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Raiders lose to Broncos, 26-13, for 6th straight loss

Denver's Mitch Unrein, left, goes after Carson Palmer's fumble during Thursday night's game at Oakland.

KENT PORTER / The Press Democrat
Published: Thursday, December 6, 2012 at 8:28 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, December 7, 2012 at 7:52 a.m.

OAKLAND — It wasn't close, it wasn't really a blowout. It wasn't what you'd call exciting, nor was it devoid of big plays. The Denver Broncos' 26-13 victory over the Raiders at O.co Coliseum on Thursday night was a lot like most observers of AFC West football figured it would be: a clinical dissection of a highly flawed team, by a clearly superior opponent.

The Raiders certainly had their moments. They got a few well-timed sacks against Peyton Manning, a long touchdown by Darrius Heyward-Bey and a long-anticipated one by Darren McFadden, and an impressive goal-line stand.

And yet the Broncos never seem truly threatened. Every time the Raiders did something good, Manning and his teammates went a step better. It isn't hard to figure out why Denver (10-3) is riding an eight-game winning streak, while Oakland (3-10) is mired in a six-game losing streak.

Both teams were 8-8 last year. This year a huge gulf separates them, and there is no obvious explanation other than Manning. In his 15th year, but his first with the Broncos, he remains the NFL's ultimate tactician.

Manning put on another clinic Thursday. His passer rating (95.8) was lower than Carson Palmer's (101.1), which may be the best argument against passer rating as a diagnostic tool. Manning called every play without a huddle, waving and pointing furiously at the line of scrimmage as he audibled. He got the Broncos lined up for snaps at an incredible rate when he needed to, and milked every millisecond off the clock when he was working with a comfortable lead.

Manning completed 26 of 36 passes for 310 yards, and was especially deadly on third down, helping the Broncos convert 7 of 14. Denver wound up with 30 first downs.

“Peyton Manning is a Hall of Fame quarterback,” Raiders coach Dennis Allen said. “So he does that to a lot of teams. But obviously that was the critical variable, I thought, defensively in the football game, is that we didn't do a good enough job of getting off the field on third down.”

As linebacker Philip Wheeler said: “He's a great quarterback, as in calling the right plays for the right situations. That's still not an excuse. ... I feel like we just got to get off the field on third downs, man. We can't have those long drives. When we got long drives, the pass rush starts to get tired.”

Long drives? The Broncos got the ball with 5:36 left in the game, up 13 points, and never gave it back. They got to the Oakland 9-yard line before Manning took a knee three times to kill the clock.

Twice, the Raiders seemed to gain momentum and climb back in this game. They couldn't sustain it either time.

The first parry came in the second quarter. The Broncos has scored on their first three possessions, and looked to be well on their way to a fourth when Manning hung a pass to Matthew Willis down the right side, and cornerback Phillip Adams stole the ball with a diving catch.

Adams' interception seemed to get the offense flowing. Palmer passed the Raiders down the field and on third-and-2 from the Denver 6-yard line, pumped right and then tossed left to McFadden on a screen pass. The running back waltzed in for a touchdown, cutting the score to 13-7. That's where it stood at halftime.

After the Raiders went three-and-out to start the third quarter, Manning marched his team down the field, and set up at the Oakland 1 after a pass interference penalty on safety Matt Giordano. It was there the Raiders mounted a plucky goal-line stand. They kept the Broncos out of the end zone on three plays, and Denver settled for Matt Prater's 20-yard field goal.

Down 16-7, inspired by the defensive effort, the Raiders had a chance to mount a rally. Instead, they surrendered the biggest play of the game. On third down, Von Miller — the Broncos' heat-seeking linebacker who had been eerily quiet to that point — charged around right tackle Khalif Barnes to hit Palmer, who dropped the ball. Mitch Unrein recovered for the Broncos at the Oakland 2.

“Being in that situation, backed up like that, I've got to throw the ball out of bounds,” Palmer said. “I didn't have the guy that I wanted to throw it to open, and I tried to pull the ball back and throw it to another guy. Obviously, looking back on it now, I wish that I would've just chucked it out of bounds.”

Knowshon Moreno scored on a push up the middle two plays later, and just like that it was 23-7 Denver, too much for the sluggish Raiders to overcome.

The loss capped a crushing week for Allen. He oversaw a dismal home loss to the Browns on Sunday, flew to Dallas-Fort Worth to be with his ailing father Grady after that game, lost his dad on Tuesday and returned to Oakland in time for another defeat. In between, he had to endure rumors of Jon Gruden's imminent return to coach the Raiders.

“I went home Sunday and took my father off life support and that's not easy to do,” Allen said. “So was it hard? Yeah, it was hard. But I know my father would want me to be here with this football team. And I wanted to be here with this football team. I'm sure you guys can imagine that it wasn't an easy situation.”

The Raiders got more bad news when McFadden, who missed four games with an ankle sprain, left the game late after injuring the same ankle. Allen did not know McFadden's status immediately following the contest.

You can reach Staff Writer Phil Barber at 521-5263 or phil.barber@pressdemocrat.com.

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