OAKLAND — After watching his team commit three turnovers, allow two big-play touchdowns to Tim Tebow and commit a penalty that wiped out a score in the first half, coach Tom Cable didn’t hold back at halftime.
“There’s no reason to be calm or rational at that point,” Cable said.
The Raiders responded to the tongue-lashing, getting a 73-yard touchdown pass from Jason Campbell to Marcel Reece to keep their playoff hopes alive and spoil Tebow’s first NFL start with a 39-23 victory over the Denver Broncos on Sunday.
“That’s the most animated I’ve ever seen him,” defensive tackle Tommy Kelly said. “From the time we came in here, he was going off. From the time we came in here pretty much until we left, nobody really talked except Cabes.”
Jacoby Ford scored on a 71-yard run on Oakland’s first play from scrimmage and Michael Bush added two short touchdown runs to keep the Raiders (7-7) in the hunt for a playoff berth after last week’s wrenching 38-31 loss at Jacksonville.
Oakland trails Kansas City by two games in the AFC West and will need to win the final two games and get help in order to win the division.
“I wish we were in a better position, but to still be in the fight, still be in the hunt, we’ve grown a long ways,” Campbell said. “The loss last week is not going to do any good for us to dwell on it. It’s not going to help us this week. What we have to do is control what’s in front of us from here out.”
The Broncos (3-11) have long been eliminated from the playoff chase, having lost nine of 10 games to tie the franchise record for losses in a season. That, along with Kyle Orton’s bruised ribs, made the decision to give Tebow his first career start an easy one.
For a player who became famous in college for his exploits at the Swamp, Tebow must have felt at home on a wet day at the Oakland Coliseum.
He managed to come up with some of the big plays that helped him win a Heisman Trophy and two national titles at Florida, becoming the third player to throw a TD pass at least 30 yards and run for a score of at least 40 yards in the same game.
But he also did not look smooth throwing the ball, a big reason why many questioned former Denver coach Josh McDaniels for trading up to take Tebow in the first round of the draft. He finished 8 for 16 for 138 yards and ran for 78 more.
“You’re playing against the biggest, strongest, fastest, but at the end of the day it’s still playing football and so it wasn’t extremely different,” Tebow said.
The key play for the Raiders was Campbell’s short pass to Reece that turned into a game-breaker. Reece caught the ball near the line of scrimmage with open space in front of him. He juked David Bruton near midfield and raced the rest of the way to make it 30-20.
The Broncos responded with Steven Hauschka’s third field goal, but Quentin Groves tackled Correll Buckhalter in the end zone for a safety that put the Raiders back in control in their third straight win over Denver.
The Raiders took a 23-20 lead into the fourth quarter after Sebastian Janikowski’s 47-yard field goal. The teams traded field goals earlier in the third, with the Broncos settling for theirs after Lance Ball dropped a pass in the end zone.
Tebow turned two Raiders turnovers into touchdowns in the first half, scoring on a 40-yard quarterback draw on third-and-24 when he ran through the middle of Oakland’s defense and then broke tackles from safeties Michael Huff and Tyvon Branch.
Tebow then threw a ball up for grabs in the end zone that went through cornerback Stanford Routt’s hands and was caught by Brandon Lloyd for a 33-yard touchdown. Lloyd was originally ruled out of bounds, but the play was overturned on a replay challenge.
“He did what we expected of him,” Lloyd said. “He kept his poise, he kept his composure, even when it was tough out there. He didn’t have any of those situations where he called the wrong play. I was impressed.”
The Raiders got some big plays of their own, with Ford scoring on a 71-yard end around on Oakland’s first play from scrimmage and a 36-yard run by Darren McFadden setting up another touchdown.