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Graney: Bisaccia had Raiders prepared and motivated

DENVER

The section of the Rocky Mountains that is nearest to this capital city is called the Front Range.

The most famous mountains: Pikes Peak to the northwest, Mount Evans to the west and Longs Peak to the southwest.

I’m guessing the weight of all those combined isn’t near what Rich Bisaccia felt this week.

I’m also guessing he flew home to Las Vegas on Sunday night thinking all had vanished from his shoulders.

An interim coach for the Raiders, Bisaccia oversaw one of the better performances by the organization in some time.

The Raiders outplayed Denver in every phase en route to a 34-24 win before a subdued 75,104 at Empower Field at Mile High.

Bisaccia was chosen by owner Mark Davis to lead the team in the wake of Jon Gruden resigning last Monday following the unearthing of several insensitive emails over a seven-year period.

Also the special teams coordinator, the 61-year-old Bisaccia has spent nearly four decades in the profession.

When you know his first game as a head coach went well: His biggest issue all afternoon was figuring out how to use the headset.

“There was a button when I wanted to talk, a button when I wanted to (think) by myself,” Bisaccia said. “Back in the day, when I wore a headset, we didn’t have all those buttons.”

Let coaches coach

Did you know what Bisaccia did even better than figure out that headset? He stayed the heck out of the way.

Bisaccia allowed Greg Olson to run the offense and Gus Bradley the defense, putting his supreme trust in both coordinators. And, boy, did it pay off.

The Raiders were as good on both sides of the ball as they have been all season, scoring through the air and on the ground and bothering Denver’s offense all afternoon with consistent pressure.

“I can’t say enough good things about (Bisaccia),” said defensive end Maxx Crosby, who was brilliant with three sacks, six tackles and five quarterback hits. “I’m just happy we got the win for him. We came out here, we wanted to get the win for Coach Rich. We wanted to go out there and play great football. I feel like we did that.”

The adversity this week wasn’t the sort you face when an offense can’t move the ball for a few quarters or the defense can’t get a stop. As much as anything, Bisaccia was asked to be part coach, part psychologist.

Last week the Raiders said an original report of Gruden’s emails didn’t in any way affect how they performed in a 20-9 loss to the Bears.

Really?

It’s a difficult stance to accept when you saw the difference between that defeat and this victory. Night and day.

They were focused from the beginning Sunday, snapping an 11-game streak in which they hadn’t scored on their opening possession. Derek Carr hit wide receiver Henry Ruggs from 48 yards out to take care of that.

Prepared and motivated

Here’s the thing: Bisaccia’s toughest job came before kickoff. It came during the previous five days.

He needed to prepare and motivate a team that had suddenly lost its coach and couldn’t turn on a television or scroll the internet or read a newspaper and not be reminded of the controversy surrounding him and the franchise.

“I think a week of practice was good for everybody,” Bisaccia said. “It was emotional for all of us. But the guys were able to put it all in perspective when it came time to go to work. It’s still a job.

“We’ll see what kind of consistency we get from this going forward. That will be the challenge for all of us.”

He won’t have to face it with the weight of the world atop his shoulders.

Not even that of a few mountains.

Ed Graney is a Sigma Delta Chi Award winner for sports column writing and can be reached at egraney@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4618. He can be heard on “The Press Box,” ESPN Radio 100.9 FM and 1100 AM, from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. Monday through Friday. Follow @edgraney on Twitter.

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