Three takeaways from the Raiders’ 27-14 victory over the Denver Broncos on Sunday at Allegiant Stadium:
1. Pierce is a winner
Not an opinion, either.
Interim coach Antonio Pierce led the Raiders to a 5-4 record after taking over for fired Josh McDaniels, concluding on a high note with another blowout victory. Key players — namely wide receiver Davante Adams and defensive end Maxx Crosby — have advocated publicly for Pierce’s full-time hiring. He certainly made his case.
The Raiders allowed an average of 23.4 points under McDaniels compared with 16 under Pierce, who galvanized their locker room with his authenticity and enthusiasm. All but one of their losses under Pierce were decided by one possession, and his game management should improve in theory if he continues to gain experience.
Perhaps Raiders owner Mark Davis pivots away from Pierce and hires someone more experienced as the franchise’s fifth head coach since it moved to Las Vegas. But Pierce made his case by emboldening the passion of his players while overseeing with defensive coordinator Patrick Graham a remarkable turnaround.
2. White ready to become feature back
If Pro Bowl running back and fan favorite Josh Jacobs doesn’t re-sign with the Raiders, Zamir White is ready to assume his role. The second-year running back from Georgia had another strong showing, carrying 25 times for 112 yards while adding one catch for 9 yards.
A physical straight-line runner, White in four games as the starter tallied 84 carries for 397 yards. His average attempt of 4.7 yards in those games topped that of the injured Jacobs (3.5), who finished the season with 805 yards in 13 games after winning the rushing title a season ago.
If Jacobs, 25, is indeed finished with the Raiders, he’ll depart as one of their most accomplished runners.
His 5,545 career rushing yards rank third in franchise history.
3. Rookie finishes season strong
Quarterback Aidan O’Connell ended his rookie campaign with one of his best games, completing 20 of 31 passes for 244 yards, two touchdowns and a passer rating of 110.1.
O’Connell completed 62.1 percent of his throws for 2,218 yards, 12 touchdowns and seven interceptions en route to a 5-5 record in games he started.
The Raiders figure — at the least — to consider drafting or trading for a quarterback with more upside than O’Connell, who is limited in part by a lack of mobility. But the 25-year-old from Purdue showed obvious improvement, totaling eight touchdown passes without an interception in his final four starts while profiling long term as a spot starter or reliable backup.