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Raiders beat broncos 2021

David Zalubowski) / Associated Press

Las Vegas Raiders defensive end Maxx Crosby (98) against the Denver Broncos during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 17, 2021, in Denver.

Denver — 

Maxx Crosby kept getting so close.

After a two sack, five quarterback hit performance that earned him AFC Defensive Player of the Week honors in Week 1, the Raiders’ star edge rusher had been shut out of the sacks column for three straight games. He was making his presence felt and supplying constant pressure, but not finding the results he wanted.

Raiders defensive coordinator Gus Bradley told him not to get frustrated, urged him to maintain the same process with the promise that the sacks would eventually “come in bunches.” They came in bunches Sunday afternoon at Empower Field at Mile High as Crosby nabbed a career-high three sacks — he was at four before a stat correction changed two of them to split-sacks — to lead the Raiders to a 34-24 victory over the Broncos.

“We’ve been rushing really well; we just haven’t finished,” Crosby said. “Today, we finished.”

That sentiment applies to more than the pass rush according to interim coach Rich Bisaccia; it fits for the whole team. While many questioned whether Las Vegas was now embarking on a lost season after offensive emails that started surfacing two weeks ago forced coach Jon Gruden to resign on Monday night, Bisaccia said his team’s resolve never waned.

The Raiders were adamant that their poor performance last week against the Bears, which resulted in a second straight loss, was not the result of a Gruden distraction but rather an off-day. The best way to prove it was going to be for the Raiders to come in against the Broncos and get back to the level that saw them start the season 3-0.

They managed just that, never trailing in a dominant win that improved them to 4-2 on the year and tied for the AFC West lead, though the Los Angeles Chargers currently hold to head-to-head tiebreaker.

“We don’t feel like effort has been an issue at all this year,” Bisaccia said. “We feel like we have a good team. We have a good team that competes with itself all the time. We thought we had a really good practice Wednesday and Thursday, and they played a lot like they practiced.”

Bisaccia, the former assistant head coach/special teams coordinator promoted in absence of Gruden, downplayed the personal significance of the win even though he had waited 38 years for his first head-coaching opportunity. A few changes were noticeable with Bisaccia.

For one, he was on the field nearly three hours before kickoff with the special-teamers — and it may have paid off. Kicker Daniel Carlson and punter A.J. Cole proved to be an important part of the win.

The former made two of three field-goal attempts, including a 50-yarder on the Raiders’ second possession, while the latter continued a hot start to the year by continually giving the visitors an edge in field position. Bisaccia’s biggest issue came at kickoff when he couldn’t figure out his headset to communicate with the likes of Bradley and offensive coordinator Greg Olson.

“Back in the day when I wore it, we didn’t have all those buttons,” Bisaccia said.

Based on how smoothly the offense operated, Olson may not have needed any help in his return to playcalling. The Raiders fielded their most efficient attack of the season, averaging 8.2 yards per play and jumping on the Broncos from the onset.

They scored on their opening drive for the first time in 12 games, dating back to last season, when Derek Carr connected with Henry Ruggs III on a deep shot that turned into a 48-yard touchdown.

“We just pretty much knew what we’ve got to do,” Ruggs said. “Week in and week out, we know we’ve got to start fast. We just needed somebody to step up and give us that spark and that’s what I did.”

Crosby’s first sack came a few plays later on Denver’s first possession to set the tone for the rest of the afternoon. Although the Broncos scored later on the drive —a 23-yard touchdown pass from Teddy Bridgewater to Tim Patrick — they didn’t do much again until the score was out of reach.

Las Vegas cornerback Brandon Facyson ended Denver’s second drive prematurely, with an interception on a pass Bridgewater threw over the head of his receiver on his own side of the field. The takeaways didn’t stop, as Las Vegas had three others after failing to register a turnover against Chicago and therefore emphasized them this week.

Safeties Tre’von Moehrig and Jonathan Abram had late-game interceptions while defensive tackle Solomon Thomas forced a key fumble that Denzel Perryman recovered late in the third quarter.

“It just shows the way coach Bradley can lead a group of men is amazing,” Crosby said. “It’s truly special.”

Thomas’ forced fumble gave the Raiders offense a short field, which they capitalized on with a five-play, 42-yard drive that included another long pass to Ruggs and was capped by a three-yard rushing touchdown by Josh Jacobs. Las Vegas’ ground game got on track under Olson and Bisaccia with passing-down running back Kenyan Drake even outshining Jacobs, who had 53 yards on 16 carries.

Drake left a slow start to the season behind him with 63 all-purpose yards, including an 18-yard touchdown rush and a 31-yard touchdown catch in back-to-back scores that helped the Raiders pull away in the third quarter.

“I’m just trying to make the most of my opportunities whenever my name is called,” Drake said. “We just wanted to stay together and block out the noise.”

That started with Carr, who stressed moving forward all week to his teammates despite being “heartbroken” about Gruden’s exit. He responded by throwing completing 18 of 27 pass attempts for 247 yards with no (even near) interceptions.

He admitted to wanting to hug Gruden after the game but was thrilled with the way the team stayed together amid the turmoil.

“It for sure brought us closer with the guys in meetings and all that kind of stuff,” Carr said. “I’m proud of where we’re at, to go out for our organization to get a win. We needed a win bad this week. Sometimes when you get punched in the gut, it’s hard to bounce back but we were able to do it.”

Crosby was the only player who mentioned being driven by, “getting a win for Coach Rich.” And he might have ended up being the most responsible for the victory with consistent pressure on Bridgewater that resulted in one final sack at the end of the game as the Broncos tried for a miracle comeback.

Crosby has stayed the course all season no matter what has gotten in his way. So has his team.

“In this business, there’s always crazy things going on — especially with the Raiders,” Crosby joked. “There’s no mistake about it. Ever since I got here there are always things going on but these guys we have in this building are resilient.”

Case Keefer can be reached at 702-948-2790 or [email protected]. Follow Case on Twitter at Keefer can be reached at 702-948-2790 or

Article written by #LasVegasSun


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