WHAT WENT RIGHT
Wide Outs Getting Involved
Eric Decker and Demaryius Thomas were both effective in Thursday night’s game. Decker caught eight passes for 88 yards and Thomas caught five for 83.
“I thought Decker played great,” quarterback Peyton Manning said. “I thought we had a good mix of routes to him. We put him in the slot some when Demaryius is down or Stokley is not playing as many plays, Decker is our versatile guy. He plays inside or outside. He had eight catches or something today and I thought that was really key for him. I thought he provided some matchup problems for them.”
Thomas missed some time in the second quarter with a shoulder injury, but came back for a strong second half to catch three passes for 52 yards. His biggest catch of the game came on a third-and-4 with less than four minutes to go. Manning hit Thomas for an 11-yard gain to move the chains the offense would run the clock out from there.
Winning the Turnover Battle
Head Coach John Fox preaches week in and week out the importance of winning the turnover battle. On Thursday night, the Broncos did just that, finishing with a margin of +1.
While the Raiders were able to turn a second-quarter Peyton Manning interception into a touchdown, linebacker Von Miller’s third-quarter strip sack was one of the key plays in the win.
With the Raiders backed up inside their own 15-yard line, Miller came from the blind side and hit quarterback Carson Palmer to jar the ball loose. Defensive tackle Mitch Unrein covered it up, and two snaps later Denver was in the end zone with a 23-7 lead.
Along with cornerback Champ Bailey’s second-quarter interception that Denver turned into three points, the Broncos won points-off-turnovers battle as well.
The Raiders scored a touchdown inside the six-minute mark of the fourth quarter and cut the lead to 26-13. The Broncos offense kicked it into high gear after that, driving inside the 10-yard line with seven running plays.
“I was really proud of that last drive,” Manning said. “I thought that was really something special. I know that’s probably more of a line coach’s dream – it’s probably not exciting for anybody doing fantasy, but any time you can run the ball and make them use timeouts and continue to run the clock and end the game with a kneedown – that is something we can build on.”
The possession forced Oakland to use all of its timeouts and took up the last 5:36 of clock, culminating with three kneel-down plays.
Running back Knowshon Moreno powered the Broncos through the fourth quarter, carrying the ball 12 times for 59 yards.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Red Zone Struggles
The good news is, kicker Matt Prater was 4-of-4 and tied a career high with four field goals. All four of those kicks, however, came after Denver had reached the red zone and was forced to settle for three points.
Of the seven trips that Denver made to the red zone on Thursday night, it came away with just three touchdowns. The Broncos have been solid in that area through most of the year, scoring touchdowns on more than 60 percent of their trips inside the 20. But Thursday night showed it’s still an area that needs work.
“It’s frustrating a lot because you know you want touchdowns,” Thomas said. “That’s our goal – to score touchdowns. Moving the ball like that, you get frustrated because you’re just getting three points. We’ve got some things to work on. We’ve got a great team coming up, so we’re going to have to work on them a lot because we’re going to need touchdowns instead of three points to beat them.”
Manning Sacked Three Times
The Broncos have protected Manning well in 2012, but at times on Thursday night he was forced to take a sack after having essentially no time to find a receiver.
He was brought down three times on Thursday for -22 yards, including one sack that came on the final drive of the first half and prevented the team from going into the locker room on a high note.
“They got us on a couple blitzes at the end of the half,” Manning said. “They had a mix of zone – you never know what you’re going to get on a short week gameplan-wise. It’ll be good film to learn from.”
The Lone Turnover
While the Broncos won the turnover battle, Manning’s second-quarter interception was a blemish that he’d rather go without. The interception occurred in the Broncos end zone, so it took points off the board for Denver. The Oakland offense then drove 80 yards for a touchdown.
“It was an interception,” Manning said. “I’d love to have that one back. You’d like to get points there.”