DENVER — Jon Gruden’s red-faced resignation didn’t unravel the Las Vegas Raiders. It galvanized them.
"It for sure brought us closer," Derek Carr said after the Raiders’ 34-24 thrashing of the bewildered Denver Broncos on Sunday.
"We needed a win bad this week," Carr said. "Sometimes when you get punched in the gut it’s hard to bounce back, but we were able to do it."
Carr sliced up the Denver defense for 341 yards and two touchdowns, Maxx Crosby collected three sacks and the Raiders started the post-Gruden era by snapping a two-game skid and moving into a tie atop the AFC West.
The Raiders (4-2) gave longtime special teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia a win in his debut as interim head coach and offensive coordinator Greg Olson was masterful in his first play-calling duties for Las Vegas since Carr’s rookie season in 2014.
"The best part for me was to get on the grass," Bisaccia said. "The worst part for me was figuring out the headset."
"Oh, there’s a button on there and I have to press it if I want to talk," Bisaccia explained. "Back in the day when I wore a headset set we didn’t have all those buttons."
The Raiders began by ending an 11-game streak without a score on their opening drive. They never let up, burning the Broncos’ beleaguered secondary over and over.
"Simply put, we got our butts whooped," Broncos safety Justin Simmons said after Denver allowed seven pass plays of at least 25 yards.
Denver’s deficient offense couldn’t keep pace with the resilient Raiders. Teddy Bridgewater threw a season-high three interceptions and lost a fumble, negating his 334 yards passing and three TDs. He was hit 17 times and sacked five times.
The Broncos (3-3) lost their third consecutive game, but the other defeats came at the hands of Ravens and Steelers and their veteran head coaches John Harbaugh and Mike Tomlin.
This one had to sting coach Vic Fangio, whose Broncos have a short week before a Thursday night game at Cleveland with the possibility they’ll fall below .500 just 25 days after starting 3-0.
Von Miller embraced the quick turnaround.
"I want another shot at it super quick, so there’s no better time to do it," Miller said. "We’ve got 96 hours to get it done. I like it like this. I want to get the taste out of our mouths as fast as possible. I want to play right now and it’s a perfect situation to be in."
The Broncos’ humiliation came on a day they inducted former coach Mike Shanahan into their Ring of Fame and honored Steve Atwater’s long-awaited entrance into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
The Raiders appeared to have a season on the brink after Gruden resigned Monday night when it was revealed emails he sent before being hired in 2018 contained racist, homophobic and misogynistic comments directed at several people in the NFL.
But the Raiders didn’t seem one bit bothered by the chaos as they moved into a tie atop the AFC West with the Chargers, who were throttled 34-6 by Baltimore.
Crosby was in on five sacks, one of which came just before halftime, right after the Raiders took a 17-7 lead on Carr’s 31-yard touchdown toss to running back Kenyon Drake when linebacker Alexander Johnson never turned his head. Drake hauled in the pass and tiptoed down the Raiders sideline, capping a five-play 82-yard drive that took all of 31 seconds.
"In this business there’s always crazy things going on, especially with the Raiders," Crosby said. "There’s no mistake about it. Ever since I got here there’s always things going on. These guys we have in this building are resilient, from the coaching staff to the players to the trainers, everybody has a positive outlook on this organization.
"Everyone’s talking, `What are the Raiders going to do? Is the season over?’ We’ve heard all of it. For us to have a great week of practice and go out there and play good football, it’s a testament to all these guys in the locker room."
Drake’s 18-yard touchdown run made it 24-7 in the third quarter, essentially ending any doubt the Raiders weren’t going to let Gruden’s downfall take them down with him.
FIRST THINGS FIRST
Las Vegas opened the scoring on a 48-yard pass from Carr to Henry Ruggs III, who sped past cornerback Ronald Darby, playing for the first time since pulling a hamstring in the opener. The Raiders failed to score on their first possession in the previous 11 games for the longest active drought in the NFL.
The Broncos had gone even longer without scoring a TD on their first possession, the last one coming on Dec. 8, 2019, against Houston. They ended their 24-game streak when Bridgewater found Tim Patrick on a 23-yard pass to tie it.
Raiders LB Nick Kwiatkoski (foot) and S Roderic Teamer (shoulder) got hurt. The Broncos lost linebackers Johnson (chest), Baron Browning (concussion) and Andre Mintze (hamstring) in the first half. Johnson was replaced by Micah Kiser. WR Tim Patrick slid on the tarp and into the Broncos bench in the fourth quarter but Fangio had no postgame update on any of the injuries.
Raiders: host the Philadelphia Eagles next Sunday in advance of their bye.
Broncos: visit the Cleveland Browns on Thursday night.