DENVER — An emotional victory for the Las Vegas Raiders on Sunday ended a painful week for the team.
The Raiders defeated the Denver Broncos 34-24 in their first game since Jon Gruden resigned as coach in the wake of his email scandal, and their first game with Rich Bisaccia as interim coach.
It was also the first game that Bisaccia, a longtime special teams coordinator whose career began in 1983, worked as a head coach at every level.
“The best thing for me was to be able to get on the grass,” Bisaccia said. “The worst thing for me was figuring out the headset. Once you got on the pitch and the match started, a lot of my responsibilities were the same. There was a pretty good dialogue between myself and [offensive coordinator Greg Olson], and myself and Gus [Bradley, defensive coordinator]. … It was really a collective effort to get through the game.
“Sure, it’s emotional for everyone, right? So I think they did a good job. It’s a bunch of grown men dealing with their emotions all week and putting them into perspective when it came time to play the game “It’s a job for all of us. They seemed to be doing a really good job with it. We’ll see what happens.”
The offense resulted from Olson taking over Gruden’s playcalling duties while Derek Carr wrote his fourth 300-plus passing-yard game of the season (the only Raiders quarterback to have more such games in the first six). games of a season was Rich Gannon, who made five in his 2002 MVP season). Henry Ruggs III caught three passes for 97 yards — including a 48-yard touchdown — Josh Jacobs rushed for 53 yards and a TD on 16 carries, and the oft-forgotten Kenyan Drake scored twice, once in the air and once on the ground.
Carr has credited the team’s leadership with not being swallowed up by the emotions this week.
“More than ever, we had to stand up and be a voice,” said Carr, who threw 341 yards and two touchdowns and completed 18 of 27 passes for a 134.4 passer score, his highest rating in nearly three years. “There will be a time for all emotions, but this is not the time. If there was anything, what this did, it definitely was, it definitely brought us closer. … We needed a win this week.
“It sucks not to hug Gru’ after a game like that. Some of the plays we played, he would have been so excited, but it is what it is and we have to move forward. During those three hours, it’s definitely easier to just focus on football.”
Defensively, the Raiders forced four turnovers — interceptions by Brandon Facyson, Tre’von Moehrig and Johnathan Abram, and a fumble recovered by Denzel Perryman forced by Solomon Thomas — and Maxx Crosby had three sacks.
It was the first time the Raiders had committed zero sales, but had four takeaways in a road race since week 7 of the 1988 Kansas City season, when Marcus Allen and Bo Jackson each rushed for a TD and Vann McElroy knocked out Steve DeBerg twice.
“Crazy things always happen in this business, especially with the Raiders,” Crosby said with a laugh. “There’s no misunderstanding about it. Ever since I’ve been here, things have always been going on. But these guys that we have in this building are resilient.
“Everyone’s talking about, ‘Oh, what are the Raiders going to do now? Is the season over?’ We’ve all heard it. For us to go out and have a great week practicing and getting out there and playing good football it’s just a testament to all these guys in the locker room I couldn’t be prouder of them .”
An emotional bump after such a week was to be expected. It was unknown, however, whether it would be positive or negative. It ended on a positive note as the Raiders improved to 4-2 and ended a two-game losing streak as they prepare to play host to the Philadelphia Eagles next week before enjoying their farewells.
Bisaccia is only the second season substitute coach in Raiders history to win his debut, alongside Art Shell, who defeated the New York Jets in 1989. Tony Sparano (2014), Tom Cable (2008), Red Conkright (1962 ) and Marty Feldman (1961) all lost their Raiders debuts.
Part of the reason team owner Mark Davis promoted Bisaccia was that in his role as a special team coordinator, he was already working with players from both sides of the ball.
“Coach Bisaccia has been incredible for the Raiders my entire time,” said Crosby. “He took me under his wing since I got there. When I literally needed everything, talk about life, talk about football, I’m talking about everything, he was always there for me. I can’t say enough good things about him . I’m just glad we got the win for him.”
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