If a national television audience was at all curious about what is wrong with the Raiders, it was all on display Thursday night.
The Denver Broncos, who clinched the AFC West last week, beat the Raiders 26-13 at O.co Coliseum for their eighth straight win. The Broncos are 10-3 and looking like a team positioning itself for a first-round bye and a legitimate shot at the Super Bowl.
The Raiders, losers of six in a row, fell to 3-10 and continued a downward spiral that shows no signs of abating.
Denver quarterback Peyton Manning completed 26 of 36 passes for 310 yards and one touchdown, dissecting the Raiders much as he did in the first meeting between the two teams on Sept. 30.
Manning threw a 6-yard touchdown pass to tight end Joel Dreessen on the opening drive of the game, with Denver also scoring on a 1-yard run by Knowshon Moreno and field goals of 43, 34, 20 and 33 yards by Matt Prater.
The Raiders’ first score came on a 6-yard pass from Carson Palmer to Darren McFadden with 1:59 left in the first half to close the margin to 13-7 and give the home crowd the false impression that perhaps things would be different on the night coach Dennis Allen returned to the sidelines following the death of his father two days ago.
Then came the third quarter, which has been the end of all good things for most of the season.
The Broncos got a gift touchdown with the help of a special teams mistake and a sack-fumble of Palmer, and Prater kicked two field goals.
It was a 13-0 third-quarter for Denver, which looked a lot like a 21-0 third quarter Denver used to break open a 37-6 Week 4 win in Denver. The Raiders trailed 10-6 at halftime in that game.
The only difference this time is the Raiders managed to score in the second half, with Palmer and Darrius Heyward-Bey connecting on a 56-yard catch and run with 5:36 to play.
Palmer finished 19 of 30 for 273 yards, two touchdowns, but his two turnovers were costly. He also threw a red zone interception to Champ Bailey in the first quarter.
The Raiders defense, which had kept Denver out of the end zone since the first quarter, did it again on the Broncos first possession of the third quarter despite a first-and-goal at the 1-yard line.
It was set up by a 23-yard pass interference call by Matt Giordano in the end zone, followed by a Manning incompletion, a 1-yard loss by Moreno courtesy of Desmond Bryant, and another Manning incompletion.
Prater came on to kick a 20-yard field goal, a moral victory of sorts.
The problem came on the ensuing kickoff, when Mike Goodson decided to take the ball out deep in his own end zone. He made it as far as the 8-yard line, and faced with third-and-6 at the 12, disaster struck.
Denver outside linebacker Von Miller blew past Khalif Barnes to hit Palmer for a sack fumble, with Mitch Unrein recovering at the 2-yard line. Moreno scored from the 1 two plays later for a 23-7 Broncos lead.
A diving interception by Phillip Adams and ensuing 80-yard drive engineered by Palmer helped the Raiders go into halftime feeling they had a chance.
Manning, who completed 16 of 22 passes for 201 yards in the first half, looked poised to have the Broncos up 20-0 with a first-and-10 at the Oakland 28 following four consecutive rushes by Moreno totaling 26 yards.
On first-and-10 from the 28, looked to have Willis breaking free in the end zone on the right side. Adams, however, made up ground, laid out for the slightly under-thrown ball, and caught it on a dive in the end zone.
Taking over the 20-yard line, Palmer completed 9 of 11 passes for 73 yards before the touchdown pass to McFadden. It came on third-and-2 from the 6-yard line on a beautifully called and conceived screen pass to the left.
The elapsed time of 6:33 made it the longest drive in terms of time for the Raiders this season.
The Raiders were trailing by only seven points because twice the Broncos were forced to settle for 43 and 34 yard field goals by Prater because of timely sacks.
The first came by Lamarr Houston late in the first quarter, coming up the middle on third-and-8 from the 14.
Denver made it as far as the 10 on its next possession until Desmond Bryant sacked Manning for a 6-yard loss on second-and-9, with Manning throwing incomplete on third-and-15.
On Denver’s last possession of the first half, a safety blitz from Mike Mitchell with Denver at the Oakland 49 helped diffuse Manning’s effort to tack on a score after the Raiders had scored their lone touchdown.
Manning guided the Broncos on an effortless 68-yard scoring drive on the first possession of the game. He completed passes of 16 yards to Eric Decker on third-and-6 and 26 yards to Moreno on third-and-10.