OAKLAND - One Denver Broncos' star cornerback fought a teammate during the week in practice.
Another star cornerback fought his old nemesis in the game here Sunday.
If only the Denver Broncos could start winning fights as scored by the NFL.
The Broncos did rally late behind Trevor Siemian in hopes of avoiding its seventh consecutive loss but lost the Oakland Raiders, 21-14, here are at soggy Oakland Coliseum. The Broncos and the Pittsburgh Steelers had been the only NFL teams since the 1970 merger that had never suffered a seven-game losing streak.
The Steelers are now alone with that distinction. The Broncos fell to 3-8.
New Broncos quarterback Paxton Lynch looked promising in his first start of the season until he threw a devastating interception in the end zone on a second-and-goal play from the 1. Lynch finished 9 of 14 for 41 yards as the Broncos accumulated just 66 yards in total offense after three quarters.
“I thought I played pretty well,'' Lynch said. "There were some plays that I had opportunity to make and I made. There were also some plays that I just missed. This was the first week I had played with all these guys in a while. It felt good out there to get out there and play with them, but obviously this isn’t the result we all wanted.”
After completing a short pass to Emmanuel Sanders in the third, Lynch came up limping on his right ankle. Siemian replaced Lynch and led the Broncos on two fourth quarter touchdown drives, throwing a 25-yard score to Cody Latimer and 22-yard touchdown to Bennie Fowlier III.
A 21-0 deficit was suddently 21-14. The Broncos couldn't get the ball back, though, as Raiders quarterback Derek Carr converted a gutsy third-and-8 pass from his own 15 by lofting a pass Cordarrelle Patterson caught and ran for a game-clinching 54 yards.
"Yeah, that was a dagger,'' said Broncos' outside linebacker Von Miller, before going through other plays earlier in the game the defense missed. "It was just little situations and little moments like that we've been failing at all season. It's just a tough deal. It's just a tough deal we have right now.''
The Raiders' defense entered the game ranked last in the NFL with zero interceptions and 14 sacks. Oakland had the end zone pick and four sacks against Lynch.
Who was proclaimed the victor during the altercation between veteran Pro Bowl defensive back Chris Harris Jr. and rookie receiver Isaiah McKenzie on Thanksgiving didn’t matter much because it happened during practice.
The problem with fighting during a game is Aqib Talib got ejected. The Raiders had two players kicked out – receiver Michael Crabtree and guard Gabe Jackson – but Oakland quarterback Derek Carr picked on Talib’s replacement, rookie Brendan Langley, in each of his first, two touchdown drives.
The game wasn’t 4 minutes old when adversaries Talib and Crabtree were ejected for fighting.
It started when Crabtree delivered a blow to Harris Jr. on a running play. On the next play, Talib was covering Crabtree.
Some context here. In the final game of the 2017 season, Talib ripped a gold chain off Crabtree’s neck.
So a play after Talib noticed Harris getting a blow from Crabtree, what did he do? He engaged with Crabtree and again – AGAIN! – nabbed the receiver’s necklace.
“Oh did (Crabtree) have another chain on?'' said Broncos linebacker Brandon Marshall, smiling while learning the detail of the incident. "Oh wow. Talib is a bully man.''
Crabtree lost it. He went after Talib, grabbing him while still in the field of play. The skirmish moved out of bounds, toward the end zone.
It appeared Talib, showing off some decent boxing mechanics, delivered a nice punch at Crabtree, who had wound up helmetless. Crabtree threw a punch back at Talib as the two were in the end zone. Talib deftly slipped the punch, but not the officials' notice of misconduct.
Crabtree, Talib and Jackson were ejected. Jackson had pushed an official. As Talib was going toward his locker room, he had to pass through the Raiders’ sideline. A potentially contentious deal there until Raiders running back Marshawn Lynch ran over and helped escort Talib through the enemy bench.
Talib wasn't available to the media after the game.
“We can’t lose our best players because of personal battles,'' said Broncos head coach Vance Joseph. "That’s a personal battle. This is about the Broncos, so it’s unacceptable. We can’t have it. It’s non-negotiable. Obviously, losing one of our best players and playing a young guy, it hurt us tonight so we can’t have it. We talk about those things all the time and we can’t have it. Unacceptable.”
It was 0-0 after the first quarter but the Broncos were in great shape as Shaq Barrett strip-sacked Carr. Barrett immediately fell on the ball and the Broncos had the ball on the Raiders’ 24.
After a change in field directions, the Broncos appeared to score first as Paxton Lynch threw a perfect wheel route down the right sideline to running back Devontae Booker for what was ruled a 20-yard touchdown. Replay conclusively put Booker’s knee down at the 1 yard line.
No problem, first-and-goal at the 1. Booker was stacked up on a run up the middle. Still no problem. Second and goal at the 1.
Paxton Lynch rolled left and threw the ball in the end zone toward tight end Virgil Green, who was well-covered. The ball never got to Green. It got batted around by Raider defenders until it fell into the stomach of linebacker NaVorro Bowman, who was flat on his back.
“I probably had a chance to get around the edge but I saw Virg flash open and I had the confidence in myself to make the throw and I threw it to him and it just got batted around by a couple guys and it fell in his lap while he’s lying on the ground,'' Lynch said. "It was a freak play but at the end of the day I probably could have pushed it to the pylon and seen what could have happened after that.’’
Interception Raiders, their first of the season. That’s right, Oakland had zero picks in 10 games. And the Raiders get one in fairly lucky fashion.
It changed momentum. Raiders running back DeAndre’ Washington had a couple nice runs, followed by a 20-yard pass from Carr to Lynch across the middle.
A facemask penalty on Broncos linebacker Zaire Anderson gave Oakland the ball at the Denver 24. Eventually, Carr hit Amari Cooper on a fade pattern for a 9-yard touchdown. It should be mentioned Cooper beat Langley, a rookie corner who was in for Talib.
Marshawn Lynch later scored on a 1-yard run – the ball was placed there after Langley was flagged for pass interference in the end zone.
Carr threw another touchdown pass midway through the third quarter to give the Raiders a 21-0 lead before Siemian entered the game and rallied the Broncos in the fourth quarter. Siemian played well but not enough to prevent the Broncos from extending their longest losing streak since the 1967 season, when they lost nine in a row.
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