The Raiders' first season in Las Vegas has officially come to a close, and what better way to close it out than a win over a division rival?
In the frigid air of Denver, the Silver and Black entered Empower Field at Mile High determined to send their AFC West foe into the offseason with one final "L". Through three-quarters of action, both teams chipped away offensively, before throwing haymakers in the final 15 minutes of action. Back and forth, the Raiders and the Broncos exchanged blows into the waning seconds of regulation.
Given one final opportunity to score, Derek Carr orchestrated a near-perfect drive with 1:47 left on the clock, completing three consecutive passes for 37, 10, and 21 yards to get the Raiders in the red zone. Trailing by six with 24 seconds left, Head Coach Jon Gruden entrusted Josh Jacobs on fourth-and-goal to power his way into the end zone. Rather than skying over the line of scrimmage, like he's grown accustomed to doing, Jacobs bounced his one-yard run outside and found pay dirt, bringing the score to 31-30.
Uninterested in going for the tie and overtime, Gruden kept the offense on the field to try for two. The connection between Carr and Darren Waller has been unwavering and on the offense's final play of the season, the two linked for the game-winning two-point conversion, but the suspense didn't end there.
Drew Lock watched Carr dissect the Broncos' defense from the sideline, and had one chance to try and pull off the upset with 24 seconds remaining. Starting at their own 25-yard line, Lock and the Broncos managed to get within field-goal range because of the Raiders' 14th penalty of the game, but they'd have to settle for a 63-yard attempt. Following the snap, Broncos kicker Brandon McManus' field goal was blocked by the Condor, Maxx Crosby, sealing the Raiders' eighth win of the season in dramatic fashion.
View photos from the Raiders' Week 17 matchup against the Denver Broncos at Empower Field at Mile High.
"Obviously very satisfying, that was the plan — that was the only plan," Gruden said when asked about the final drive and the decision to go for two. "It's a credit to our whole team though. We had some really great moments today, we had some ugly moments, but like we always seem to do this year, we hang in there, our defense gets us a stop, and our quarterback is as good as anybody I've been around in those situations. He loves the two-minute drill."
The Raiders amassed 465 yards of offense on 64 plays, averaging 8.8 yards per pass, 4.6 yards per rush, and a total of 7.3 yards per play. Even though the Broncos controlled the time of possession and the Raiders were hit hard by penalties, the team rallied together when it mattered most and overcame adversity.
On top of the win, Darren Waller and Daniel Carlson broke a pair of franchise records. Waller recorded the most receptions in a single season in team history, passing Hall of Famer Tim Brown with 107. Carlson also snapped another Raiders legend's record, eclipsing Sebastian Janikowski for the most points scored in a single season with 144.
There were several notable individual contributions this year, and while the team had postseason aspirations, there will be plenty to build around in 2021. The players and the coaching staff are eager to start preparing for next season by determining areas of improvement, and ultimately earn a spot in the playoffs.
"I'm just sad," Gruden expressed when asked about the season-ending. "I'm emotionally very sad to see the season end. These are my friends, these are my only friends, but they battled. I'm excited about the future."