In Sunday’s 37-12 drubbing of the Broncos at Allegiant Stadium, Raiders star-in-the-making Josh Jacobs ran for 112 yards and two touchdowns. Ex-Denver running back Devontae Booker added 81 more yards and two scores on the ground as Oakland finished with 203 yards rushing.
That amounted to the second-most rushing yards given up by Denver this season, behind the 210-yard gashing by the Chargers in Week 8.
The porous performance against the run negated a strong first half by the Broncos defense and, in conjunction with five turnovers, turned a close game into a rout.
“They’re a good running team, obviously, and we just didn’t play the run well enough,” coach Vic Fangio said. “Particularly if you lose your edge in a game, it’s going to show up in the run defense more so than anywhere else. I think in that fourth quarter we just weren’t as sharp as you need to be playing the run.”
Jacobs, who ran for 85 yards and two touchdowns in his NFL debut against the Broncos last September, showed up big in the rivalry once again. His 11-yard touchdown run in the first quarter set the tone early for Las Vegas, and by the time he was pulled in the fourth quarter of the blowout, the Raiders’ front was consistently getting a push against the Broncos’ 3-4 defense.
That was evident in Las Vegas’ two lengthy drives to open the second half, which ate up 5:47 and 7:41 of clock, respectively, while netting the Raiders 10 points. Las Vegas’ first third-quarter drive was jump-started by Jacobs’ 13-yard run, while Booker had consecutive nine-yard rushes on the touchdown drive that followed.
Inside linebacker Josey Jewell admitted the Broncos, playing with a re-configured defensive line that was missing all three Week 1 starters, were “soft in the run game a little bit,” especially in the second half. With Shelby Harris sidelined due to a positive COVID test and Jurrell Casey and Mike Purcell out with season-ending injuries, the defensive line consisted of Dre’Mont Jones, DeMarcus Walker, Sylvester Williams and DeShawn Williams.
“We saw a couple of (moments of uncertainty) today where maybe us linebackers or somebody else in the back end didn’t hit (the holes) as hard as we usually do,” Jewell said. “It’s going to come down to details and really understanding what gap you’ve got on every single play, no matter what defense we call.”
While Jacobs asserted himself, Booker also reminded the Broncos of his ability after the team let him walk in free agency after his rookie deal expired last year.
“A lot of the old teammates (were) talking to me on the field as I’m in the backfield, but like I said (coming into Sunday), this is just another game to me,” Booker said. “I just had to take it to them.”
Booker played four years in Denver from 2016-19 after getting drafted in the fourth round in 2016. He had six rushing touchdowns and 1,103 yards in 61 games (six starts). He had two rushing touchdowns across his final three years with the Broncos, but matched that mark Sunday with fourth-quarter scoring runs of 7 and 23 yards. He also easily ran for more yards than he did in all of 2019, when he had nine yards on two carries after seeing his role largely reduced to playing on special teams.
“Really you have to tip your hat to Booker, because in a non-offseason, he learned the offense on YouTube,” Raiders coach Jon Gruden said. “He learned the offense on Zoom meetings and he won the (backup) job at training camp and beat out a really good draft choice. It’s really good to see him have success, especially against your old team.”
Jewell believes Booker’s late take-over on Sunday corresponded with how the Denver defense “lost some energy in there somewhere” in the second half, when Las Vegas outscored the Broncos 27-6.
“We didn’t do our jobs specifically on every single play like we did in the first half,” Jewell said.