Raiders vs. Broncos: 8 Takeaways from Denver's 37-21 Victory over Oakland
This Monday night game was never a "game," as the Raiders never got any closer than a 16-point deficit in the second half. From the moment the Broncos scored on their first possession of the game, the question on peoples' minds was not who would win the game, but rather, how badly would the Broncos defeat the Raiders?
Peyton Manning continued his excellent start to the season, the defense embarrassed Darren McFadden and the Broncos continued to look just fine without their two best defensive players in the lineup, Von Miller and Champ Bailey.
What are a few takeaways from the Broncos' 14th straight regular-season victory?
Peyton Manning Is on Another Level
Peyton Manning looks better than ever at the age of 37 in his 15th season in the NFL.
Manning has thrown for 12 touchdowns, without throwing a single interception. The 12 touchdowns through the first three games of the season are a new NFL record.
The four-time NFL MVP went 32-of-37 for 374 yards and three touchdowns versus the Raiders. It was Manning's highest completion percentage (86.54) for a single game (minimum of 20 attempts) in his NFL career.
The Raiders' third-ranked defense put up no resistance, failing to sack Manning and failing to force a turnover until the fourth quarter, when the game was out of reach, at 37-14.
There isn't a quarterback in the NFL who is playing at Manning's level.
That is simply scary for anyone who is lining up across the Broncos offense.
The Offense Will Be Unstoppable in the Regular Season
The Broncos offense has scored 127 points through the first three games of the NFL season—tied for second-best in NFL history.
Manning is on track for 64 passing touchdowns—which would be an NFL record.
The Broncos are averaging 42.3 points per game—the NFL record is held by the 1950 St. Louis Rams, which averaged 38.8 points per game.
How can this offense be stopped?
When the postseason comes around, it will be a different story. The weather gets colder, the competition gets stronger and it gets tougher to throw the football.
Great offenses in the regular season have historically struggled in the postseason. The 2007 and 2012 New England Patriots come to mind.
Having said that, they dominated the regular season with very little opposition.
Expect the same to apply to the 2013 Denver Broncos.
This offense will have its way with defenses until the postseason rolls around.
Broncos fans, enjoy every minute of it. This will be a record-breaking season.
Montee Ball Is Not Ready Yet
The Broncos split carries between starting running back Knowshon Moreno and Montee Ball for the third straight week.
Moreno carried the football 12 times for 39 yards. He averaged an underwhelming 3.3 yards per carry.
Having said that, he didn't turn the ball over.
The rookie did.
Ball had a solid rushing game for the first time in his Broncos career, carrying the ball 11 times for 61 yards. However, he fumbled in the fourth quarter.
The Raiders capitalized off the fumble with a touchdown late in the fourth quarter, with the game already out of reach.
That doesn't mean Ball's fumble was acceptable. The rookie has struggled with fumbles, and he has struggled to find holes to run through at the pro level.
As the season progresses, hopefully we see more consistency out of the University of Wisconsin product.
The Run Defense May Be the Best
The Broncos run defense has been the most underrated unit of this undefeated team.
In Week 2, they held the New York Giants trio of running backs to a combined 23 yards on 19 carries.
In Week 3, Oakland Raiders running back Darren McFadden rushed for nine yards on 12 carries.
How can a rush defense get any better than that?
Despite the absences of Von Miller and Champ Bailey, combined with the loss of Elvis Dumervil in the offseason, this defensive line consisting of Robert Ayers, Derek Wolfe, Kevin Vickerson and Terrance Knighton have somehow become a dominant defensive line.
Let's hope they continue their dominance against the Michael Vick-led Philadelphia Eagles in Week 4.
The Defensive Backfield Has Some Kinks
Yes, the Broncos won, 37-21.
But not all was perfect in Monday night's game. It is true that with the Broncos playing with a cushion lead, they went into a prevent defense mode for a large part of the second half. They played a lot of soft zone coverage.
This enabled Raiders quarterback Terrelle Pryor to find open receivers through open holes.
Earlier in the game, he completed a 73-yard pass to his receiver, Denarius Moore, with most of the yards being gained after the catch due to poor tackling by the backfield.
As the game wore on, Pryor completed several passes that went for at least 15 yards. He would finish the game 19-of-28 for 281 yards, a touchdown and zero interceptions before suffering a concussion.
The Broncos struggled with pass-interference penalties in Week 2's victory over the New York Giants.
Yes, with the offense playing at a record rate combined with the defense's ability to shut down the run, it has put more pressure on the defensive backfield than any unit on the Broncos roster.
And although it may not be magnified with Peyton Manning playing at an unstoppable level, while leading the Broncos to a 3-0 record, there are issues with consistency from the defensive backfield.
It has not come close to costing the Broncos victories in September, but it may if the issues continue to arise late in the season.
The Rules Favor a Passer Like Manning
With the new rules instituted in the NFL over the last several years limiting the opposing defense's ability to rough up the quarterback and the receiver, it makes it near impossible to slow down a lethal passer.
Basically, the rules favor a quarterback like Peyton Manning.
When you're already as talented and smart as Manning is when it pertains to throwing a football and reading a defense, you don't need any help.
But with the new safety rules protecting the health of offensive players, how can a defense intimidate a quarterback of Manning's pedigree?
Yes, a lot of credit goes Manning's way for his hard work and preparation.
But there's a big reason why Manning had the second-best season of his NFL career at the age of 36 in 2012. There's a big reason why he's on pace for the best single-season performance by a quarterback in NFL history at the age of 37 in 2013.
It's not just Peyton.
It's the rules that favor the passer.
Broncos' Running Back Committee
Maybe the Broncos don't have a clear bet at running back.
A week after Knowshon Moreno exploded with a 93-yard and two-touchdown game versus the New York Giants in Week 2, he came back down to earth with a 12-carry, 36-yard performance in Week 3 versus the Oakland Raiders.
Rookie Montee Ball ran the ball effectively with 61 yards on 11 carries, but fumbled on his final attempt of the game.
Second-year man Ronnie Hillman was the most impressive of any of Denver's running backs in Week 3, as he carried the football nine times for 66 yards and his first touchdown of the season.
It looks like the Broncos won't have a clear go-to-runner for the 2013 season.
It will be whoever has the hot hand.
The Broncos Are the Most Complete Team in Football
The defensive backs have kinks to fix. The running game is inconsistent.
Despite that, the Broncos are the most complete team in football right now.
An offense that is unstoppable, breaking records on a week-to-week basis led by the NFL's greatest passer in Peyton Manning? A defense that is shutting down opposing runners at a near-perfect rate, further forcing opposing offenses to become one-dimensional passing attacks? A special teams unit led by Trindon Holliday's explosive ability?
The Broncos are the most dangerous team in the NFL entering Week 4. Outside of the Seattle Seahawks, there is simply no team challenging the Broncos' supremacy at the top.
Let's hope it stays that way until January.