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Instant reaction: Broncos falter in embarrassing Week 1 loss to Raiders

The Denver Broncos lost to the Las Vegas Raiders 17-16 in their season opener at home. Here are some instant reactions from this afternoon’s game.

Las Vegas Raiders v Denver Broncos Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

Broncos Country was filled with optimism heading into today’s game.

A new coach, a new direction, and a new culture was to be forged under the leadership of Sean Payton in the Mile High City. Things were supposed to finally get better—until they didn’t.

After a solid first half performance, the Denver Broncos failed to launch in the second half and build on their early success. They suffered an embarrassing loss in their home opener to the Las Vegas Raiders 17-16. It’s their seventh-straight loss to the Raiders, and quite frankly, the worst possible outcome we could have all expected.

What else can I say? Today’s loss was everyone’s nightmare scenario to start the season. Quite frankly, I felt the Broncos beat themselves more so than the Raiders beat them.

Let’s get into some key takeaways and instant reactions from today’s game.

Worthy of Some Praise

Russell Wilson looked good in his first [half] game with Sean Payton

After being thrown through the media ringer after the Broncos’ tumultuous 2022 campaign, Wilson started off and played pretty well—for one half. He finished two quarters of play completing 17/19 passes for 125 yards and two touchdowns but didn’t do much in the second half—and finished the game 27/34 for 177 and two touchdowns.

There isn’t much to critique from Wilson’s performance Week 1, but if I had to get picky, I felt his checkdown and outlet game was a little inconsistent. He made some poor choices inside the red zone and had a couple misfires on third downs.

Nevertheless, what I say from Wilson in the first half was encouraging and hopefully he and the Broncos can take some of those positives and build upon that next week. In my opinion, having Jerry Jeudy back in the fold will certainly help with some of the issues.

Rushing attack was fairly competent

Javonte Williams and Samaje Perine played pretty well. The two combined for nearly 100 yards in today’s game. That doesn’t seem like much, but their play did contribute to a big change from what we have seen in years past.

The Broncos didn’t sustain any drives longer than eight minutes the entire 2022 season, but were able to accomplish that twice this afternoon against the Raiders. Th running game was a major reason for that. Despite the loss, I was encouraged by what I saw in this area and think the team will be solid in this area.

Significant Areas of Concern

Special Teams was an abomination

It only took the first game of the year for the Broncos’ special teams unit to look absolutely dreadful. And while there is a myriad of factors that contributed to Denver’s demise, this most certainly was a large culprit and likely the biggest of them all.

After starting the game off with a failed onside kick attempt, Wil Lutz decided to be a klutz with his kicking. He missed his first XP attempt of the game in the first quarter and missed a 55-yard FG attempt on the Broncos’ first drive of the second half. By no means is a 55-yard shot an easy kick, but those two misses cost the Broncos four points today.

If you factor in the Raiders getting an opening drive touchdown after the botched onside kick, that’s an eleven-point swing. That’s not ideal and quite possibly one of the worst ways to go out and lose a football game. In fact, it’s absolutely unacceptable. This needs to be addressed immediately.

Jakobi Meyers dominated Damarri Mathis

It’s not easy playing cornerback in the National Football League. It’s even harder playing opposite of Patrick Surtain II. Opposing quarterbacks often avoid him, so the team’s second cornerback is always going to have a high volume of passes thrown in his direction.

That being said, the Broncos defense needed Mathis to have a great game and keep Jakobi Meyers in check. Alas, the exact opposite happened, and Meyers took advantage of him all game long and notched two touchdowns against the second-year player.

Broncos’ pass rush was missing in action

The Broncos’ defensive front seven did a good job keeping Josh Jacobs at bay, but they were atrocious with respect to getting pressure on Jimmy Garropolo. The Raiders offense used a short rhythm passing game to help negate the pass rush all afternoon. Garropolo wasn’t sacked all once and his white jersey appeared to be just as clean as it was before kickoff. The team is in for a long season if they can’t get after the quarterback.

Far too many penalties

Disciplined teams who are coached well don’t commit many penalties. The Broncos had 10 of them today. What’s even worse is that a lot of them came in crucial moments, especially third downs, and extended drives for the Raiders and led to points for the opposition. If the Broncos want to be successful this season, they are going to need to clean their act up in this regard.

Injury Bug bites Broncos in Week 1

Caden Sterns and Greg Dulcich hurt early on versus Raiders

Broncos Country was expecting big things from Sterns and Dulcich this season. Unfortunately, Sterns was carted off the field after a missed tackle where his leg appeared to give out on him in the first half. Dulcich too was injured and was ruled out at the beginning of the second half with a leg [likely hamstring] injury.