The Oakland Raiders were eager to see how their retooled offense and revamped defense stood up against the mighty Denver Broncos.
The answer on both accounts: not very well. Broncos 37, Raiders 21.
The only Oakland defensive starter who was back from last year's 63-point onslaught by Denver in the Broncos' sweep of the Raiders was right defensive end Lamarr Houston. He wasn't able to capitalize on Chris Clark's first start as Peyton Manning's new blindside protector until his sack-strip in the third quarter when the Raiders trailed 30-7.
Manning exploited all that inexperience in Oakland's defense, completing 32 of 37 passes for 374 yards, three TDs and no interceptions.
His TD throws all came in the first half when the Broncos built a 27-7 lead.
Coach Dennis Allen didn't even trot out Sebastian Janikowski for a 67-yard field goal at the end of the first half, choosing instead to have Terrelle Pryor take the snap himself at midfield — and Oakland's young QB was dumped for an 11-yard sack by Wesley Woodyard and Malik Jackson on their way to the tunnel.
With Brandian Ross starting at strong safety for the injured Tyvon Branch, Oakland (1-2) had 10 newcomers on defense, including Charles Woodson, who snubbed the Broncos in free agency, and Tracy Porter, who had a forgettable season with the Broncos (3-0) last season.
Oakland fell behind 17-0 before the Raiders got their first break.
Pryor hit Denarius Moore over the middle and over-aggressive free safety Duke Ihenacho collided with cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. As they lay at midfield, Moore raced into the end zone.
Manning and the Broncos' high-octane offense didn't flinch, however.
On first down, Manning fit the ball into a tight spot to Eric Decker, who spun upfield as cornerback Mike Jenkins, who had gone for the pick, tumbled out of bounds.
Decker was finally brought down at the Oakland 19 after a 61-yard gain, and three plays later, Manning hit tight end Julius Thomas for a 13-yard touchdown toss, his third of the night and 12th of the season, breaking Tom Brady's record off 11 TDs through Week 3, set in 2011.
Manning joined Michael Vick (2010) as the only quarterbacks in NFL history to throw a dozen touchdown passes before being intercepted.
The Raiders also retooled their offense by firing coordinator Greg Knapp, who landed in Denver as Manning's new position coach. They made the change because Darren McFadden couldn't get going in Knapp's zone-blocking scheme.
McFadden came into the game as the AFC's top rusher with 177 yards, but he was held to 9 yards on 12 carries, although his last one went for a 1-yard TD.
McFadden has always been feast or famine in Denver, and on this night he certainly didn't feast on a depleted defense that was without Champ Bailey and lost safety Inhenacho and nickel back Tony Carter to ankle injuries.
Houston finally got the better of Clark when the Broncos had first-and-10 at the Raiders 13. Houston hit Manning just as he was about to release his pass and Jason Hunter recovered the fumble for Oakland.
The Raiders offense quickly moved downfield and McFadden threw a 16-yard touchdown pass to fullback Marcel Reece to make it a two-score game late in the third quarter.
Despite his poor rushing numbers, McFadden did finish with a perfect passer rating of 158.3.
Manning & Co. responded with an 80-yard drive that Ronnie Hillman capped with a 1-yard TD, and that put the game out of reach for the Raiders.
Oakland tacked on a meaningless touchdown run by McFadden after Matt Flynn came in for Pryor, who was taken to the locker room in the closing minutes after getting smashed on a play that appeared to be a fumble but was ruled otherwise.
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