Photo credit: @Raiders
By Joe Hawkes-Beamon
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.