Rookie wide receiver Bryan Edwards entered Sunday’s season finale against the Broncos with just one catch for 11 yards over the last four games.
Edwards caught both of his targets on Sunday to equal a career-high and gained a season-best 51 yards, including the 26-yard touchdown reception to give the Raiders the lead in the final minute of the second quarter.
“It was an amazing feeling,” he said. “This year has been a struggle for me. I’ve had some ups and downs, but to finish and go out the right way is so great.”
Quarterback Derek Carr said rookies often feel pressure until they get their first touchdown, especially if it hasn’t happened as the season starts to wind down.
“I can almost guarantee it was on his mind all year and especially going to the last game,” Carr said. “The thing with Bryan is he played a lot early, had some big catches against New England.”
His playing time diminished after that but not his work ethic. Edwards, a third-round pick out of South Carolina, had exceeded 30 percent of the offensive snaps just once since September.
”He’s aggressive and I love throwing the ball up to him,” Carr said. “I can throw him the ball differently than I throw to someone like (Nelson Agholor) because he’s more of a jump ball, contort your body, that kind of receiver. Violent after the catch.”
First-rounder Henry Ruggs has also seen some struggles this season, but he closed the year with three catches for 31 yards, though he did fumble on a rush attempt.
Coach Jon Gruden is optimistic about the duo going forward.
“So happy to get (Bryan) in the end zone,” he said. “Plus, he made a big catch to set up another score. He’s going to be a great one. … He’s got a lot of the intangibles off the field we’re looking for. Ruggs got hurt, but we think we have two good young receivers.”
Defensive end Maxx Crosby had a sack and blocked two field goals on Sunday, including a potential game-winner in the closing seconds.
His sack was the first he recorded since the first meeting against the Broncos on Nov. 15 and gave him a team-best seven for the season.
Crosby said he didn’t remember ever blocking a field goal, but says special teams coach Rich Bisaccia has been getting on him in film sessions for coming so close on several occasions.
Apparently, the Raiders believed they could have a chance to block a kick Sunday based on something they saw in film sessions.
“There were some holes in their protection,” he said. “Some of their linemen are a little bit lazy on their protections.”
Waller’s receiving record wasn’t the only rewriting of the franchise’s record books on Sunday.
Jacobs became the first player in team history to surpass 1,000 rushing yards in each of his first two seasons.
“In my head, I’m already thinking about next year and what I can do to take that next leap,” he said. “I’m not satisfied with what I did this year or how the team did. Playoffs was definitely the goal and to at least have a winning record.”
Kicker Daniel Carlson made his only field-goal attempt and all three extra points to set the franchise mark with 144 points in the season. Sebastian Janikowski had the previous mark with 142 in 2010.
Carr orchestrated another fourth-quarter comeback for the 21st time in his career to extend his record for most such occurrences in a player’s first seven seasons.
Gruden finally got a win in Denver after starting 0-7 there as a head coach.
“It’s great to settle that score,” he said. “There were a few times there when Mike Shanahan would look forward to us coming to town. They were great. This is a great football factory here. Great tradition. It was nice to win here. I’m going to have a Coors Light before I leave.”
The Raiders became the first team to sweep the season series in this storied rivalry since the Broncos in 2014. It was the Raiders’ first sweep of Denver since 2010.