Broncos Fight to the End, Lose Season Opener

DaeSean Hamilton dropping a would be Touchdown Photo Credit: Aaron Ontiveroz, The Denver Post

The Denver Broncos lost their season opener to the rival Oakland Raiders by a score of 24-16 on Monday Night Football.

There were bright spots by the Broncos such as zero turnovers, low penalty count, and the offense was able to move the ball well at times. However, the downside is that the defense couldn’t stop the Raiders on third down, Special Teams had multiple gaffes, inopportune penalties that nullified points, and offensive execution was lacking occasionally. The Raiders came ready to play with a game plan to pick on the Broncos third-string cornerback Isaac Yiadom, neutralize the Broncos pass rush with quick passes, screens, and an odd usage of pass-and-run selection, and to use their offensive line strength to control the game.

The Raiders executed their game plan flawlessly.  Derek Carr had four incompletions all game, three of them were batted balls on good plays by the defense –– no knock on Carr. Carr was never sacked and never even hit. He released the ball quickly when he needed to and the offensive line provided lots of time on his deep balls. Von Miller and Bradley Chubb were silent all game, which is disappointing considering that is the strength of this team.

The Broncos (0-1) were outclassed at almost every level, the defense looked pedestrian, the offense was shut out in the first half, and special teams had a missed field goal and a kick coverage breakdown resulting in a 72-yard return on the most important defensive possession of the game to that point. Every phase of the Broncos had issues this game, but the ultimate game changer was execution.

Overall, the Broncos left 10 points on the field with a sack knocking them out of field goal position in the first half, a missed attempts on a 64-yard field goal to end the first half (would have been 54 if there wasn’t a Noah Fant holding call), and a bad drop by DeaSean Hamilton that would have been a touchdown.

If the Broncos convert those points, the final score is 26 – 24 Broncos win. However, that isn’t how the game played out and “Death by Inches” took its toll on another Broncos loss.

One of the biggest issues on defense was that a tight end once again dominated this team in the first half. But on the flip side, the coaching staff made changes and Darren Waller only had two catches for 14 yards in the second half, ending with seven catches for 70 yards.

The pass rush was completely non-existent, showcased by zero sacks and zero quarterback hits. This was more frustrating for the defense than it was for the fans, because Von Miller and Bradley Chubb are some of the most talented pass rushers in the league. They were just out schemed to the point that the Raiders offense was allowed to dink and dunk all the way down the field converting 10/14 third down conversions. The Raiders had a good game plan and good execution to utilize a multi-pronged attack to mitigate Von and Chubb.

Positive spots in this game were that Courtland Sutton and Emmanuel Sanders both had really good games. Sutton carried the team into the fourth quarter ending with seven catches for 120 yards. Emmanuel Sanders caught fire and made some big plays after Gareon Conely left the game with an apparent neck injury –– ending with five catches for 86 yards and a touchdown. Another positive observation was that Garrett Bolles, the often under fire starting Left Tackle, had a really good game and made it out without a single penalty which has proven to be his Achilles heel. Finally, Joe Flacco looked like a veteran Quarterback that moved the offense and gave his playmakers a chance to make plays. He would have had nearly 300 yards, two touchdowns, and zero turnovers had Hamilton caught that ball in the end zone, with a 67% completion percentage.

Additional negative notes are that the Broncos lost Ja’Wuan James, the starting Right Tackle and expensive free agent acquisition from the Miami Dolphins, to injury where he never returned to the game. Ronald Leary had multiple holding calls after missing many training camp practices, preseason games, and recovering from a torn Achilles this offseason. Bryce Callahan will be a major impact player on this defense, and he didn’t register a snap on Monday night. Noah Fant had a hot-and-cold debut, showcasing his skills, but only ended with two catches on five targets for 29 yards and two first downs. However, he whiffed a few blocks that were highlighted front and center when his man made the tackle, he had a few penalties against him, and he appeared to be loafing around on a couple plays where the ball eventually went to him and he appeared unprepared.

Finally, the Broncos trick plays were all failures due to poor execution.

Up next, the Broncos play the Chicago Bears (0-1) in Denver on Sunday at 4:25 pm ET. The Bears, who are coming off a bad loss to their division rivals at home, are going to be looking to bounce back. The Broncos are historically good in their home opener, and the Bears offense looked really bad against the Packers on Sunday, so this game can give Broncos fans hope.

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