OAKLAND – The Raiders started the season off right, with a 24-16 victory over the Denver Broncos on Monday night at Oakland Coliseum.
The Raiders didn't let distractions from Antonio Brown's departure impact execution, jumped out to an early lead they never let go.
The defense started hot but floundered some at the end. The offense ran smooth all night behind quarterback Derek Carr. Coaching on both sides of the ball was strong as the Raiders locked down a victory.
Here's the Raiders report card following a big win over an AFC West rival:
The Raiders averaged 3.5 yards per carry. The offensive coaching staff will say that number has to increase, and it does. Rookie Josh Jacobs put forth a solid first effort, showing breakaway speed in the open field and wiggle in traffic to work out extra yards. And he and fullback Alec Ingold were nails near the goal line on two touchdown runs. Steadier production will be required in the future, but it was a good start with a new feature back and two reserve guards inserted into the starting lineup.
Derek Carr was in complete control Monday night. He checked into smart plays at the line and threw lasers all over the field while completing 22-of-26 passes for 259 yards and a touchdown. He was kept completely clean and comfortable in the pocket thanks to excellent play from tackles Kolton Miller and Trent Brown. Tyrell Williams played like a No. 1 receiver, Darren Waller proved a tough cover and Jacobs was dangerous in one opportunity out of the backfield.
The Raiders pushed the ball downfield to the tune of 10.0 yards per attempt. That's, you know, pretty good.
The Raiders run defense started strong, but ran out of gas a bit towards the end. The front allowed 15 yards on seven first-half carries, and 80 on 16 attempts in the second half. They were playing down a defensive tackle, and wore down some, but a 26-yard run messed up the numbers. This was a yeoman's effort from the Raiders defense, which emphasized stopping the run this offseason to keep teams off schedule and produce better pass rushing opportunities. Josh Mauro and Johnathan Hankins were particularly good against the run on this night.
The Broncos picked on Travyon Mullen after Gareon Conley left with a neck injury, especially on a late touchdown drive that made it a one-possession game. The Raiders sacked slow-moving Denver quarterback Joe Flacco three times – Benson Mayowa had two; Clelin Ferrell had one – and was hit four times in total. That's a step up for a defensive front that had just 13 sacks last season.
Lamarcus Joyner was particularly strong in coverage, and Johnathan Abram made some plays but missed at least one going for the knockout blow. The Raiders will face tougher air attacks, but they handled this one just fine.
Some fans wonder why we considered Dwayne Harris a roster lock all summer. He showed them why with a 72-yard kickoff return in the second half that set up a field-goal drive that neutralized the three points Denver earned the previous series. Daniel Carlson had five touchbacks in as many kickoffs and made his only field goal attempt. Rookie A.J. Cole wasn't perfect but only had three attempts with a 30-yard net.
Jon Gruden has his team well prepared for the Broncos, with a game plan that scored early points and set the tone for victory. The team's leadership core kept Antonio Brown distractions from making a negative impact, which kept focus on the game itself.
Carr was awesome, pass protection was great and the defense made some timely stops. That's a recipe for victory. Denver isn't a good team, but soundly beating the Broncos provides the confidence required to compete against tougher squad coming up on the schedule.