Once the Las Vegas Raiders got out of their own way, they rolled past the Denver Broncos.
The Raiders never trailed but missed out on three possible touchdowns before pulling away with 27 points in the second half for a 37-12 victory over the Broncos on Sunday at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas.
Las Vegas (6-3) increased its winning streak to three games and have won four of the last five while sweeping their first three games against their AFC rivals, the reigning Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs, the Los Angeles Chargers, and the Broncos (3-6).
The Raiders controlled the ball by grinding out 203 yards on the ground, with Josh Jacobs leading the way with 121 yards on 21 rushes including touchdowns of 11 and five yards, while Devontae Booker added 81 yards on 16 carries and a touchdown runs of seven and 23 yards against his former team.
Jacobs also was the Raiders leading receiver with four catches for 24 yards.
“I know that the game starts with the run and ends with the run. That's a testament to the O-line,” Jacobs said. “The last three weeks in a row we've had 150-plus yards on the ground. It's good to see we’re putting our dominance on the game.”
After the Broncos scored their only touchdown of the game on Drew Lock’s seven-yard pass to wide receiver Daesean Hamilton, the Raiders ran out most of the final 6:10 on seven runs by Booker, who capped a 75-yard drive with a 23-yard touchdown run for the final points with 1:54 left.
The Raiders defense forced only five turnovers in their first eight games but doubled that number with safety Jeff Heath intercepting two passes, while defensive end Carl Nassib and linebacker Nick Kwiatoski each had one and cornerback Nevin Lawson recovered a fumble.
“We ran the football extremely well and the defense had five turnovers,” Coach Jon Gruden told reporters after the game. “That’s the combination we look for. “Still, we left some plays out there.
“It’s satisfying to win, but we have to keep raising the standard. We don’t have much time to celebrate with the Chiefs coming in (next Sunday).”
Heath’s second pick might have been the biggest play of the game, as he stepped in front of intended wide receiver Tim Patrick on the goal line to pick off quarterback Drew Lock’s pass at the goal line to preserve the Raiders’ 10-6 lead only seconds before halftime.
Heath said he knew what was coming.
“I got to give great credit to the coaches for having us prepared,” Heath said. “We had a lot of good tips this game and I just saw the formation ... great job of coaches just letting us know what was coming and just being able to capitalize on that play.”
Lock, who played on despite apparently sustaining a rib injury early in the game, completed 23-of-47 passes for 257 yards and the four interceptions after throwing seven in the Broncos’ first eight games of the season.
The Raiders limited Denver to 66 yards rushing, as Kwiatkoski had eight tackles including six unassisted, cornerback Trayvon Mullen made seven including six solos, and linebacker Nicholas Morrow, safety Eric Harris and cornerback Lamarcus Joyner each had a total of five.
Morrow and defensive end Maxx Crosby each had a sack of Lock, and Crosby leads the Raiders with five after leading the Raiders with 10 last season as a rookie.
“We changed some things,” Morrow said, regarding the absence of linebacker Cory Littleton, who missed the game because he has Covid-19. “We had to do a little different personnel and tweak some of the calls, because Cory is such a versatile player and just gives a lot of flexibility on third down.
“I think the biggest thing for me is just staying locked in and believing in myself and having confidence in myself that I can make the plays that are in front of me.”
Quarterback Derek Carr orchestrated the Raiders offense, which didn’t have to throw too much because the running game dominated, but he still completed 16-of-25 passes for 154 yards without a touchdown or an interception.
“It’s kind of awesome,” Carr said. “As I get older, I let the young guys do more of the work. It’s kind of nice that we can win in multiple ways. Coach preaches it all the time, once we find what’s working, we’re going to keep doing that.
“We put 37 points up and we definitely left 21 out there and gave it away. That hurts, because I think we’re better with that. I’m excited with the way we answered. We’re proving we can win any type of way. But there’s still that taste in your mouth that there are too many big plays left out there.”
Not that Carr couldn’t have had a touchdown or two, or even three.
Wide receiver Nelson Agholor dropped a pass from Carr that should have been a six-yard touchdown and the Raiders had to settle for Daniel Carlson’s 24-yard field goal and a 10-6 lead with 1:44 left in the first half.
In addition, Carr hit the tight end, Darren Waller, behind the defense with a long pass down to the left sidelines for what could have been another touchdown, but Waller dropped the ball, and Carr threw another long bomb to wide receiver Henry Ruggs III, who also could not hold on.
Waller did catch three passes for 37 yards, including a 24-yarder, while Ruggs also made three receptions for 31 yards, including a 21-yarder.
In addition, the Raiders had a 60-yard touchdown on a punt return by Renfrow called back because of a penalty on safety Johnathan Abram for an illegal block.
Carlson kept the Raiders ahead with field goals of 52 and 22 yards in addition to the 24-yarder until the Silver and Black pulled away on Jacobs’ five-yard touchdown run late in the third quarter and Booker’s two scoring runs in the fourth quarter.
After struggling last season, Carlson is 20-of-22 on field goal attempts this year.
Booker’s second touchdown run ended the scoring after Denver scored its only touchdown on Lock’s touchdown pass to Hamilton with 6:10 left in the game, but the Raiders stopped the two-point conversion pass attempt to wide receiver Jerry Jeudy, and Booker put the final touches on the victory.
“It felt good,” Booker said. “It felt really good to go out there and beat these guys. It started off slow for us in the beginning, but in the second half we came out there and executed, and pounded it down their throat and came out with the victory.
“I couldn’t do it without my teammates and the )-line, so credit to them. We just came out and executed in the second half and got the (win).”
The Raiders defense forced the Broncos to go three-and-out on the first series of the game and Carr drove Las Vegas 62 yards in seven plays, including a 25-yard pass to Renfrow, and Jacobs scored on a seven-yard run with 9:44 left in the first quarter.
The Broncos never caught up, but it took a while for the Raiders to pull away.
The Silver and Black hopes to make it 4-0 against the AFC West when they play the Chiefs next week on Sunday Night Football at Allegiant Stadium.
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