A combination of rookies and more experienced football players for the Raiders resulted in a big home win. There was a lot that led up to this game, with most of it being headlined by the Antonio Brown fiasco during his brief time as a Raider. They got rid of him, fans rejoiced and waited with nervous energy for the last season opener at the Black Hole. Their guys didn’t disappoint, leading the whole game and holding on for a 24-16 win.
Broncos fans…you might want to scroll down a bit.
Derek Carr has had his highs and lows throughout his NFL career and Monday night was definitely a high. Carr had a spectacular game to help lead Oakland down the field several times. No AB, no problem. That’s going to be a theme it seems for this team, at least from the fans’ perspective the first few games. Oakland is already past the whole Brown scenario, and will likely want to distance themselves, focusing more on the talent they do possess.
Look no further than Tyrell Williams, acquired from their rival Los Angeles Chargers during the offseason, and Darren Waller, who was picked up from the Baltimore Ravens’ practice squad. The two combined for 13 catches for 175 yards and one score. Williams was used as a deep threat target, averaging over 17 yards per catch, while Waller provided another big body for Carr, averaging 10 yards per catch.
A big part of Carr’s success lies in the guys protecting him. While it doesn’t show up in the stat sheet, the big beefy linemen kept Carr upright and allowed him plenty of time to find his weapons downfield. He finished 22-26 for 259 yards and one touchdown to total a 121 Quarterback rating.
Jacobs rookie night one to remember
If the Raiders weren’t airing it out, they were handing the ball off to Alabama rookie Josh Jacobs. He toted the ball 23 times, punching in two scores to the delight of the Raiders diehards. Alabama has been known to churn out physical backs, and Jacobs is another example. He finished with 85 rushing yards, adding in another 28 yards from one reception.
Raiders defense shines
There was already bad blood between these two teams to fuel the defensive unit for the boys in black. A couple of things to note, the Raiders defense held the Broncos scoreless until the 9:20 mark in the third quarter. Even then, it was just a field goal. Denver scored three field goals through most of the game and didn’t find the endzone until there were just over two minutes remaining.
Oakland’s secondary did the job most of the night, shutting down any chance of Denver to stretch the field. That same secondary took a hit when they saw Gareon Conley stretchered off the field after receiving friendly fire. Conley was attempting to drag down a surging Royce Freeman before Johnathan Abram led with his helmet to bring down Freeman, then his leg pushed against Conley’s helmet, seemingly pushing Conley’s neck down like an accordion. Conley lay motionless on the sideline and was eventually stretchered off, but early indications are he will be ok.
To make matters worse, Abram was flagged 15 yards for leading with his helmet on the tackle. Fortunately for the Raiders, the defense stepped up and held Denver to a field goal.
Oakland has had a mantra associated with their defense in terms of inability to produce sacks. Following their trade of Khalil Mack, the Raiders sack totals plummeted. The 2019 season brings some new opportunities and the big defenders pulled through with three sacks and five tackles for a loss of yards. Benson Mayowa was responsible for two of those sacks, half his season total from 2018. Jon Gruden and GM Mike Mayock had to have been pleased to see Clelin Ferrell record one sack, one pass defensed and two more QB hits. As many Raiders fans can recall, the selection of Ferrell with the fourth overall pick raised a lot of questions. Some of that was answered Monday night.
Speaking of Gruden, he picked up his 100th career win as a head coach and beat a team he’s had troubles with in years past. He’s now 3-10 against the Denver Broncos following their season-opening win.
Underwhelming opener for Denver
Maybe it was destined for the Raiders to go through so much drama but find the light when they needed it. Unfortunately, it was the Broncos who were left in the dark of the Black Hole for much of their game to open the 2019 season. A deficit quickly grew and the Broncos could seemingly do nothing in response. After seeing the Raiders score on their first drive, the Broncos defense stepped up their game at least, managing to trail by only 14 points at the half. By no means were they out of it at that point, even with their lackluster start.
Joe Flacco made his much anticipated Broncos debut but didn’t have much to show for it. He found Courtland Sutton a couple of times down the field, but it resulted in zero points. Denver was plagued by penalties, a porous offensive line at times, and not having the ability to run or pass much, if at all. To make matters worse, one of their big postseason acquisitions, Ju’Wuan James, was injured early in the second quarter. The lack of depth across the line was apparent with Oakland getting timely sacks and hitting Flacco several other times.
Flacco finally linked up with Emmanuel Sanders a couple of times in the second half to stretch out the field and gain some hope. Denver had one drive that ended in more than three points, Flacco passing for his first Broncos TD by finding Sanders on a one-yard throw near the pylon. Flacco finished 21-31 for 268 yards and one score. Sutton hauled in seven receptions for 120 yards, followed by Sanders with 86 yards on five receptions.
To be fair, Flacco should’ve had at least one more touchdown accounted for if it weren’t for a drop by Daesean Hamilton. A wide-open Hamilton had a bulleted pass glance off his hands, hit him in the chest and drop into the endzone. That would’ve been a crucial play, had they converted, to pull within eight and not settling for another field goal.
Denver had a nearly non-existent rushing attack, totaling 95 yards on the ground. Freeman had 10 carries for 56 yards, including one burst through the line which ended up with that Conley injury. Phillip Lindsay also got 11 touches, resulting in 43 yards.
Rookies show promise
A pair of Iowa standouts that were selected during the 2019 Draft showed potential, despite the game result. Noah Fant was the more mediocre of the two athletes, catching a pair of passes for 29 yards, blocking well, but also making some dumb mistakes resulting in costly penalties.
On the other side of the ball, Josey Jewell had a quiet night but made a big impact. While Jewell plays Linebacker and is expected to tally several tackles, it may shock the average fan to read the following. Jewell easily led the Broncos in tackles, finishing with 14, half of which were solo. That number isn’t the most surprising part though. Von Miller and Bradley Chubb, two aggressive and fearsome linebackers themselves, ended up with a combined eight tackles, six of which were solo tackles. That’s right, a rookie linebacker out-tackled two of the teams’ best. That has to have Broncos Nation optimistic about what Jewell can produce this season and add to this normally fearsome defense.
For the Broncos: they return back to Denver for their home opener against the Chicago Bears on Sept. 15, making for a short week. Broncos Nation can’t be too pleased with how ineffective their vaunted defense was against the Raiders. They could have a huge bounce-back game against a more porous Bears’ offensive line, at least what they showed in Week One against the Packers. They’ll have their own issues trying to keep Flacco upright as the Bears defense sacked Aaron Rodgers five times. A home atmosphere could very well help Denver pick up their first win of the season. Vic Fangio’s head coaching debut didn’t go as planned, and he has work to do before facing the Bears he helped shape into the modern Monsters of the Midway.
For the Raaaiders: they remain at home when they host the former AFC West Champion Kansas City Chiefs. While this was a big game to get under their belts, all things considered, the Raiders can’t dwell on their successes too much. A short week and an even more stacked opponent means it’s back to work. Two of the best NFL minds in Gruden and Andy Reid should provide for good football, to say the least. I’d expect Jacobs to get several more carries and Carr should have time, though not as much, to try and keep the high-scoring Chiefs offense off the field. A second consecutive home game will certainly be hostile for the visitors. This game will be huge for division standings down the line as Oakland sits at the top currently with the Chiefs and Chargers playing opponents outside the division.