DENVER -- If only for a minute, E.J. Manuel looked fit to lead a comeback.
The Raiders backup quarterback spared the injured Derek Carr at the end of the third quarter, and threw better than the starter in his quarter-plus of action. Yet a couple drops, one bad throw and a deficit slightly too large for Manuel to overcome doomed Oakland in the end.
The Raiders (2-2) fell to the Broncos (3-1) on Sunday, 16-10, dropping their second straight road game after an impressive first two weeks of the season.
"Under the circumstances, of course, we don't want anything to happen to Derek," Manuel said. "I wanted us to come out with the victory, of course. I thought we did some things to get ourselves in a position to win the game, but you gotta do more."
After struggling offensively for the majority of the first half, the Raiders received a jolt when Carr found Johnny Holton for a 64-yard touchdown over the top with 2:23 left before the break. Until that point, Oakland was stagnant, unable to generate a run game and Carr only once getting into a rhythm with his receivers.
In the first 30 minutes, the Raiders only ran for 23 yards on nine carries. Marshawn Lynch only tallied 10 yards on five tries. Amari Cooper was targeted four times but didn't register a catch. David Amerson and Sean Smith each allowed multiple catches under their watch.
Holton's score capped a five-play, 99-yard touchdown drive that brought the Raiders within a field goal. Oakland received the ball to start the second half unlike the first three games, but the Raiders went three-and-out on their first drive of the second half.
The Raiders almost grabbed momentum when Khalil Mack strip-sacked Trevor Siemian and Mario Edwards Jr. recovered the fumble. The play was reversed since Siemian's knee was down, and Brandon McManus hit his second field goal of the third quarter to give the hosts a 16-7 lead with 5:06 left.
On the ensuing Raiders drive, Carr stayed down after a sack. He left the field under his own power and Manuel completed two short passes and took a delay of game penalty to finish the drive. Carr headed to the locker room before the end of the third and didn't return.
"It's not a good taste when your starting quarterback goes down," Cooper said.
Carr was asked after the game how he feels. "Not too good," he said. "We lost. That never feels good."
Physically? "Not good either," he responded.
In the meantime, Marquette King's fake punt-and-run went awry in Raiders territory. Not only that, he threw the ball at an opponent after the play and was tagged with a 15-yard unsportsmanlike penalty. Luckily for Oakland, McManus hooked a 29-yard field goal and Denver couldn't capitalize on its prime field position following King's antics.
Manuel and the Raiders couldn't capitalize either, and Von Miller burst through the Oakland offensive line to take down the backup on 3rd and long to flip possession. Manuel actually responded quite well on the next drive, marching the Raiders downfield before drops by Cooper and Jared Cook (in the end zone) spoiled a pair of pinpoint throws.
Oakland's comeback hopes crumbled on Manuel's final throw, a deep ball intended for Cooper that was intercepted by Justin Simmons, sealing the Broncos win.
"Any time Coop is given an opportunity to go up and try to catch a ball, we want to give him that chance," Manuel said. "I think I could've kept the ball more outside for him to try to shield off the safety a little more."
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