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Six observations from the Raiders' Week 17 loss to the Denver Broncos

The Oakland Raiders entered Sunday's regular season finale with a chance to keep their postseason hopes alive, but unfortunately for the Silver and Black, they're flying back to Northern California with a 7-9 record and officially on the outside looking in at the AFC Playoff race.

Ultimately, the team's result didn't technically keep the Raiders out of the postseason – a Tennessee Titans win sealed the Silver and Black's fate – but all the same, Head Coach Jon Gruden's squad was unable to wrap up 2019 on a positive note.

While the Raiders did battle tough, they ran out of gas late, eventually falling to the Broncos 16-15.

Here are six observations from the game.

1. D. Wash and Jalen step up, again

For the second week in a row, the Raiders' offense was without the services of their all-world rookie Josh Jacobs.

But, for the second week in a row, the tandem of DeAndré Washington and Jalen Richard stepped up and played admirably in the absence of No. 28.

Combined, the duo carried the ball 20 times for 97 yards, adding in 10 receptions for 94 yards as well.

Derek Carr has been consistent in his messaging all year, saying that the Raiders have three running backs capable of being starters in the league, and that very much appeared to be the case against the Broncos.

2. Once again, the defense started fast

Last week, Paul Guenther's defense started the game about as well as you could hope for, and they continued that trend Sunday in Denver, forcing a three-and-out on the Broncos' first possession of the day, ultimately taking full advantage of the fact that the Raiders' deferred after winning the opening coin toss.

The Silver and Black surrendered just 24 yards in the first quarter, and that number had grown to just 108 at the half, But, even so, the Raiders found themselves in a seven-point hole at the intermission, a margin they were unable to close over the final 30 minutes of game action.

Consistency has evaded the Oakland defense at times this season, but give the group credit, over the past several weeks, they've really found their collective rhythm, and even though the Raiders lost Sunday, it's hard to point at the play of the defense as the only reason why.

3. Maxx Crosby kept feasting

Now that the regular season has officially come to an end, let's sit back for just a second and reflect on what an incredible rookie campaign Maxx Crosby had for the Silver and Black.

All throughout the draft process, Crosby was told that he was too slight of frame, he needed to get bigger, faster, and stronger, and that his transition to the NFL would be a challenging one.

Well, the rookie from Eastern Michigan silenced all those critics, finishing his first season as a pro with ten sacks, notching one-and-a-half more in the regular season finale in Denver.

Crosby added another tackle for loss just for good measure, and was active around the football all afternoon.

Major props, to Mike Mayock, Jon Gruden and their respective staffs for doing their due diligence on Crosby during the draft process and selecting him at No. 106 overall.

Number 98 more than lived up to expectations as a rookie, and I have a feeling 2020 is going to be a big year for him.

4. Darren Waller continues to show his versatility

I feel like we've had a handful of games in 2019 we've dubbed the "Darren Waller Game," but the athletic tight end once again was a man possessed Sunday afternoon, and he really did take over the ballgame – particularly in the first half.

Waller, who has been one of the best stories in the NFL this season, eclipsed the 100-yard mark in the first quarter against the Broncos, and he really made his impact felt in a variety of ways.

Whether it was in short, and intermediate routes, as a playmaker down the field, or as a blocker, Waller really did it all Week 17.

Now with his first full season in Silver and Black officially in the books, Waller has shown that he is indeed one of the best tight ends in the NFL and will likely be a foundational piece of the Raiders' offense going forward.

We better see this man in Orlando in a few weeks for the Pro Bowl.

5. The Raiders dealt with red zone struggles all afternoon

The red zone was not particularly kind to the Raiders on Sunday afternoon.

In the first half alone, Derek Carr and Co., made three trips inside the Denver 20-yard line, but they left with just three points, as their two other drives resulted in a missed field goal and a questionable (at best) ruling on an Alec Ingold fourth down carry.

Now, did those plays – along with yet another questionable ruling on a would-be Hunter Renfrow touchdown – playa huge role in Sunday's game? No doubt.

Were they the reason the Raiders lost? Well, that's for you to decide, but all the same, the Silver and Black didn't take full advantage of their chances at Empower Stadium, and I'm sure that'll stick in the craw of the team as they fly back home.

6. Drew Lock did enough to win

Did the Broncos' rookie quarterback look like the second coming of John Elway Sunday afternoon in Denver? Not necessarily, but give him credit, because he did enough for his team to win the ballgame.

By game's end, Lock completed 17 of his 28 attempts, good for 177 yards and a touchdown.

Is the former Missouri Tiger going to be the answer long term for the Broncos? Well, that remains to be seen, but he certainly locked like a signal-caller in control against the Raiders.

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