If the story lines for today’s Raiders-Broncos game have a different feel from those Peyton Manning has read about for all these years — well, he’s probably not alone.
When the Denver quarterback lines up against Oakland for his first up-close taste of one of the NFL’s most intense rivalries, it will be the guys in orange playing the role of the bad guys, with the Raiders coming in wearing silver and black, as always, but looking downright docile compared to years past.
“They’re doing a better job of being disciplined and that’s kind of at the core of what we are and what we believe,” said Raiders first-year coach Dennis Allen, who was Denver’s defensive coordinator last season.
The Raiders? Disciplined? Somewhere, Al Davis is certainly not smiling.
But, hey, at least one of these teams can say that.
In this, the 104th meeting between the AFC West foes, it’s the Broncos who come in having amassed $134,000 in fines so far this season.
It’s the Broncos who will be missing one linebacker, D.J. Williams, for violating the league’s drug policy and another, Joe Mays, for a hard hit that took off a chunk of an opposing quarterback’s ear.
And it’s the Broncos who rank fourth in the league with 23 penalties for 220 yards, while Oakland nearly brings up the rear with 14 yellow flags for 102 yards — a positively un-Raider-like statistic regardless of which officials — regular or replacement — are calling these games.
“I think it’s a credit to the coaching staff and also the players on the field in terms of everybody being held accountable for their own actions,” defensive end Richard Seymour said.
Last week, Oakland (1-2) got in the win column with a come-from-behind 34-31 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Raiders got a 64-yard touchdown run from Darren McFadden, three touchdown passes from Carson Palmer and a last-second winning field goal from Sebastian Janikowski. Still, the most-played highlight in that one was the brutal hit receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey took from Steelers safety Ryan Mundy.
Heyward-Bey was knocked out on contact and spent the night in the hospital.
All this talk about discipline, penalties and hard hits comes against the backdrop of two teams that could really use a win, especially because it’s in the division.
Manning’s initial response when asked about what’s known as “Raiders Week” around Denver: “It’s, first, a division game, I guess. All the games are important and division games always count double.”