HEADLINE

Broncos, Jarrett Stidham visit old friends in Vegas

Field Level Media

January 06, 2024 at 1:48 am.

The Las Vegas Raiders can extend their winning streak against the visiting Denver Broncos to eight games when they meet on Sunday afternoon.

The Broncos (8-8) last defeated the Raiders (7-9) in the regular-season finale on Dec. 29, 2019.

Las Vegas beat Denver 17-16 in the season opener on Sept. 10. Since then, major changes have altered each team. Among those impacted by the in-season overhaul were both starting quarterbacks in Week 1.

Jimmy Garoppolo took the field for the Raiders in the season opener, but injuries and ineffectiveness opened the door for rookie Aidan O’Connell to get a shot when head coach Josh McDaniels was fired. The Raiders have gone 4-4 over the past eight games.

Russell Wilson started the first 15 games for Denver, but the Broncos decided to bench Wilson for Jarrett Stidham in a contract-related squabble similar to the drama that unfolded involving Derek Carr at the end of last season. At that time, Stidham was with the Raiders and was pushed into a starting role for the final two games of the regular season.

“I have a certain job to do, certain thing to do on each and every play. Ultimately we’ve got to go out and win. So that’s what I’m focused on doing and it’s my job to help those other 10 guys on offense, move the ball and score points,” Stidham said.

Stidham completed 20 of 32 passes for 224 yards and a touchdown in a 16-9 win against the visiting Los Angeles Chargers last Sunday, though the Broncos were officially eliminated from playoff contention.

“These are important snaps and games for him,” Broncos coach Sean Payton said. “That’s the case with every player, right? We’re constantly evaluating how they play, and then it would definitely carry over to how we feel about next year relative to their role.”

Payton said the Broncos wouldn’t change their plans for Week 18 based on being eliminated from the playoffs. He’s particularly keen to remind players of the losing streak against the Raiders.

“Do we approach (Sunday’s game) differently? Absolutely not,” Payton said. “We do everything in our power to win this game. It’s that important. From who is playing quarterback to who is starting at the offensive line to who is starting on defense. It’s that simple.”

For the Raiders, not only is the season finale an ongoing audition for O’Connell, but also for interim coach Antonio Pierce, who took over after McDaniels was fired on Nov. 1.

Las Vegas won its first two games under Pierce, but has gone 2-4 since, most recently losing to the Indianapolis Colts 23-20 last Sunday.

“You can’t point fingers at players,” Pierce said. “Obviously we’ve got to do a better job as coaches. It’s a focus thing: false starts, offside, that’s the Raiders beating themselves. That’s something that for seven games, we hadn’t done. But it came up (against the Colts) and it bit us.”

Pierce said the key is staying patient and ignoring the outside opinions.

“Stay true to yourself, don’t change because of people’s opinion of you,” he said. “Go with your gut.”

O’Connell said it’s important that the Raiders focus on the task at hand and not what happened last week or what’s to come in the offseason.

“You can’t rely on momentum from week to week,” he said. “You can’t look ahead, and you can’t look back. Every play, every series, and every game has enough of its own and you’ve got to lock in.”

Las Vegas running back Josh Jacobs, the leading rusher in the NFL last season with 1,653 yards in 17 games, did not practice this week because of a quad injury and has been ruled out. He has been limited to 805 rushing yards through 13 games this season. Tight end Michael Mayer (toe) also missed the week and is out.

Raiders defensive end Maxx Crosby (knee) was limited Wednesday through Friday but has no injury status listed. A former teammate of Stidham, Crosby has a sack in eight consecutive games against the Broncos.

“I can’t speak highly enough of this guy,” Stidham said. “Being with him every day for a year, seeing how he works. The most impressive thing is I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a player play that hard for that long every single time he’s out on the field. He’s going to bring it; we’re going to have to be ready.”

Broncos right tackle Mike McGlinchey (ribs) and tight end Chris Manhertz (illness) did not participate in practice this week and were ruled out. Wide receiver Cortland Sutton and linebacker Baron Browning were in concussion protocol Wednesday but were full participants Thursday and Friday and not assigned game statuses, indicating they will be available to play Sunday.