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Raiders’ victory leaves many questions unanswered

Updated January 3, 2021 - 5:27 pm

Three takeaways from the Raiders’ 32-31 victory over Broncos on Sunday in Denver.

1. What did it really mean?

On a day full of consequential NFL games determining playoff berths, this game was of real consequence only to those gamblers who had the Raiders finishing with more than 7.5 wins.

Whether the Raiders ended 8-8 or 7-9 truly didn’t matter, except to coach Jon Gruden and his players, who approached this game as if the AFC West was on the line. He’s not different from most coaches in that respect, but he also missed the chance to look more big picture.

But now the season is over, and serious decisions will have to be made at a number of positions. The Raiders better hope they put together a better offseason than they did last year.

That was the reality no matter what happened in Denver.

2. Jacobs shows value, need for help 

Josh Jacobs’ hard-nosed running style invites the kind of wear and tear that Jacobs has played through in both of his first two seasons, and that likely won’t change.

But the Raiders can’t go into the second halves of seasons wondering if their 1,000-yard back will be able to produce when needed. They need to follow the lead of many other teams and look for more of a committee approach that still features Jacobs as the lead back.

Devontae Booker has shown flashes of being that kind of runner, but hasn’t consistently put up the kind of numbers the Raiders need.

The Raiders showed how dangerous they could be early in the season when they had an effective run game to balance the offense. A major reason for their second-half slide was the absence of such a ground game.

This game showed that importance. Jacobs came through when needed most, rushing for two touchdowns in the fourth quarter. The last one, a 1-yarder, came with 24 seconds left and put the Raiders in position to win.

He finished with 89 yards on 15 carries.

With some assistance, that can be more the norm than the exception in late-season games.

3. Another odd opposing coaching decision

Both of the Raiders’ late-season victories were assisted by head-scratching coaching decisions from the other sideline.

The most egregious, of course, was New York Jets’ Gregg Williams’ all-out blitz on Dec. 6 that allowed the Raiders to pull out an improbable victory on Derek Carr’s 46-yard touchdown pass to Henry Ruggs. That decision cost Williams his job.

On Sunday, Broncos coach Vic Fangio used two inexplicable timeouts to set up the Raiders’ winning touchdown and two-point conversion.

The first occurred before Jacobs’ short touchdown run. Instead of rushing to get the fourth-down play with the clock ticking down, the Raiders had the opportunity to take their time and set it up.

Then on the conversion, the Raiders were in great danger of committing a delay-of-game penalty, but Fangio again stepped in to call timeout. The Raiders then converted the play on Carr’s pass to Darren Waller.

Christmas might be over, but Fangio gifted the Raiders two timeouts.

Contact reporter Mark Anderson at manderson@reviewjournal.com. Follow @markanderson65 on Twitter.

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