Now that is how you start a football season! This game was one of the most entertaining opening games from the Raiders in recent memory. It featured everything you could ask for; tough defense, elite QB play, a physical run game, several great catches and a huge return in special teams as well. It was a special way to say goodbye to Monday Night Football in Oakland, the home fans deserved this last big win on the MNF stage.
There are so many good things to get into, but first let’s talk about Jon Gruden’s tendency to let his foot off the gas with the lead. That was the only frustrating thing about this game, because the score does not show how thoroughly the Raiders dominated the Broncos. Instead of continuing to attack the Broncos into the 4th quarter the Raiders went into full on conservative, eat up the clock playcalling.
When they took their foot off the gas it was in order to coast and take as much time off the clock, but adding another touchdown instead of a field goal after Dwayne Harris’s huge 72 yard return would have closed the game out then and there. Instead they ran Josh Jacobs 5 straight times, ignoring the chance at a playaction pass with Denver selling out to stop the run in the process.
Sure enough, the Broncos went straight down the field and scored a touchdown after that to pull within a single score. They had 2 timeouts left and the 2 minute warning too so if they had been able to stop the Raiders from getting a first down they would have had a chance to tie the game up when they should have been put away fully already at that point.
It all became moot thankfully when Derek Carr got the ball to Tyrell Williams who sprinted to the game sealing first down behind a killer block from Kolton Miller. It was almost worth it to go overly conservative just to have gotten to see that pancake block from Miller though, that was a thing of beauty. Still, it would be a lot better if Gruden would just keep attacking instead and put the game out of reach next time to let us all breath a little easier.
Another thing of beauty was the debut of the Raiders trio of first round picks. All three of them contributed big plays to this victory, especially RB Josh Jacobs whose 100+ yards from scrimmage and 2 touchdowns was the first time a player did that in their debut since Hall of Fame running back LaDainian Tomlinson. There you have it, Jacobs is HOF material then. Right?
In all seriousness though, Jacobs performed like an elite back in his first game as an Oakland Raider. His yards per carry average of 3.7 wasn’t that special with his 23 carries for 85 yards, but that’s why stats can indeed lie despite the popular claim that they don’t.
Jacobs ran extremely hard all night long displaying his physicality at the goal line and finishing off runs, but also his balance and nimble feet with his spins and vicious cuts. He was everything you hope for from a 1st round running back last night, if he plays like this all season he should have been long gone before the Raiders had a chance at him at 24th overall.
The most physical person on the entire field for either team was quite obvious, it was Johnathan Abram. Outside of his illegal hit along the sidelines that ended up having him slide into Gareon Conley causing his scary injury, Abram had a great debut. If we are honest, even that hit was exciting in a way because it showed just how much of a missle the dude really is. He just needs to clean up his technique a little bit to avoid the flags that surely will come his way if he even looks like he is leading with his head.
His best play though came along the sidelines when the Broncos receiver looked like he was easily going to come up with a big reception on a high throw from Joe Flacco. Instead though Abram came up and leveled the receiver in just the right spot to spin his second leg far out of bounds and cause the incompletion. That play showed everything Abram offers; speed, physicality and intelligence. It is a perfect vacuum example of what Raider Nation is so excited about with him.
Then there is Clelin Ferrell who added a pass deflection, a tackle for a loss and a sack in his debut. He also looked like he absolutely belongs in the NFL and if he can continue to get to the QB he will prove he was not a reach after all for the Raiders. He definitely is a true defensive end, consistently holding the edge and pushing the Broncos strong running back game to fight for their yards through the middle more often than not.
Can you believe we got this far in this Week 1 Morning After and we haven’t even mentioned how damn good Derek Carr looked. He played great with key throws, confidence, and the fire that was missing ever since he broke his leg on Christmas Eve in 2016. His stats were 22 of 26 for 259 yards and a touchdown, The biggest complaint about him has been his lack of downfield passes which made his 11.7 yards per completion that much more enjoyable.
It helped having Tyrell Williams and Darren Waller though, both players showed why the Raiders were so excited to give them key positions in their offense. Williams made play after play in his 6 catches for 105 yards and a TD, including several huge 3rd down conversions like the game sealing one we already mentioned. He showed he can be the #1 the Raiders need him to be, now we wait and see if he can replicate this performance consistently.
Waller finished the game with 7 receptions for 70 yards and also matched the considerable hype that was created around him this entire off-season. He looked straight up undefendable in this game, using his big frame and surprising speed to consistently give headaches to the Broncos defense.
Oh yeah, and that Broncos defense didn’t even hit Derek Carr at all. Not surprisingly, that helped Carr to his great game but kudos have to be given to the Raiders game plan and offensive line for that. There has rarely been a game where Von Miller and Bradley Chubb were shut down so thoroughly, it was a brilliant performance all around in controlling those two elite pass rushers.
To have put this game together after all the drama from Receiver Who Shall Not Be Named was truly a great coaching and team performance. Jon Gruden and his staff kept this team focused and they were ready. More than that they were angry and they used that energy to their advantage all night long. It was beautiful and cathartic, the sense of relief afterwards was exactly what the doctor ordered after the last week of drama surrounding the team.
Now the question is can they continue to play with this level of energy going forward or was this a flash moment from a bizarre week leading up to the opener? They have another huge opportunity next week with an early match up against the Kansas City Chiefs, if they play great against them too then the NFL world will have no choice but to pay attention to the 2019 Oakland Raiders.