Defensive End Khalil Mack
The Oakland Raiders certainly made the most of their 2016 primetime debut Sunday night, taking down the reigning Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos 30-20 at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum.
The Week 9 win was arguably the Silver and Black's best effort of 2016 to date, and following the result, Jack Del Rio's squad now owns the outright lead in the AFC West.
The Raiders will now get a little time to enjoy the win, as their bye week is scheduled for Week 10, but before the players officially get some well-deserved rest, let's look at five takeaways from the win over the Broncos.
1. The Raiders dominated the line of scrimmage
Since becoming the head coach of the Silver and Black, Jack Del Rio has stressed week after week the importance of controlling the line of scrimmage.
Well, his team not only controlled the line of scrimmage Sunday night, they dominated it; running for 218 yards against the vaunted Broncos defense, and allowing just 33 yards on the ground themselves.
"He [Del Rio] loves the big men in the trenches, and he talks about us all the time," said defensive tackle Justin Ellis. "He tells us it starts up front, which it really does."
Ellis' remarks run true, as the Raiders were able to control the line of scrimmage from the first whistle, and their dominance in the trenches is a big reason why the Raiders now own a 7-2 record, and sit atop the division.
Latavius Murray's huge day certainly helped the Raiders cause, but make no mistake about, the biggest reason the Silver and Black were able to best the Broncos is because of their dominance up front.
2. The defense showed up in a big way
The Broncos first four offensive possessions Sunday night ended as follows: punt, punt, punt, and punt, and Denver wasn't able to secure its first, first down of the evening until the 10:18 mark in the second quarter.
The sometimes-maligned Raiders defense certainly came quickly out of the gates against the reigning Super Bowl champions Sunday night, and their four consecutive three-and-outs to start the game put Derek Carr and the offense in an advantageous situation from the start of the game.
"It was huge in that first half," wide receiver Andre Holmes said about the defensive effort. "I think it was the second quarter, it was like the third or fourth drive, and [Denver] still only had like 14 total yards. That's huge for us to go out there and create a lead. We definitely could have created a bigger lead."
The early dominance by the defense set the tone early, and while Trevor Siemian did end the Week 9 loss with 283 yards and a pair of touchdowns, for the majority of the game, Ken Norton, Jr.'s unit was able to limit the effectiveness of the Broncos offense as a whole.
The Raiders defense needed to put together a quality effort against the Broncos to come away with a win, and that's exactly what it did, holding the Broncos to just 299 total yards.
3. Khalil Mack kept rolling
After recording two sacks in Sunday's win over the Broncos, Mack now has seven total, and six in the past four games, and looks to be rounding into form as the Raiders embark on the second half of the regular season.
"I was getting overstepped on the backside, and came underneath on the lineman to the inside," Mack said when describing his first sack. "On the next one, I stabbed inside because I knew he was going to bite on it, and then came outside, and tried to get the ball out."
No. 52 filled up the stat sheet Sunday night, finishing the primetime win with three total tackles, the two aforementioned sacks, one tackle for loss, one quarterback hit, one pass defensed, one forced fumble, and one fumble recovery.
If that seems like an active outing for the All-Pro defense end, it's because it was.
Mack spent so much time in the Broncos backfield that he probably should have started paying rent, but all jokes aside, I think we can officially retire the narrative regarding Mack's slow start.
4. The Tay Train ran wild at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum
The Tay Train was gassed up,and running on a one-way track to the end zone Sunday night at the OACC.
Not only did Murray tie a franchise record with three rushing touchdowns, he also eclipsed the century mark for the first time in 2016, finishing the day with 20 carries for 114 yards, boasting an impressive 5.7 yards per carry.
"He had great vision today, reading the blocks well, and he was hitting them," guard Gabe Jackson said. "I felt like he extended plays; sometimes when it wasn't a clear path, he made something happen and got loose."
Murray no doubt did that routinely against the Broncos, absorbing first contact, making something out of nothing, and putting the Raiders in positive situations all night.
"He [Murray] did a nice job," Head Coach Del Rio said postgame. "He got the hat trick, scoring three touchdowns. We narrowly missed on the one that was called back on the passing touchdown, but I know he had three running touchdowns. I thought the line gave the [running] backs room to run. I thought the backs ran hard."
5. America, get used to seeing the Silver and Black
The Raiders made quite the impression to a national audience Sunday night, as they looked impressive in their Week 9 win over the Denver Broncos.
The contest at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum was the first time the Raiders had appeared in primetime this season, and their win over the reigning Super Bowl champs served as quite the introduction on the national stage.
"Real proud of our performance in primetime tonight," Head Coach Del Rio said postgame. "I thought our team played very well in all three phases throughout the evening. Not perfect by a long stretch, but really a solid, physical effort."
Sunday night, the Oakland Raiders showed the nation what they've been building in Oakland, and the gravity of the win isn't getting lost on any of the players.
"I think it's big," Justin Ellis said of the win. "We had a challenge, a big challenge. The Broncos are still a great team, and I think we rose to the challenge, and came out with a W."
This Raiders team proved something Sunday night, and they'll be right back on the national stage when they return from the bye week to take on the Houston Texans on Monday Night Football at Estadio Azteca in Mexico City.