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Broncos’ defense wilts late against run-heavy Raiders

Broncos pass rusher Bradley Chubb proclaimed last week that Denver boasts the NFL’s best defense.

A 32-23 loss to the Raiders on Sunday at Allegiant Stadium didn’t seem to change his mind, either.

“We’ve got to live up to that,” said Chubb, invoking the statement he made after an 11-10 victory over the San Francisco 49ers in Week 3. “We’ve got to make sure we do everything every day throughout the week to live up to that.

“I just feel like we didn’t bring it today.”

The Broncos allowed almost as many points to the Raiders as they did in their first three games combined — wilting in the fourth quarter amid an overpowering effort by running back Josh Jacobs, who tallied a career-high 144 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 28 carries.

Denver also allowed 25 first downs, including seven on 14 third-down attempts.

Its previous three opponents had averaged 81.3 rushing yards while converting 26.5 percent of their third downs.

“When we were out there, it didn’t feel like as a team we weren’t on one accord,” Chubb said after recording three tackles and a pass breakup. “We’ve got to do a better job as leaders, getting everybody on that same page and making sure there’s no drop-off from week to week. I think we kind of needed this, though, to see that we’re human.”

The Broncos (2-2) had been buoyed by the NFL’s second-ranked scoring defense, allowing 12 points per game and 251.3 yards to rank third in total defense. But their first three opponents — the Seattle Seahawks, Houston Texans and 49ers — did not force them to defend the run the way the Raiders did.

Those three teams ran fewer than 20 times apiece.

The Raiders ran all afternoon.

“We knew when we went into this game, we were going to knock that run out early,” Broncos coach Nathaniel Hackett said. “They came out, had a really good plan. They stuck with it throughout the entire game.”

Jacobs carried four times on the opening drive and six times two possessions later, scoring first from 10 yards by plowing through three failing tacklers. The Raiders would run 31 times by design and five more unscripted.

Quarterback Derek Carr scrambled five times for 42 yards rushing before kneeling twice on the final possession.

“They didn’t want to get into long down and distance for passing situations so we could rush the passer,” Hackett said. “They tried to slow the whole pace down.”

The plan stationed Denver’s offense on the sideline for nearly 10 minutes more than the Raiders’ offense while also managing to fatigue the Broncos’ defense. After pulling within a field goal with 7:16 to play, the Broncos surrendered a 10-play, 75-yard drive that Jacobs capped with his second score.

Seven of the plays were called runs — including a 22-yarder by rookie Zamir White, who took a misdirection sweep outside with Jacobs stationed at fullback.

“A lot of things throughout the game just didn’t go right, but that particular play, man, it was just schemed up,” Chubb said. “We saw (Jacobs) in the backfield. Thought it was going to be the fullback dive we saw on film, and they hit us with a curveball. Pitched it. Just got to be better on the edge.”

And against the run.

Contact Sam Gordon at sgordon@reviewjournal.com. Follow @BySamGordon on Twitter.

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