Hidden amidst all the questions about Antonio Brown and how his presence or absence would affect the Raiders in their season opener was as bigger question — how would the pass protection hold up.
I’d argue there was no more important aspect of this game that that. Derek Carr was sacked 51 times last season, 30 of which were surrendered by the rookie duo of Kolton Miller and Brandon Parker.
The tackles were upgraded this season. I say tackles because even though Kolton Miller is still at left tackle, he is healthy and entering his second season. On the other side they have the highest paid tackle in the NFL in Trent Brown.
Improvement is, of course, expected, but they would not be able to learn on the job. They faced arguably the league’s toughest pass rushing duo on opening night. And they would do so with backup guards next to them.
And they held the Broncos without a sack. Not one.
Von Miller and Bradley Chubb did not affect the game. Derek Carr was fairly comfortable in the pocket all game long and rookie running back Josh Jacobs became the first player since LaDainian Tomlinson in 2001 to put up over 100 yards from scrimmage and 2 touchdowns in his debut.
It was quite a night for the big fellas.
“After giving up 57 sacks last year or whatever the hell it was, I mean that’s a great accomplishment. It’s something we hope to continue,” Gruden said of the line play. “We had one great game, you got to really prove that you can do it again and again. Trent Brown’s a big acquisition, we’re playing with two backup guards. I’m going to underscore that. Guard Denzelle Good had back surgery. We didn’t even expect him to play. Jordan Devey came in because [Richie] Incognito couldn’t play. So, to play through to the fourth guard against a defense like that, those guys deserve some credit.”
It was a wire-to-wire performance in the Raiders 24-16 opening night win. The Raiders scored on the opening possession of the game, then jumped out to a 14-0 lead before the Broncos got on the board. And then in a one-possession game late, they needed a first down to close it out and they got it.
It was befitting that it was a Kolton Miller block that finished it off so the Raiders could seal the win. On third and eight after the two-minute warning and with the Broncos having no timeouts left, Carr threw to Tyrell Williams out left on the bubble screen and Miller’s block sprung Williams for 10 yards and the first down.
Kolton Miller wins the game: pic.twitter.com/nrbaXDklAt— Dieter Kurtenbach (@dieter) September 10, 2019
“It was a play action and quick tackle out and I think he tried to cut up field so he turned his hips and he didn’t try to cut me or face me so I got him off balance and made a good play and we got the first down to close out the game,” said Miller of the play.
That play put Williams over 100 yards receiving (105) on the night in his debut with the Raiders.
And just for good measure, the next play they quick snapped it and ran Josh Jacobs behind a pull block by Jordan Devey to pick up 13 and then kneeled out the clock.
Not only were the Broncos held without a sack, but they didn’t even get a hit on Carr all night. It helped greatly in Carr having just four incompletions, at least one of which was a drop, and no interceptions. You really could not ask for a better start for the Raiders tackles than that.
“We’re all having a blast right now,” said Miller. “Winning is really fun. We locked it down together and glad we came out with the W.”