One of the great things about the NFL is that anything is possible on any given Sunday. There’s no such thing as a “sure win”, not matter what team you may be facing. The Oakland Raiders already surprised a couple teams this year, including Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. So despite their losing record, the Broncos certainly shouldn’t feel overconfident in facing the Raiders. If our Madden 10 sim is any indication, it’s not going to be an easy game.
The Broncos started off well enough, they forced a three and out and drove the ball down the field steadily. Then, on the 28 yard line of the Raiders, Buckhalter fumbled the ball. The Raiders drove and kicked a field goal. After that point, the Broncos offense just couldn’t seem to get anything going while the Raiders started finding a groove. Towards the end of the first half, the Broncos faced the proposition of going down 17-0 when Boss Bailey intercepted the ball and ran it back for a TD, making the score 10-7 right before the half. During the kick-off after half-time, Eddie Royal returned the ball 89 yards, setting Denver up with a first and goal from the 9. One pass later, and the Broncos were up 14-10. The Broncos seemed to find a bit of a rhythm after that, but they still couldn’t find a way to get points. Meanwhile, the Raiders continued to hang around and again were threatening to go up when the other Bailey, Champ Bailey, intercepted the ball and ran it back for his own TD. Those big defensive plays really saved the day for Denver, giving them a 28-18 win over a resilient Raiders team.
Orton threw 16 of 26 for 158 yards and 1 TD. Moreno had 55 yards on the ground with 15 carries, and another 54 yards receiving. In truth, the offense was a bit anemic and unbalanced this game, and the real killer was they missed four field goals. Granted conditions in our sim were windy, cold, rainy and snowy, but missing four field goals is just ridiculous, even in a video game. The defense really saved the day with 3 interceptions, fourteen points, and two big sacks. Hopefully the Broncos won’t struggle as badly in the real game.
[Update] Broncopalooza indeed. After a late season self-destruct by the Broncos last year led to some drastic changes and a strong 6-0 start led to some high hopes this year, the wild game yesterday between the Broncos and the Raiders epitomized just what a wild year it’s been for the Denver Broncos. Who would have predicted that Jamarcus Russell would come off the bench and lead a gaming winning drive in the final minutes of the game? Who would have guessed that despite being ahead in turnovers the past two weeks, the Broncos still can’t find a way to win even when they get turnovers? Some things you just can’t predict, and this game was no different.
In our sim, the Broncos missed four field goals. In the real game they made them, but what they really needed were touchdowns. Despite getting to the two yard line in the fourth, the Broncos settled for a field goal. I told my friend it wouldn’t be enough. Unfortunately I was right. Granted if they had gone for it and missed, the Raiders would have only needed a field goal to tie and a TD to win. But then, they needed a TD to win anyway if Denver kicked a field goal. There was plenty of time left, The Broncos weren’t doing great, the playoffs are looming; this was a time to go for it. Denver didn’t, and it cost them.
Orton, as always, managed the game well with 278 yards on 19 of 34 completions and a TD. The ground game, however, got stuffed. Moreno managed a mere 42 yards on 19 carries, and LaMont Jordan added another 27 on 5 carries, but neither were able to find the endzone. The Broncos produced a couple turnovers, an INT and a fumble, but weren’t able to capitalize on them and despite a strong goal line stand, they couldn’t keep the Raiders out of the end zone when it really counted as Denver went down in a shocking 20-19 loss.
So what does this mean for Denver? I thought they could win out their schedule and head into the playoffs on a hot streak. Now? Now I think they’re demoralized and reeling. And even if they beat the Eagles in Philly and then the Chiefs at home, do we really want a shaky Denver team in the playoffs where most likely they’ll be embarassed and reminded that they don’t really belong there? That amazing 6-0 win streak is nothing but a faded memory, like from a good dream one can’t quite remember. Instead we’re faced with the stark reality of the Denver team everyone expected this year; shaken and uncertain with a young coach and lots of room for improvement. It’s been a wild season of ups and downs and wild twists with unexpected victories and inexplicable losses. How will the final two games turn out? I’m not sure even Madden 10 will be able to tell us, but we’ll see.