DENVER | A fake punt by the Raiders late in the third quarter ended in a spectacular failure and an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty against flamboyant punter Marquette King.
The damaging sequence didn’t cost the Raiders (2-2) in terms of points, though, because Denver’s Brandon McManus missed the 29-yard field goal attempt that followed when his kick hit an upright and bounced away.
Raiders coach Jack Del Rio called for the fake punt with his team facing a fourth-and-11 at its own 33 in the 16-10 loss Sunday. King tried to sweep around right end but was met by the Broncos contain-man, wide receiver Jordan Taylor, who tackled him for a 3-yard loss at the Oakland 30.
A frustrated King, who celebrated an earlier 49-yard punt by riding an imaginary horse, threw the ball into the back of Broncos fullback Andy Janovich and was flagged, allowing Denver to tack on 15 more yards to the change of possession.
Del Rio said he called for the fake punt in a bid for a momentum swing because the Broncos (3-1) were dominating the line of scrimmage.
“We were looking for a spark and looking to take something that we thought we had and make it work, but it didn’t work,” Del Rio said. “We are very fortunate that it did not bite us.”
King may not be so lucky. He could be fined by the league for the taunting foul and figures to be on the receiving end of a stern talking to from his head coach.
“I have not said anything yet,” Del Rio said, “but you can be assured that I will.”
Other takeaways from the Broncos’ grind-it-out win that defensive end Derek Wolfe called a thing of beauty:
RUN REVERSAL: A year ago, Denver’s run defense was its weak link, defanging the “No Fly Zone” secondary and Von Miller’s harassment of QBs. So far, it’s their strength and the primary reason they’re 3-1 heading into their bye.
Melvin Gordon, Ezekiel Elliott, LeSean McCoy and now Marshawn Lynch have averaged a measly 1.9 yards a carry against the Broncos. Lynch gained 12 yards on nine carries Sunday and the Raiders managed only 12 more from its other rushers.
“Our run defense has been stout the entire year,” Broncos coach Vance Joseph said. “So, I have been very proud of how those guys have played the run. With a back like that and an offensive line like that, that’s really special, 24 yards.”
SAFETY VALVE: Second-year Broncos safety Justin Simmons turned away the Raiders’ final drive with a game-sealing interception. And fellow safety Will Parks, who joined the Broncos in the same draft class as Simmons collected five solo tackles, a pass breakup and a special teams stop.
Simmons, who beat out perennial Pro Bowl safety T.J. Ward in training camp, snared EJ Manuel’s pass to Amari Cooper at the Denver 8 with just under 2 minutes remaining.
“One of our young bulls stepped up like a vet in the clutch, high-pointed the ball, you cannot do much better than that. So that is a big-time play by J,” said cornerback Aqib Talib.
BRONCOS BACKS: The Broncos have a crowded backfield now that Devontae Booker is back from a broken wrist that sidelined him all of July, August and September. He carried three times for 14 yards, Jamaal Charles ran five times for 33 yards and C.J. Anderson rushed 20 times for 95 yards.
Altogether, the Broncos gained 143 yards on the ground, highlighted by Anderson’s 40-yard scamper.
“We’re all going to have our time ad our moments to make plays,” Anderson said. “We all ran the ball well and that’s how we want to keep it.”
Anderson’s mother, by the way, wore Anderson’s No. 22 jersey underneath a Raiders jacket in the stands. She’s from Oakland. “I knew she was going to do that,” Anderson said. “She loves her team.”
RED ZONE, RED-FACED: Broncos coach Vance Joseph wasn’t happy with the Broncos’ red-zone troubles.
“It wasn’t very good, we were 0-for-4,” he said. “Again, it’s really self-inflicted wounds. It’s a false start and there’s a holding penalty, and so we can’t do that. We’ve got to score points down there and score touchdowns down there and we had a missed field goal. That part of our offense we have to fix quickly.”
STANDING TOGETHER: The Raiders and Broncos had the most players who protested during the national anthem in response to the president’s comments. Almost all the Raiders sat on the bench at Washington and 32 Broncos knelt at Buffalo.
On Sunday, only Lynch wasn’t standing for sax virtuoso Trey Daniels’ rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Lynch sat by the Gatorade on the Raiders sideline. On the Broncos sideline, LB Brandon Marshall stood with his teammates with his left fist raised high.