The Raiders entered the game with a chance to move into a first-place tie in the division. They exited the field two games behind the Broncos and light years behind in terms of execution and scheme after a 23-3 loss at the Oakland Coliseum.
"We have to play better," Raiders coach Tom Cable said. "These fans deserve a better football team than what we showed (Sunday). How do (the players) handle that? Obviously, you hope it ticks them off, and they deal with it the right way, they put more attention to the details during the week, that we demand more from them during the week and we play better on Sunday."
The outcome was never in doubt. Denver running backs Correll Buckhalter and Knowshon Moreno combined for 198 yards rushing, quarterback Kyle Orton completed 13 of 23 passes without getting his uniform dirty, and Brett Kern wasn't called upon to punt until midway through the fourth quarter.
Cable said he had an inkling things weren't quite right with his team when it misfired in practice Friday.
"We had some issues (last) week in terms of preparation, and I thought it reflected just how we played (Sunday)," Cable said. "We have to clean that up. We have to take responsibility, all of us."
To a man, the Raiders called Sunday's outing an all-around dud. The fans directed their venom toward quarterback JaMarcus Russell, in particular. The less-than-sold-out crowd booed Russell during cornerback Andre Goodman's first-quarter interception return and kept it up the rest of the game.
The crowd chanted, "Russell sucks! Russell sucks!" after he was sacked on a third-down play early in the fourth quarter. The crowd also booed when he returned for the ensuing series.
Cable said last week that he "never" considered removing Russell from the Kansas City game in favor of Bruce Gradkowski, even though Russell completed only 3 of his first 18 passes for 42 yards. He held firm Sunday, as well.
On the surface, it appeared as if Russell performed well in the first half. He completed seven straight passes at one point and 9 of 13 overall. But the stats were deceiving. Russell was intercepted on back-to-back drives in the first quarter on passes that sailed over wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey. Russell said he felt as if the officials should have called pass interference on both plays.
"I can't control that," Russell said of the non-calls. "I can just control the way I prepare for the game and continue to come out and play."
Renaldo Hill returned the first interception to the Raiders 23-yard line, and Denver turned it into a touchdown. Goodman returned the second interception 30 yards to the Raiders 34, setting up a Matt Prater field goal.
The crowd expressed its displeasure with Russell and, perhaps, Heyward-Bey during and after Goodman's return by booing in unison.
"We've seen it all around here," running back Justin Fargas said, "but we have to play above that and really just keep ourselves out of situations to where that type of stuff happens.
"We support each other on offense, and we support our quarterback. So whatever's going on on the outside, we try to do our best not to let that affect us."
Russell said he is satisfied with his progression as an NFL quarterback.
"When you get tough looks like that, and a tough crowd, hey, it's the NFL, you have continue to progress yourself in becoming the person that you want to be," Russell said. "I know I'm not there yet."
The team's frustration spilled forth on to the sideline, where rookie receivers Louis Murphy and Heyward-Bey exchanged words and had to be separated. Murphy calmed down and spent at least five minutes talking with his teammate on the bench, and Heyward-Bey said it was over his route running.
Murphy declined comment after the game. Heyward-Bey dismissed it as something that happens in the heat of battle.
In the end, cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha said he hoped the Raiders would have an idea what kind of team they have this season. Sunday's clunker clouded the picture.
"There's some glaring problems that need to be fixed, in all phases of the game," Asomugha said. "So, I don't think we have quite a read on who we are. And that's concerning because at this point you want to know what type of team you are."