Derek Carr sliced up the Denver defense for 341 yards and two touchdowns, Maxx Crosby made three sacks and the Las Vegas Raiders started the post-Jon Gruden era with a 34-24 thrashing of the bewildered Broncos on Sunday.
The Raiders (4-2) gave longtime special teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia a win in his debut as interim head coach and offensive coordinator Greg Olson was masterful in his first play-calling duties for Las Vegas since Carr’s rookie season in 2014.
The Raiders began by ending an 11-game streak without a score on their opening drive. They never let up, burning the Broncos’ beleaguered secondary that couldn’t keep up with Carr and his targets.
Nor could Denver’s deficient offense keep pace. Teddy Bridgewater threw a season-high three interceptions and lost a fumble, negating his 334 yards passing and three TDs.
The Broncos (3-3) lost their third consecutive game, but the other defeats came at the hands of Ravens and Steelers and their veteran head coaches John Harbaugh and Mike Tomlin.
This one had to sting coach Vic Fangio, whose Broncos have a short week before a Thursday night game at Cleveland with the possibility they’ll fall below .500 just 25 days after starting 3-0.
Moreover, the Broncos’ humiliation came on a day they inducted former coach Mike Shanahan into their Ring of Fame and honored Steve Atwater’s long-awaited entrance into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
The Raiders appeared to have a season on the brink after Gruden resigned Monday night when it was revealed emails he sent before being hired in 2018 contained racist, homophobic and misogynistic comments directed at several people in the NFL.
But the Raiders didn’t seem one bit bothered by the chaos as they moved into a tie atop the AFC West with the Chargers, who were throttled 34-6 by Baltimore.
Crosby was in on four sacks — he had two himself and two he shared — one of which came just before halftime, right after the Raiders took a 17-7 lead on Carr’s 31-yard touchdown toss to running back Kenyon Drake. Linebacker Alexander Johnson never turned his head as Drake hauled in the pass and tiptoed down the Raiders sideline, capping a five-play 82-yard drive that took just 31 seconds.
Drake’s 18-yard touchdown run made it 24-7 in the third quarter, essentially ending any doubt Bisaccia’s head coaching debut after spending two decades as a special teams coordinator would be a success.
Las Vegas opened the scoring on a 48-yard pass from Carr to Henry Ruggs III, who sped past cornerback Ronald Darby, playing for the first time since pulling a hamstring in the opener. The Raiders failed to score on their first possession in the previous 11 games for the longest active drought in the NFL.
The Broncos had gone even longer without scoring a TD on their first possession, the last one coming on Dec. 8, 2019, against Houston. They ended their 24-game streak when Bridgewater found Tim Patrick on a 23-yard pass to tie it.
Daniel Carlson’s 50-yard field goal put Las Vegas up 10-7, but he hit the right upright on a 43-yarder as the Raiders failed to capitalize on cornerback Brandon Facyson’s interception at midfield.
The Raiders didn’t fritter away linebacker Denzel Perryman’s recovery of Bridgewater’s fumble in the second half. They cashed in on Josh Jacobs’ 3-yard touchdown jaunt after Ruggs hauled in a 40-yard pass at the Denver 4 with Darby flailing at the floater.
The Broncos challenged the catch but lost — just as they were denied their challenge when they argued Noah Fant came down in the end zone with a 14-yard reception that would have pulled them within seven points in the third quarter.
Raiders LB Nick Kwiatkoski (foot) went out in the first half and S Roderic Teamer (shoulder) early in the fourth period. The Broncos announced at halftime that Johnson (chest) was out along with rookies linebackers Baron Browning (concussion) and Andre Mintze (hamstring). Johnson was replaced by Micah Kiser. Patrick slid on the tarp and into the Broncos bench in the fourth quarter and it appeared trainers were looking at his left leg.
Raiders: host the Philadelphia Eagles next Sunday in advance of their bye.
Broncos: visit the Cleveland Browns on Thursday night.