Broncos defense collapses in OT loss to Raiders: “We’ve got to stop them (at the end)”

After the Broncos’ defense stuffed San Francisco en route to an 11-10 win in late September, the unit’s primary playmakers went bonkers in the locker room.

They danced around Bradley Chubb, hooting and hollering. “Tell ’em, Chubb, tell em!” as Chubb was interviewed. And he did, roaring, “We the best (expletive) defense in the league!”

Fast forward to Sunday’s 22-16 overtime loss to Las Vegas, and the locker room was the antithesis of that jubilant September scene. The Chubb-less defense could’ve cemented a win by stopping Las Vegas on its final drive, but couldn’t. They then got torched for the game-winning touchdown on the first possession of overtime.

Yes, the offense remains ranked last in the NFL in points per game and again struggled to get out their own way. But the defense — the unit that is supposed to be the Broncos’ pillar — let them down in a major way. They were given a lead and failed to protect it.

“If we hold ourselves to the standard of being the best defense in the league, we’ve got to stop them there,” outside linebacker Jonathon Cooper said. “We had a chance to seal the game and we couldn’t do it.”

Of Denver’s seven losses this season, only the two against the Raiders could realistically be pinned on the defense. In Las Vegas’ 32-23 win in Week 4, Josh Jacobs rushed for 144 yards with two scores and Davante Adams had 101 yards receiving.

It was a similar story Sunday, with those two playmakers providing the difference. Jacobs had 109 yards on 24 carries, while Adams had seven catches for 141 yards and two touchdowns, including the 35-yard game-winner from quarterback Derek Carr in overtime.

Jacobs’ performance, underscored by a 43-yard catch in the waning minutes to set up the Raiders’ overtime-forcing field goal, was his fourth career 100-yard rushing game against Denver. The Raiders got the ball back on their own 22-yard line with 1:43 left in regulation and used Jacobs’ big catch down the left sideline to force overtime.

“Our key was stopping the run and we failed,” Broncos defensive lineman Dre’Mont Jones said. “We didn’t do a good job executing our game plan. It was a big no-no for (Jacobs) to get to 100 yards. He got what he wanted and we’ve got to be better.

“His ability to bounce off and get to different levels was big. We didn’t do the best job of rallying to him. He kept getting leaky yardage — what should’ve been a 1-yard gain turned into a 4-yard gain and so on.”

Meanwhile, Adams torched Broncos cornerback Pat Surtain II and safety Kareem Jackson for a 31-yard touchdown in the second quarter. He followed that with a walk-off in overtime when Surtain bit on a double-move and safety Justin Simmons failed to help over the top, leaving Adams wide open.

“We had opportunities to make plays (to put it away) in the end and didn’t,” Surtain said. “We’ll learn from it… I’m going to have a short-term memory from this.”

Josey Jewell, who had 11 tackles and a sack, didn’t mince words about the defense’s role. Beyond Adams’ game-winning catch, the Broncos also gave up a chunk play in coverage to tight end Foster Moreau on the previous snap.

The Denver defense entered the week ranked first in average points allowed (16.6), yards per play (4.6) and passing yards per game (174.4), but couldn’t live up to its top-ranked billing down the stretch.

“We need to finish games, it’s plain and simple,” Jewell said. “In this game, we need to bring that (same intensity we opened the game with) to overtime. We had a couple too many (bad plays) on that final drive.”

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