdowns, as the Raiders defeated the Houston Texans 28-23 at Reliant Stadium.

McGloin went 18-for-32 for 197 yards, as the Raiders scored their most points in a game this season.

Things did get dicey in the waning moments of the game, as the Texans were able drive all the way down the field to the Raiders’ eight-yard line; however Matt Schaub was unable to get the Texans into the end zone on fourth-and-goal, giving the Raiders the win.

Schaub came on to replace Case Keenum in the third quarter, but was unable to put an end to the Texans five-game losing streak.

Rashad Jennings, who is getting playing time due to the injury of Darren McFadden made the most of his additional playing time as the number one running back.

Jennings took a direct snap out of the Wildcat and scampered 80 yards to give the Raiders a 28-17 lead in the third quarter.

Mychal Rivera was on the receiving end of what turned out to be the game-winning touchdown, as he caught a 26-yard touchdown pass from McGloin with just over eight minutes remaining in the third quarter.

McGloin got the Raiders on the board in the first quarter, as he found Denarius Moore for a five-yard touchdown pass to give the Raiders a 7-0 lead.

Just less than six minutes later, McGloin threw his second touchdown of the quarter, as he found Rod Streeter for a 16-yard touchdown to give the visitors a two-touchdown lead.

Unfortunately, that lead would eventually disappear, as Keenum led the Texans back into the game.

Keenum found Garrett Graham for a 42-yard touchdown pass to cut the Raiders lead in half in the second quarter.

Keshawn Martin took a Marquette King punt on the 13-yard line and took 87 yards to the end zone to tie up the game with 2:54 remaining in the third quarter.

Randy Bullock then gave the Texans their first lead of the game, as he nailed a 52-yard field goal with under a minute to go in the third quarter.