Oakland's Darren McFadden breaks away on a long run in the fourth quarter to set up his team's final touchdown. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Starting his first season as head coach of the Raiders, Hue Jackson was keyed up all week going into Oakland’s season-opener Monday night in Denver.
He couldn’t wait to get his team on the field, see his team establish the “bully” presence he’s preached all summer and get his first taste of victory.
“I’m hungry right now,” Jackson told reporters this week. “Ain’t no butterflies. I’m just hungry right now. That’s about it. I’m looking forward to it.”
There were some rough spots Monday night, but Jackson should wake up feeling full Tuesday morning after a 23-20 victory over the Broncos.
The Raiders’ defensive line was dominating, sacking Broncos QB Kyle Orton five times; the defense held Denver to 38 net yards rushing; Oakland running back Darren McFadden again shredded the Broncos, rushing for 150 yards; and kicker Sebastian Janikowski connected on a 63-yard field goal – tying the NFL record for longest ever – just before halftime, to give his team what would prove to be three incredibly important points.
Combined, it all added up to Oakland’s first prime-time victory in 12 outings and gets the Raiders off to a 1-0 start with a victory on the road against an AFC West opponent. Last year, Oakland was 6-0 in the AFC West.
Quarterback Jason Campbell was efficient, hitting 13-of-22 passes for 105 yards and a TD to Marcel Reese in the second quarter. His favorite receiver on the night was Darrius Heyward-Bey, with four catches for 44 yards.
But on this wet night in Denver, it was Oakland’s defensive front seven that set the physical tone of the game, taking the ball away three times – including a key fumble recovery by defensive end Lamarr Houston late in the game -- and overwhelming the Broncos’ pass protection. Oakland also blocked a punt to set up Campbell’s TD pass to Reece.
In a sloppy game, Oakland was able to overcome its longtime nemesis, the yellow flag. The Raiders were penalized 15 times for 131 yards.
Still, after going 0-4 in the preseason, the Raiders are off on the right foot in 2011 and Jackson was able to see his team play the physical kind of football he wants, offensively and defensively.
Now, to get to 2-0, the Raiders face a short week and a game against the Buffalo Bills this Sunday, a team that dominated the Kansas City Chiefs in their opener.