OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — For the past few years, the Oakland Raiders have been building a team they hoped could thrive on the big stage.
With an offensive line that dominated the trenches and a defense much improved from a porous start to the season, they sure looked the part Sunday night.
Latavius Murray ran for 114 yards and three touchdowns and the Raiders showed they were ready for prime time, beating the defending Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos 30-20.
"We’re growing to expect success," coach Jack Del Rio said. "We know we’re a good team."
In what was being billed as the biggest game in Oakland since the team went to the Super Bowl following the 2002 season, the Raiders (7-2) put together a complete effort to overpower the Broncos (6-3) and take over sole possession of first place in the AFC West.
Derek Carr threw for 184 yards and did not turn the ball over, Khalil Mack had two sacks, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery and the Raiders outrushed Denver 218-33 behind a dominant performance in the trenches.
"That’s what we do," left tackle Donald Penn said. "We try to take our will out on people and today it looked real good. Some days it doesn’t but today it looked real good. We have to keep building. We have to get more consistent."
The performance was to the delight of an energetic crowd at the Coliseum, excited to host a prime-time Sunday night game for the first time in more than a decade. After 13 straight seasons without a playoff berth or winning record, the Raiders have shown they are ready to contend in the AFC in the second season under Del Rio after overpowering the team that has dominated the division in recent years.
"We gave up 200 yards rushing today," linebacker Brandon Marshall said. "That’s definitely not the mark of a great defense, we can’t just get run over."
Oakland got off to its best start in 15 years by beating up on lesser teams, but the win over the defending champion Broncos showed the progress the franchise has made since starting 0-10 two years ago.
Trevor Siemian looked shaky at times for Denver but did throw two touchdown passes, including a short pass behind the line that Kapri Bibbs turned into a 69-yard touchdown catch and run in the fourth quarter.
But Oakland still led by 10 points despite that defensive breakdown and held on for the win.
REPRIEVE: Carr played a smart game for the most part but did get bailed out by one potential big mistake. On the play after Mack recovered a fumble at the Denver 39 following his strip sack , Carr threw down the right sideline for fullback Jamize Olawale. But the ball went right to T.J. Ward for an apparent interception. A replay review showed the ball hit the ground and Oakland kept the ball, setting up Murray’s third score.
TONE SETTERS: The Raiders’ much-maligned defense started fast, forcing Denver into four straight three-and-outs to open the game. It was the first time since 2012 that Oakland didn’t allow the opponent to record a first down on the opening four drives. Siemian started the game 1 for 8 for 4 yards before connecting on four straight completions on the fifth drive capped by a 36-yard TD pass to Jordan Norwood.
FAST START: Oakland’s offense also started quickly. Carr threw for 108 yards in the opening quarter – the second most against Denver in the first quarter in the past three years – and Murray scored on two short TD runs in the second quarter for a 20-10 halftime lead. That was the most points scored against the Broncos in the first half since Cincinnati also had 20 in a 37-28 win on Dec. 22, 2014 – a span of 29 games including the playoffs.
DANCING PUNTER: Oakland’s Marquette King had two straight punts in the third quarter downed at the 2 by Andre Holmes. King then punctuated each with a celebratory dance not usually seen from punters. In a season full of excessive celebration flags, King was not penalized on either dance.
"I just love life," King said.