There’s no way to say with any certainty that the second half would have turned out any differently.
That the Raiders wouldn’t have still posted a pair of third-quarter scoring drives that lasted 5:47 and 7:41, respectively.
That Drew Lock wouldn’t have thrown two second-half interceptions.
That the Raiders wouldn’t have outscored the Broncos 27-6 over the final 30 minutes.
You can’t definitively point to Drew Lock’s interception at the end of the first half against the Raiders as the moment that decided the fate of the game — and perhaps Denver’s season.
But it certainly felt like it.
Despite a half of miscues that included an interception and several special teams errors, the Broncos had a chance to take a halftime lead over their division rival. With a win, the Broncos would’ve improved to 4-5 with a chance to get back to .500 against Miami in Week 11. Lock, in just his 12th career start, would’ve shown an ability to respond from a series of poor performances to lead Denver to a win against a playoff contender. Instead, Denver’s playoff hopes have faded substantially, as they are three games behind a slew of 6-3 wild-card contenders, including the Dolphins, Raiders, Browns and Titans.
Facing a 10-6 deficit with 1:44 to play in the first half, Lock helped the Broncos move all the way to the Las Vegas 5-yard line with 18 seconds to play in the half. On a second-down play, he found the end zone on a designed quarterback run, but the play was called back to the 10-yard line due to a holding call on Noah Fant.
On the ensuing play, Lock was picked off by Jeff Heath for the second time in the first half as he undercut Jerry Jeudy, who was Lock’s intended receiver.
“Obviously, it could have been 13-10 our favor at half or 10-9 their favor at half if we don’t go in and score, so obviously it was a big swing there,” Head Coach Vic Fangio said. “So, it was critical.”
Instead of heading to the locker room with renewed hope and a lead, the Broncos trotted to the visitors locker room at Allegiant Stadium with their fourth halftime deficit in as many weeks.
The Raiders emerged from the locker room with a 12-play, 47-yard drive to increase the lead to 13-6. After a Denver three-and-out, the Raiders pieced together an 11-play, 78-yard drive to push their advantage to 20-6.
And if things appeared out of hand at that point, they got worse.
The Raiders added 17 fourth-quarter points as Lock threw another interception and DaeSean Hamilton fumbled inside the team’s 15-yard line.
Las Vegas finished with 203 rushing yards as Josh Jacobs and former Bronco Devontae Booker each ran for two scores and Jacobs crossed the 100-yard mark. The Broncos, who were missing their entire starting defensive line on Sunday, have allowed at least 200 rushing yards in two of the last three weeks.
“They’re a good running team, obviously, and we just didn’t play the run well enough,” Fangio said. “Particularly if you lose your edge in a game, it’s going to show up in the run defense more so than anywhere else. I think in that fourth quarter we just weren’t as sharp as you need to be playing the run.”
The Broncos, meanwhile, tallied just 1 yard of offense in the third quarter and totaled just 66 rushing yards on 19 carries during Sunday’s loss.
“Unacceptable,” guard Dalton Risner said. “That was an unacceptable performance today, and we need to know that. It’s not that we’re going to dwell on that, but I don’t care what the reasoning is. We obviously haven’t watched the film yet, we don’t know what the reasoning was, but that was unacceptable from an offensive standpoint. And we need to be better. Plain and simple. We have got to be better. We weren’t good enough today to help our team win.”
Denver would add a late touchdown — the team’s only of the afternoon — but Lock was picked off again with 18 seconds to play as the Raiders held on to their 25-point win.
Lock has now thrown 10 interceptions over his last five games, and in three AFC West games over that span, the Broncos now have a point differential of minus-51.
“It’s very much of a concern,” Fangio said of Lock’s interceptions on Sunday. “Obviously, with four interceptions, you can’t win turning the ball over that much. We’ve got to do a good job of evaluating why we’ve thrown these interceptions, what can we do to help him. Everybody’s fingerprints is on that performance — coaches, players — and we all have to take a good hard look at it, which we have been on a weekly basis, but we haven’t found the right formula yet to be consistent on offense.”
The young quarterback vowed he would not let Sunday’s loss deter him and that there are “lots of areas” in which he sees himself improving.
“This organization doesn’t pay me, this fan base doesn’t cheer us on for me to quit on anything,” Lock said. “They’ll have to carry me off the field for me to come off. That just is what it is when you play quarterback — you have bad days, you have good days — you just have to limit the bad ones.”