DENVER — One sack, two sacks, three sacks …
Khalil Mack was punishing Denver quarterback Brock Osweiler so thoroughly and frequently, that at some point Raiders coach Jack Del Rio started losing count.
“I didn’t realize it was five,” Del Rio said.
The Broncos couldn’t keep track of Mack either, and after the second-year linebacker was done collecting his five sacks Sunday — the most by a Raider since Howie Long in 1983 — the Raiders had an improbable 15-12 win over the Broncos.
Just think how good the Raiders (6-7) could be if Mack played offense, too. Well, he did score a couple points. One of his sacks produced a safety, and Mack helped the Raiders snap an eight-game skid against the Broncos (10-3) on a day when the offense managed only 126 total yards.
“I remember playing Derrick Thomas my first game in the NFL against the Chiefs and he had six sacks against us,” Raiders 18th-year safety Charles Woodson said. “Today, Khalil kind of reminded me of that.”
It wasn’t just Mack. The Raiders held the Broncos to four field goals and their defense finished the season without allowing a single offensive touchdown to the team that has dominated the AFC West for the last five years.
“We knew that we didn’t want them to score,” said Mack, a 2014 first-round pick whose future is limitless. “That’s what we preached all week.”
Mack labeled this game his greatest performance simply because, “this is the Broncos.”
Hard to argue.
“Mack played a phenomenal game,” Osweiler conceded. “He played a tremendous football game.”
Mack became the 15th player to record at least five sacks in a game since 1982, according to STATS. He’s also the first to accomplish the feat since Aldon Smith had 5 1-2 on Nov. 19, 2012.
Hard to say which of his sacks was the most impressive. Maybe the one in the end zone that resulted in the third-quarter safety that cut Denver’s lead to 12-9. Or possibly the takedown of the 6-foot-7 Osweiler on the final drive, when the Broncos were trying to move into field-goal range.
“It’s called working your tail off,” Mack said. “You have to work, especially late in the game.”
In a way, Mack’s big afternoon let Del Rio off the hook in his homecoming after spending the last three seasons as Denver’s defensive coordinator. After taking a 15-12 lead with 14:26 remaining, Del Rio elected to try a 2-point attempt rather than kick the extra point and extend the lead to four.
Long snapper Jon Condo banged up his shoulder moments before, when he recovered a fumble by punt returner Emmanuel Sanders. Rather than risk sending out the backup snapper, Del Rio tried for the conversion.
“You make a snap judgment, and that was our choice,” Del Rio explained.
Yards, points — the Raiders certainly didn’t pile up either. They netted minus-12 yards of offense in the first half, the fewest for a half since the data started being tracked in 1991, according to STATS.
Del Rio’s message at the break: “We came here to play the full 60 minutes, so let’s make sure we give them the full 60 minutes.”
On the first series of the second half, Carr led the Raiders on an 80-yard drive that culminated with an 11-yard TD pass to Seth Roberts and pulled Oakland within 12-7.
Back in business, Mack sealed the deal.
“This guy, throughout his career, if he stays healthy, the sky is the limit as to what he can accomplish,” Woodson said.
Carr finished 12 of 29 for 135 yards and two TDs. Denver had the ball more than 11 minutes longer than the Raiders.