Already the most-penalized team in the league, the Raiders outdid themselves with a team record of 20 penalties for 157 yards. They also committed four turnovers, leading to 17 Denver points in a 24-19 loss to the Broncos.
"Twenty penalties?" asked Oakland cornerback Carl Kidd. "We can't be doing that much wrong in one ballgame."
Oakland (7-8), which entered the game averaging 73 yards in penalties per game, fell two penalties shy of the NFL record held by the Brooklyn Dodgers and the Chicago Bears, who each committed 22 in separate games in 1944.
It also was the most penalties since Tampa Bay drew 20 yellow flags against Seattle on Oct. 27, 1976.
"How can you win with the refs, everyone against you?" said Oakland safety Lorenzo Lynch. "I asked the refs, 'Is it going to be like this all night? We don't have a chance to win. We might as well get on the bus right now.' "
Raider offensive tackle Lincoln Kennedy was not as quick to blame the officials, who also called Denver (13-2) for 10 penalties.
"They made some pretty bad calls, but I'm never going to say the refs beat us," Kennedy said. "We beat ourselves with turnovers and some penalties that were inexcusable."
The loss assures the Raiders of missing the playoffs for the second consecutive year.
It was also a milestone day for John Elway, who returned from a hamstring injury to move past Hall of Famer Fran Tarkenton with an NFL-best 126 career victories.
"It's nice," Elway said. "Quarterbacks are judged by their wins and losses--it's what they're known for. I certainly hope it's not my last one."
Elway, who sat out Denver's embarrassing 41-6 loss to Green Bay last week, threw for 206 yards and a touchdown, and Tyrone Braxton forced two turnovers to set up Bronco touchdowns.
"Last year we had a lot of opportunities, but we didn't catch the ball," Braxton said. "We had a lot of chances before, but today we took advantage when we had the opportunities to make the plays."
Jason Elam's missed field goal midway through the fourth left the door open for Oakland, and the Raiders pulled to 24-19 when Jeff Hostetler scrambled and connected with Daryl Hobbs from seven yards out with 3:38 remaining.
The Raiders then stopped Denver on three plays in a row and had the ball at their 41 before Ray Crockett intercepted a pass from Billy Joe Hobert.