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Denver’s woeful red zone performance plus lackluster defense equaled a slow, painful death in the Black Hole

It was death by inches - 12,852 of them. The Denver Broncos have no answers for the Oakland Raiders in 24-16 defeat.

Denver Broncos v Oakland Raiders Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images

Where to start with that 24-16 loss to the Raiders that felt more like 30-0?

We could start with the woeful red zone stats - one touchdown out of four trips to the red zone compared to Oakland’s three TDs in four.

We could discuss the total lack of a pass rush - no sacks, not even a QB pressure for the Broncos vaunted pass rush while Raiders’ came away with three sacks and four QB hits.

We could dissect the beatdown on Isaac Yiadom in coverage.

We could rehash DaeSean Hamilton’s missed touchdown catch.

We could highlight the constantly collapsing pocket around Joe Flacco.

We could mention the Raiders’ 72-yard punt return.

We could revisit the poor clock management in the final two minutes of the first half.

We could even just ask why in the hell our first-round draft pick - a tight end - is being handed the ball in the backfield on the first play of an away game where we’re down 7-0.

But that would feel so...2018.

In Vic Fangio’s head coaching debut, the old-school coach who preaches not dying “by inches” just went into the Black Hole and died by 12,852 of them.

The coach - who I have praised repeatedly for his talk of fundamentals and technique - was at least realistic in his assessment of what needs to happen to avoid a tailspin after a Week 1 loss.

“Just keep working on it,” he said. “We have got to do a better job coaching. We have got to do a better job executing.”

As noted above, there are a lot of places to start with that - and the coach was asked about a few of them.

On kickoff coverage?

“You’re right, we had a chance there. We were down to a one-score game I believe, and they ran it back to our 30 or something. Basically already in field goal range. Those are critical mistakes, areas that we got to get better in.”

On Hamilton’s missed TD?

“Yeah obviously, it was [a crushing blow]. That’s a difference of four points right there. He knows he should make it, nobody feels worse about it than he does, and he’ll make the next one.”

On Noah Fant’s miscues, penalties?

“I will have to watch the particular plays that you are alluding to, I think most of the time you’ll probably end up concluding it was technique.”

On poor red zone execution?

“I didn’t see much [in the red zone] that was good, obviously. We didn’t make the plays down there...That was really a big difference in the game, in spite of everything else, they scored touchdowns and we didn’t.”

On stopping Derek Carr and the Raiders’ receivers?

“Well they were throwing it quick, and I think that was a big part of it. They also got into too many third-and-shorts, which was a big part of it. And you know they never had to, very often, you know drop back and let routes develop. The one time they did, we got beat outside.”

On stopping running back Josh Jacobs?

“We were totally aware of his ability as a runner. We never quite, I never quite, felt in control of the running game. Even though the stats may show that it wasn’t that bad, but it was too many.”

The coach said his overall message to the team was that he was “extremely disappointed, not discouraged,” and by the time Von Miller said the same phrase three more times, it became cliché.

But it wasn’t wrong.

There were good things too - Joe Flacco and Courtland Sutton look to be a reckoning force going forward; Phillip Lindsay doesn’t look like he missed a beat and Royce Freeman seems back to form. Dalton Risner had some good blocks, and more Kareem Jackson would be a good thing.

Figuring out a better defensive scheme and not trying to be too gimmicky on offense would also be nice.

“I think guys are mad because we know we’re better than what we showcased today, and we didn’t show it,” Chris Harris Jr. said after the game. “It’s a big rival game and Monday Night Football. You want to play good, and unfortunately we didn’t play to the best of our abilities today.”

Although Carr was getting the ball out fast, Von Miller was disappointed he came away with nothing to show for the night.

“I didn’t get to him once. Not even a quarterback hit, so I’m disappointed in myself on an individual level.,” he said. “They were throwing the ball quick but we have to find a way to get there.”

Flacco also pointed to offensive mistakes - penalties, drops, miscommunication - that hurt their ability to establish momentum.

“We got the ball across the 50, and we hurt ourselves with either penalties or something of the sort,” he said, adding that the offense had a hard time getting running backs to the second level in the first half and establish a running game. “We just weren’t able to get any chunks and get our runners in the second level of defenders in that first half. We just found ourselves behind the sticks a lot.”

The hometown crowd played a part in Oakland’s momentum but that was primarily the fault of the Broncos for letting the Raiders offense march down the field to score and then the Broncos’ offense going three-and-out to start off.

“I mean obviously when you come in somewhere and you let them get a tackle for a loss on the first play, they’re going to have some emotion,” Flacco said. “But it was really what we did or didn’t do that ended up hurting us. I think if we didn’t do those things, then you would have felt some of the emotion and some of the excitement of the crowd go out of it, kind of leave the stadium, but we just weren’t able to put it together. We were a little sloppy in how we executed.”

Sloppy indeed.

But as Sutton noted, guys have one day to think about the loss and learn from that sloppy play before focusing the next five days on the Chicago Bears. It’s a long season, and only one game has been played.

“It’s the 24-hour rule. Everybody who’s played this sport has all heard the same thing. Win or lose, you get 24 hours to think about it,” he said. “The NFL season is long, if you let game one dwell on you, it can affect you down the season. Take that one, have the 24-hour rule then go back and analyze it.”


How much panic are you feeling right now over the 24-16 loss to the Raiders?

This poll is closed

  • 20%
    Totally freaking out!
    (276 votes)
  • 43%
    The Broncos were who I thought they were
    (587 votes)
  • 36%
    Game 1. New coaches. Relax, people.
    (498 votes)
1361 votes total Vote Now