'Explosive' plays define Raiders' lost season

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'Explosive' plays define Raiders' lost season

ALAMEDA -- A constant theme throughout his 42-minute sit down with seven reporters last Friday was Reggie McKenzie lamenting the Raiders' trend of giving up big plays at, well, big moments.

The Raiders first-year general manager pointed to them as a major reason for the team's slide, which went from a four-game losing skid to five with Sunday's 20-17 defeat to Cleveland.

"Big plays kill us on defense," McKenzie said. "It's hard to win when you're giving up big plays on defense."

The Raiders define an "explosive play" as one that gains at least 16 yards throughout the air, 12 yards on the ground. Such explosive plays, though, have actually defined the Raiders this season.

And really, you could say the Raiders' best game this season was in a loss, at Atlanta.

"If I could put my finger on it, I would fix it myself," McKenzie said. "But, when you look at tape, how we attacked Atlanta, how we stopped the run, how we did not give up big runs, when you count the number of big plays in that game, you can start with that, and how we played on defense. That's why we were in that game."

Indeed, the Raiders limited the Falcons to five explosive plays in that last-second, 23-20 loss, four passes and one run. And none of the plays ended as a touchdown.

"But since then, if you look at game by game, and see the big plays, now, our D-line is not getting knocked around the ball, we're stout up front," McKenzie said. "But when you talk about run game, run defense, the one thing that you worry about is getting knocked around up front. And our guys are not. But the bottom line is, the gaps. I mean, yeah, that's fixable, but you can't let it happen. So, that's part of it right there. That and a big pass play, especially on third down, when you think you can get off the field. Too many of those since then. Especially in November."

Defensive tackle Tommy Kelly used to refer to it as the stop, stop, boom phenomenon. And it continues to this day.

"After you stop them and have a great play, good play, then all of a sudden, Wham, seven points. Easy," McKenzie said. "Kind of knocked the wind out of you, especially a team like this. We’re not at that level where we can continue to overcome (that) time and time again."

In the Raiders' five-game losing streak, the defense has surrendered a total of 49 explosive plays, 32 passes and 17 runs. Of these plays, nine have been touchdowns, with five by air and four by ground.

"We just have to work together to understand why and how (it happens)," said Raiders defensive coordinator Jason Tarver. "We have to take better angles down the field, is some of it.

"They’ve happened in zone, they’ve happened in every call known to man. It’s a continuing process to have the guys understand where their help is and have guys understand how to take angles and go from there. Sometimes younger players, when they come out of the stack or different things, don’t necessarily take the correct angle based on what’s going on."

Conversely, the Raiders have had 34 explosive plays, 27 passes (five TDs) and seven runs over the last five games.

"We're not good enough to just give guys, let alone points, but just to give them big plays like that," McKenzie said. "I'm looking for the offense to not just move the ball but score some points, get better in red zone, get better on third down, keep the chains moving, score points. More consistent special teams play, especially in coverage. I'm looking for a lot of things, but I'm looking for some wins."

A look then, at the Raiders and explosive plays through 12 games…

EXPLOSIVE PLAYS
Passes of 16 yards or more, runs of 12 yards or more

San Diego game (Lost, 22-14)
Raiders – (5) 5 passes, 0 runs
Chargers – (4) 4 passes, 0 runs

Miami game (Lost, 35-13)
Raiders -- (8) 8 passes (TD), 0 run
Dolphins – (10) 4 passes, 6 runs (3 TDs)

Pittsburgh game (Won, 34-31)
Raiders – (7) 5 passes, 2 runs (1 TD)
Steelers – (8) 8 passes (1 TD), 0 runs

Denver game (Lost, 37-6)
Raiders -- (6) 5 passes, 1 run
Broncos -- (12) 9 passes (2 TDs), 3 runs

Atlanta game (Lost, 23-20)
Raiders -- (11) 10 passes (1 TD), 1 run
Falcons -- (5) 4 passes, 1 run

Jacksonville game (Won, 26-23)
Raiders -- (6) 5 passes, 1 run
Jaguars -- (3) 3 passes, 0 runs

Kansas City game (Won, 26-16)
Raiders --  (9) 5 passes (1 TD), 4 runs
Chiefs -- (6) 2 passes, 4 runs

Tampa Bay game (Lost, 42-32)
Raiders -- (6) 6 passes (1 TD), 0 runs
Buccaneers -- (10) 4 passes (1 TD), 6 runs (3 TDs)

Baltimore game (Lost, 55-20)
Raiders -- (5) 5 passes (1 TD), 0 runs
Ravens -- (11) 10 passes (2 TDs), 1 run

New Orleans game (Lost, 38-17)
Raiders -- (12) 9 passes, 3 runs
Saints -- (10) 5 passes (1 TD), 5 runs (1 TD)

Cincinnati game (Lost, 34-10)
Raiders -- (4) 2 passes (1 TD), 2 runs
Bengals -- (8) 4 passes, 4 runs

Cleveland game (Lost, 20-17)
Raiders -- (7) 5 passes (2 TDs), 2 runs
Browns -- (10) 9 passes (1 TD), 1 run

TOTALS
Raiders -- (86) 70 passes (8 TD), 16 runs (1 TD)
Opponents – (97) 66 passes (8 TDs), 31 runs (7 TDs)

Broncos' defense proves to be too much for Bortles, Jaguars

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USATSI

Broncos' defense proves to be too much for Bortles, Jaguars

BOX SCORE

JACKSONVILLE -- Bradley Roby returned an interception 51 yards for a touchdown, helping the Denver Broncos beat the mistake-prone Jacksonville Jaguars 20-10 on Sunday and gain ground in the AFC playoff picture.

Roby picked off Blake Bortles' wobbler across the middle in the third quarter and went untouched the other way. Star linebacker Von Miller hit Bortles as he released the ball.

It was the 11th pick-6 of Bortles' three-year career and his third in the last four games. Houston and Detroit also returned interceptions for touchdowns in games the Jaguars lost by less than seven points.

The latest one resulted in a seventh consecutive loss for Jacksonville (2-10) and secured another miserable milestone for the small-market franchise. The Jaguars became the fifth team in NFL history to post double-digit losses in six consecutive seasons, joining Tampa Bay (1983-94), Detroit (2001-06), Oakland (2003-09) and Cleveland (2008-13).

Jacksonville had a chance to tie in the final minutes, but Bortles fumbled trying to make a play in the pocket.

The Broncos (8-4) rebounded from an overtime loss against Kansas City, and with Miami's loss at Baltimore, moved into position to get one of the conference's wild-card spots.

They did it without quarterback Trevor Siemian , who missed the game with a sprained left foot. Rookie Paxton Lynch made his second career start and first on the road. Denver didn't ask him to do too much. He didn't need to, either, not against the self-destructing Jaguars.

The Broncos scored all 20 points with help from Jacksonville.

Aside from the pick-6, the Jaguars committed two 15-yard penalties that led to a touchdown and a field goal. Linebacker Telvin Smith was flagged for roughing the passes on third-and-5 in the second quarter. Lynch's pass was incomplete, but Smith grazed his facemask. Devontae Booker scored six plays later, breaking Smith's tackle near the line of scrimmage and carrying safety Johnathan Cyprien across the goal line.

Reserve tight end Alex Ellis was flagged for unnecessary roughness on a punt return in the final minute of the half. His 15-yarder set up Brandon McManus' 32-yard field goal and put the Broncos ahead 10-3.

And Denver's final field goal in the waning seconds came after Bortles' fumble.

But Roby's interception was the dagger. It was huge for Roby, who gave up a late touchdown to New Orleans two weeks ago and surrendered an 11-yard catch on fourth-and-10 last week against the Chiefs.

SPECIAL TEAMS WOES

The Jaguars continued their streak of special teams gaffes. Ellis' unnecessary roughness foul gave Jacksonville a major meltdown on special teams for the seventh consecutive week. The streak includes five muffed punts - including three turnovers - a punt return for a touchdown and two long punt returns that set up scores.

GOOD COMPANY

Harris' interception was his second of the year, giving him five consecutive seasons with multiple picks. He's the fifth cornerback in the NFL to accomplish the feat, joining teammate Aqib Talib, Arizona's Patrick Peterson, New York Giants' Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Seattle's Richard Sherman.

HELPING HANDS

Jaguars receiver Allen Robinson continues to help his opponents. Robinson dropped his sixth pass of the season and his third that resulted in an interception.

Robinson bobbled a deep pass from Bortles down the left sideline, and it landed Harris Jr.'s hands for Bortles' 14th interception of the season. Robinson, a Pro Bowler last season, also bobbled passes that ended up as picks against Chicago and Oakland earlier this season.

UP NEXT

Broncos: at Tennessee on Sunday.

Jaguars: Host Minnesota on Sunday.

Berry saves the day with conversion return, Chiefs move to 9-3

Berry saves the day with conversion return, Chiefs move to 9-3

BOX SCORE

ATLANTA — Eric Berry returned an interception for a touchdown, and then brought back another pick for a 2-point conversion that gave the Kansas City Chiefs an improbable 29-28 victory over the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday.

The Falcons, rallying from a 27-16 deficit, went ahead 28-27 on Matt Ryan's 5-yard touchdown pass to Aldrick Robinson with 4:32 remaining.

Atlanta decided to go for 2, looking to stretch the margin to a field goal. But Berry stepped in front of Ryan's pass and ran 99 yards the other way to give the Chiefs (9-3) their winning margin. It came after Denver won a game in similar fashion last month, returning a blocked PAT for the winning points at New Orleans.

Berry had another huge play with less than a minute to go in the first half, picking off Ryan's pass over the middle and bringing it back 37 yards for a touchdown. After reaching the end zone, the suburban Atlanta native handed the ball to his mother sitting in the stands at the Georgia Dome.

Those weren't the only big plays for the Chiefs. On fourth-and-2 from their own 45, Kansas City faked a punt and snapped the ball directly to Albert Wilson , who played his college ball in the same stadium for Georgia State. Wilson burst up the middle for a 55-yard touchdown that extended Kansas City's lead in the third quarter.

Alex Smith completed 21 of 25 passes for 270 yards, including a 3-yard touchdown to Spencer Ware. Travis Kelce was Kansas City's top receiver, hauling in eight passes for 140 yards.

Ryan was 22 of 34 for 297 yards, but his two huge mistakes cost the Falcons (7-5). Julio Jones hauled in seven passes for 113 yards, while Devonta Freeman had a couple of 1-yard touchdown runs.

LONG KICK:
Forty-one-year-old Matt Bryant closed out the first half with the second-longest field goal of his career for the Falcons.

Barely across midfield, Bryant booted a 59-yarder that easily clear the crossbar, cutting Kansas City's lead to 20-16 at the break. The only longer kick for Bryant was a 62-yarder with Tampa Bay in 2006.

He also tied Atlanta's franchise record for longest field goal. Morten Andersen made a 59-yarder in 1995.

INJURY REPORT:
The Falcons lost left tackle Jake Matthews to a left knee injury in the first half.

Trainers put a sleeve over the knee, and Matthews tested it out on the sideline with some runs and cuts. But he headed to the locker room just before halftime and didn't return. Tom Compton finished out the game protecting Ryan's blind side.

Kansas City was again missing Jeremy Maclin, its leading receiver. He returned to practice Wednesday and it was thought he'd be able to play after sitting out three straight games with a groin injury. But he didn't dress against the Falcons.

UP NEXT:
Chiefs: Return home for a huge Thursday night game against AFC West rival Oakland, the first of three straight games at Arrowhead Stadium before the season finale at San Diego.

Falcons: Travel to Los Angeles next Sunday to take on the Rams.