Another season opener, another disappointing loss by the score of 16 to 17.
Despite having the lead into the fourth quarter, the Denver Broncos were defeated by the Las Vegas Raiders by the score of 17-16. This also extends their losing streak to the Raiders to seven games which is rather annoying. The irony of losing by a score of 17 to 16 after everything that happened in the last 365 days is also annoying.
In this one, we have a few winners, but at the end of the day, when you lose your season opener at home to the Raiders, there are going to be more winners than losers. So, let us take a look at which players or coaches came out of this defeat as a winner or as a loser.
QB Russell Wilson
While the Broncos offense only could muster 16 points, quarterback Russell Wilson looked better. In the first half, he completed all but two passes and threw for two touchdowns. He was efficient, looked comfortable in the offense, was making good decisions, and was making plays and moving the offense. However, in the second half, the Broncos offense looked stale and conservative and they could only put a total of 3 points on the board.
Overall, Wilson finished the day by completing 27 of 34 passes for 177 yards and 2 touchdowns. He looked better than his stat line says he did in my opinion and you can argue this was his best overall game as a member of the Broncos. It wasn’t spectacular, but it was solid and hopefully something he can build off.
This is a “soft” win for me, but if you would have told me Russ would complete 79% of his passes, for 177 yards and 2 touchdowns before the game, I would have taken it.
CB Patrick Surtain II
The Broncos' elite corner was doing more elite things today. According to Nex Gen Stats, Broncos cornerback Patrick Surtain II only allowed 2 receptions for 11 yards on 5 targets when covering Raiders wide receiver Davante Adams. They also note that Surtain recorded 3 pass deflections in this one which is a career-high for him.
Patrick Surtain allowed just 2 receptions for 11 yards on 5 targets to Davante Adams as the nearest defender in Week 1.— Next Gen Stats (@NextGenStats) September 10, 2023
Surtain recorded 3 passes defensed, a career-high.#LVvsDEN | #BroncosCountry pic.twitter.com/5sOYJiMe2F
Adams finished the night with 6 catches for 66 yards so most of his production came when he was not covered by Surtain. This is an improvement over what we saw from him last season when he struggled to cover Adams consistently and gave up a game-winning touchdown to him during their second meeting last season.
Based on my initial reactions from the game, I thought the numbers would not be as good as this since Adams seemed to have his way with the Broncos' defense. So, this was a pleasant surprise to see after the game.
Surtain did have a pretty bad defensive pass interference called on him when he was covering Adams in the second half. This set up the Raiders inside their five-yard line but they eventually ended up throwing an interception in the end zone.
RB Javonte Williams
This was Javonte Williams first game back since suffering that serious knee injury and he looked solid overall. He had 13 carries for 52 yards which led the Broncos and also caught 4 balls for 5 yards. So, he had 17 overall touches in week one which is 17 more than most expected him to take at this point and time at points this offseason.
It was not a spectacular day for Javonte, but overall, he had a solid game and came out of the game without any setbacks to his knee.
It was encouraging to see him play the violent style of football once again in his first game back. So, hopefully, he can continue to lead the Broncos backfield and continue to shake to play well as we progress through the season.
Head Coach Sean Payton
If you start out the season 0-1 and lose your first career game with the team to the rival Las Vegas Raiders, you’re going to make the losers list.
This season was expected to have its growing pains, ups and downs, and just be a work in progress, but there were some things we need to see improved moving forward. The Broncos had 10 penalties called on them this game, including two personal foul penalties that extended drives and effectively ended the game. The onside kick to start the game was a curious move and gave the Raiders excellent field position to start the game. This led to a first-drive touchdown by the Raiders and put the Broncos in an early 7-0 hole.
Then, his hand-picked kicker who the team traded for, missed his first extra point attempt and then a 55-yard field goal later in the game. When you lose by one score, these mistakes are costly.
Finally, you have the 4th down during their final offensive drive. All they needed was three yards but they decided to kick the ball back to the Raiders who then drove the ball down the field and ran out the clock. It would have been a risky call to go for it, but the Broncos' defense struggled throughout, and expecting them to get you the ball back for one final game-winning drive probably was not the right call.
Defensive Coordinator Vance Joseph
Despite only giving up 17 points in this one, the Broncos defense struggled. To their credit, they did stop the Raiders rushing attack and held Josh Jacobs to 48 yards on 19 carries. However, they were consistently gashed in the passing game and we saw little to no pass rush from this unit.
After the Broncos' offense went up by the score of 16-10 in the fourth quarter, the Raiders' offense drove down the field effortlessly and scored what ended up being the game-winning touchdown with ease. It was frustrating to watch and what was even more frustrating was their lack of a pass rush.
During training camp, all we heard was how dominant the Broncos pass rush looked. We saw flashes of that during the preseason as well, but in week one, they were nowhere to be found. They had 0 sacks, very few pressures, and only hit quarterback Jimmy G. a handful of times. If this unit is going to be successful this season, we need to see them put together a better performance than this, especially if they are going to be in more low-scoring close games this season.
K Wil Lutz
Lutz already was not a popular addition to the team and his performance in week one certainly did not help his case. He missed his first extra-point attempt with the Broncos, which eventually came back to haunt them. Later, he missed a 55-yard field goal which is not an easy kick to make, but when you lose by one score, these misses sting even more.
He is coming off a down year last season for the Saints and has been regressing the past few seasons while also playing a majority of his games in a dome. So, these struggles are disappointing, but should not be surprising. Hopefully, he can have a bounce-back game next week vs. the Commanders but it is hard to trust him moving forward.
CB Damarri Mathis
Mathis was coming off a solid rookie season, but he had a forgettable week one performance vs. the Raiders. He was routinely beaten by Raiders wide receiver Jakobi Myers and just struggled in general. It appeared that the Raiders gameplan was centered around attacking him in the passing game and they had a lot of success doing it.
This was surprising since Mathis looked solid opposite of Surtain II last season but in this one, he struggled. We need to see him have a bounce-back performance in the coming weeks or else it could be a long season for him and the Broncos' defense.
WR Phillip Dorsett
I added Dorsett, a practice squad player, because of one play. He was wide open and potentially would have had a game-changing touchdown but he stepped out of bounds while making the catch. This was one of many missed opportunities by the Broncos offense, but if he simply stayed in bounds, we could be talking about a different outcome to this game.
The Broncos injury woes continued once again in this one where they lost second-year tight end Greg Dulcich to a hamstring injury and up-and-coming safety, Caden Sterns, to a serious knee injury. 9NEWS Denver’s Mike Klis notes that there is hope the ACL is intact, but he will likely be sidelined for an extended period of time because of this injury.
TE Greg Dulcich with a hamstring injury. Caden Sterns with a serious knee injury, although there's hope his ACL is intact. #9sports— Mike Klis (@mikeklis) September 11, 2023
The Broncos' depth on the roster was lacking already. So, losing two of your more promising younger players in week one for an extended period of time sucks and hurts the depth even more. We will find out more likely tomorrow about how long they will be sidelined but it sounds like it could be extended absences for both.
How would you grade the Broncos performance against the Raiders in Week 1?
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