NaVorro Bowman's interception saved game, possibly season, for Raiders

OAKLAND -- It was a touchdown, then it was not.

It was a deflected pass. Twice. Then it was an interception.

Indeed, the first interception of the season for the Oakland Raiders may very well have saved not only the game for the team, an eventual 21-14 victory over the Denver Broncos, but also their season.

But let NaVorro Bowman, who authored said pick, tell you what was going on in his mind as he fell back into coverage and then fell on his back in the silver-and-black painted end zone.

"I was in panic mode," the Raiders middle linebacker said with a grin.

And you could say the entire defense was in the same mode.

Two plays earlier, on a third-and-6 from the Oakland 20-yard line, Paxton Lynch hit running back Devontae Booker for an apparent touchdown. The replay official, though, saw Booker down by contact at the 1-yard line, thanks to Nicholas Morrow.

After Booker was stopped for no gain on a run, Lynch targeted tight end Virgil Green in the left-middle of the end zone, where a falling Bowman got a hand on the ball.

Then it bounded off Raiders free safety Reggie Nelson, and into the chest of the prone Bowman.

"The play-fake that came up, I realized it was pass so I used a guard to push out of there and run and find the guy that was open," Bowman said. "That wasn't my man, I just dove to break it up and landed on my back and the ball was there.

"It was one of those crazy plays, but as Coach says, 'Just run to the ball and great things will happen.'"

Indeed, perhaps buoyed by the defense making a play -- the Raiders set an ignominious NFL record for being the first team since at least 1933 to go the first 10 games of a season without an interception -- Oakland's offense embarked upon an 80-yard TD drive in eight plays.

Oh, and Bowman did not join the Raiders until mid-October. It was the eighth-year veteran's fifth career interception.

"I was 0-fer in that column, too," said the newest Raider, whose last pick came for the San Francisco 49ers in the 2016 season opener against the Los Angeles Rams' QB Case Keenum.

"So, to bring the morale to the defense, I'm sure all the veteran guys were trying to get an interception, too, since the season started. So, it was great to knock that one down."

The Raiders went through a change this past week, with Ken Norton Jr. being fired as defensive coordinator and assistant head coach/defense John Pagano taking over defensive playcalling duties.

Raiders coach Jack Del Rio said he wanted the defense to play "faster" going forward.

"I think just be more aggressive," said linebacker Bruce Irvin. "Fly around, guys run to the ball. Guys run to the ball good things happen.

"Just look at the interception ... guys ran to the ball, surrounded the ball and we came up with our first interception."

It also helped with a 14-point swing as the Raiders ran out to a 21-0 lead and held on for dear life. Or did you miss Karl Joseph's near pick of Trevor Siemian on a ball that went through his hands, and into the hands of receiver Cody Latimer late in the fourth quarter?

"It was relief," Del Rio said of Bowman's pick. "I've never seen anything like it. Even later in the game we still had both hands on a ball that ended up not only not being intercepted, but caught by the other team. I've never seen it. I've never seen it, certainly not as many times as we've seen it this year."

For the record, Del Rio had 13 career interceptions as a linebacker, including 10 in his last four seasons combined.

"Hopefully we're getting all of that out of our system," he said of the dropped picks. "We're going to start catching the ball [for interceptions] a little more consistently."