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Broncos vs Raiders: The No Bull Review

The Denver Broncos lost to the Las Vegas Raiders in their home opener. Here are my thoughts, opinions, and analysis on a Broncos team stumbling out of the gates to start off the season.

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

As a fan of the Denver Broncos and NFL football who has been watching his team play pathetic losing football for 7 years and counting, I have just about seen it all. Big losses, close losses, inept coaching, bad officiating, and poor play come with the territory when your team is permeated with a losing culture.

This game had it all in drips and drabs and it is maddening to watch when you care about your team.

That being said, I’m trying not to pick up the jaded attitude I left at the end of last season and bring it with me into this season after just one game.

Because it is Just. One. Game.

And there were positives to be sure. Let’s talk about them a bit and look forward to week 2 and hopefully some winning football for a change.


Denver Broncos v San Francisco 49ers Photo by Loren Elliott/Getty Images

I entered the season thinking the biggest question mark for this team was our defense under Vance Joseph. I just can’t shake the feeling that as a young coach and coordinator, he’s been handed the keys to sweet rides fairly consistently which has led to his success.

What I mean by this is that I question just how much he brings to a defense that already knows how to play good defense. Just like the Broncos’ loss, I’ll leave this as a question mark and hope I see better from his defenses in the coming weeks.

From a high level, the big obvious problem was the complete lack of pass rush. Coach Payton talked about how quickly Garoppolo gets rid of the ball as an excuse, but that is all that is…an excuse. There were many key plays where the Las Vegas Raiders needed to hold the ball in order to move the chains and the pass rush was just non-existent.

A great example of this was the key play of the game in the last drive with the Raiders at 3rd and 7. The Broncos brought the blitz with 2 extra rushers and it had zero impact on the play. The Raiders offense just yawned and completed the conversion to ice the game.

The other thing worth paying attention to at a high level is the cornerback situation. Our guys behind Surtain were woefully inept in this game and Mathis honestly should have been benched in the game. I can only assume that because the guy behind him is Essang Bassey, that wasn’t an option because it would not likely have improved the situation.

Front 7

Let’s start with the positives: The run defense was killing it. I know Broncos Country is shell-shocked when it comes to Josh Jacobs, but the “Broncos Killer” ended the day with a paltry 2.5 ypc. That’s a win up front for the big guys.

As I already mentioned, the pass rush was severely lacking. One factor in this was the referee’s absolute refusal to call holding on the Raiders. I saw at least 3 holds in the first 3 quarters that were obvious calls. I stopped looking for it at halftime because it was apparent that the refs were not going to call it.

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

Alex Singleton made me a fan with his coverage in the end zone in the mess of a drive the Raiders had in the 3rd quarter. He forced the miss that ended up being an interception by Kareem Jackson. He led the defense being in on 8 tackles and had one of the few of the game’s quarterback hits by a Bronco.

Zach Allen had one of the only big TFLs in the game in the 4th quarter getting Jacobs down for a big loss. He also had a quarterback hit in the game and showed Broncos country that we’ve got a plus player on the interior line.

One guy who seemed to be missing as a new Broncos player was Frank Clark. As a pass rush specialist and a veteran, I was honestly amazed at just how missing he was in this game. The only time I did notice him was when he committed a neutral zone infraction to give the Raiders a first down on a 3rd and 3. The drive didn’t end in points but keep in mind the impact on field position and TOP.


Damarri Mathis looked like a guy out of his depth. He gave up an easy TD and a wide-open pass for 10+ which was followed by another 10+ pass. He also committed a pass interference penalty in the end zone. He gave up another TD on a slant in the 4th quarter where he did absolutely nothing to try to defend the pass. The dude got taken to school by the Raiders in every way and was easily one of the top 3 reasons the Broncos lost this game.

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

Now that that is out of the way, Patrick Surtain II is the truth at cornerback, plain and simple. In the 2nd half, McDaniels called a flea-flicker play that Surtain absolutely smothered with perfect coverage. He ended the game with a whopping 3 pass defenses (for those of you who don’t look at stats, this is not common…commonly good players have 1 or 2 in a game). Surtain did get a really bad pass interference call to extend a Raider drive. He should have known better than to put both hands on the #1 WR of the other team when Bill Vinovich is on the field.

Essang Bassey’s contribution to the game started (and ended?) with a late hit that was about the dumbest penalty I saw on the day. You have to play smarter than that to win football games. I wonder how long it will take for this Broncos team to start learning that lesson.

Kareem Jackson honestly amazes me. The guy is just a damned good football player every year. He’s aging like fine wine and still killing it on the football field. He had one of the teams pass defenses and an interception on the day adding to his already lengthy legacy in the NFL.


The offense was a tale of two halves. The first half had me excited and hopeful for this season. The second half had me practicing mindfulness and deep breathing due to ghosts of losing seasons past.

But the overall outlook is positive in my No Bull mind. The team ran the ball very well with a 4.3 ypc average. They also had success in the passing game with 2 TDs in the end zone and an overall 108 passer rating for our quarterback.

The team needs wide receivers to get healthy or young guns to step up enough to start being impactful for the team. With their thin depth there, big plays were hard to find in this game which made it easy for the opponent to key in on shorter passes and bog down the offense in the second half.


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

Russell Wilson with pass blocking in front of him is deadly in the red zone. He worked the back of the end zone for easy scores with supremely accurate throws for scores twice. I loved seeing the offense give him easy half-field reads and space to create with on designed roll-outs.

I think this was a very good first game for the restoration of Russell Wilson. He looked sharp, positive, and executed the plays well for Sean Payton.


Las Vegas Raiders v Denver Broncos Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

I think Mike McGlinchey was the biggest signing for the Broncos in free agency and his performance in this game helped solidify that opinion for me. He was against one of the toughest assignments in the NFL in Max Crosby and held it down very well.

Lloyd Cushenberry III stuck out to me once again as the line’s weak link. He had multiple plays where he got powered over or out-maneuvered. I honestly think that this is a “Rome wasn’t built in a day” situation. I find it highly likely that we’ll be seeing a new name at center next season.

Running Backs

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

Javonte Williams is back and I’m here for it. He ran with power, confidence, and great vision on the day. One of his best plays saw him bounce to the outside after getting piled up by the Raiders defense to turn a nothing gain into about 8 yards.

Samaje Perine has the talent to make guys miss in the open field as well as running the ball up the middle. I think his game compliments our #1 back perfectly with him bringing a little more elusiveness and burst to the field.


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

Courtland Sutton is once again being expected to win one-on-one matchups and he looked great on the day with that challenge. He got one of the two TDs on the day and looked very sharp and fast with soft hands for his QB.

Who said that Russell Wilson doesn’t throw to tight ends? They caught 7 passes on the day between Adam Trautman and Greg Dulcich.

Lil’Jordan Humphrey ran a gorgeous crossing route at the back of the end zone. He made himself an easy target for Wilson keeping a step ahead of his defender.

The big thing missing from the receivers is more plays downfield. The Broncos never forced the defense to do anything other than play zone and keep everything in front of them and the team didn’t do enough to punish them for it.

Special Teams

That’s a shaky way for a kicker to start the season. I get the missed field goal by Wil Lutz…I’m not even mad about that one iota. What bugs me is the missed extra point. That kept us out of overtime.

Final Thoughts

We lost a close game and I’m never too upset about that until it becomes a trend. Every season is a new start and each game is worth exactly one win or one loss.

The Broncos are a rebuilding team trying to learn how to win. It will take time and consistently good coaching along with good learning by the players for them to get it figured out. Next week will be another step in the process and hopefully, we’ll see different results from our team.