By Jerry McDonald, The Oakland Tribune –
DENVER — The Oakland Raiders hit the quarter point of the season Sunday with the third-quarter blues.
The Denver Broncos broke a four-game home losing streak to their AFC West rivals with a 37-6 win at Sports Authority Field during which they outscored the Raiders 21-0 in the third quarter.
Denver quarterback Peyton Manning completed 30 of 38 passes for 338 yards to eight different receivers with touchdown passes of 22 yards to Joel Dreessen, 17 yards to Eric Decker and 14 yards to Lance Ball, while Matt Prater had field goals of 21, 43 and 53 yards.
The touchdown throws to Decker and Ball came in the third quarter, as did a 2-yard run by Willis McGahee, who rushed for 112 yards on 19 carries.
The whole notion of halftime adjustments is either eluding the Raiders coaching staff or falling on deaf ears amongst the roster. In four games, the Raiders are being outscored 55-7 in the third quarter and they were outgained in that period against the Broncos.
“I’m not sure exactly what that is but we’ve got to get it figured out because we haven’t played well in the third quarter,” Raiders coach Dennis Allen said. “We’ve got to find a way to come out in the third quarter offensively and keep the rhythm going, convert some third downs so we can even up the time of possession.”
At 1-3, the Raiders, who managed field goals of 38 and 24 yards by Sebastian Janikowski, are tied for last place in the division with the Kansas City Chiefs. Denver, 2-2, is a game back of the first-place San Diego Chargers.
Oakland has a week off to contemplate their post-halftime issues before heading to Atlanta and a passing offense which is on par with the Pittsburgh and Denver teams which have thrown for a combined 722 yards and seven touchdowns with no interceptions.
As was the case in the Week 2 road loss in Miami, the Raiders were outplayed in the first half but within reach at 10-6 on a 24-yard Janikowski field goal on the last play of the half after Carson Palmer’s third down pass to David Ausberry fell incomplete at the goal line.
The Raiders opened the second half with the ball, went three-and-out, which gave way to a 79-yard, nine-play drive with Manning going 5-for-5 for 60 yards and hitting Decker for the touchdown.
On the Raiders’ next possession, defensive back David Blount reached up and deflected a Shane Lechler punt — it traveled 2 yards — setting the stage for McGahee’s 2-yard run.
After another three-and-out, Manning took the Broncos 63 yards in five plays, throwing to Ball for the touchdown and a 34-6 lead, delighting both those fans who wanted to beat the traffic as well as those who stayed to celebrate.
The Broncos finished 10-for-16 on third-down conversions and 4-for-4 in the third quarter. The Raiders were 1-for-12 and 0-for-4 in the third quarter. Allen called the disparity the most disappointing aspect of the loss.
“My plan was to play fast,” Manning said. “We went no-huddle predominantly the whole game. The fans were rockin’ today — it was loud and I assume that probably had an issue with some of Oakland’s communication issues.”
Raiders linebacker Philip Wheeler was disappointed but as a teammate of Manning, has seen this act before.
“I guess they made some great adjustments,” Wheeler said. “That’s usually what Peyton Manning does, though. He comes out in the second half, makes adjustments, and he’s just Peyton.”
Palmer, who was 19 of 34 for 204 yards, cited the Oakland’s opening possession of the third quarter as crucial.
“They’re a very good football team and if you don’t stay on the field on offense and you go three-and-out like we did in the third quarter, you just dig yourself a whole,” Palmer said.
Defensive end David Tollefson, a member of two New York Giants championship teams, warned against assigning too much blame to one phase of the game.
“We’ve got to learn that everybody helps each other,” Tollefson said. “(Each unit) will make mistakes, but another group, another phase, needs to pick the slack up. We’re keeping the offense off the field and keeping ourselves on the field. You’re not going to win games in the league this way.” While Allen was downplaying his return to the place where he served as defensive coordinator last season, the Raiders were hoping to get a win for him.
“D.A. deserved this one,” Reece said. “He deserved that feeling of beating a past team. We didn’t get it for him. I guess the only silver lining is we’ll see them again.”