HENDERSON, Nev. (AP) — Las Vegas got out of Denver with a season-opening 17-16 victory even though the Raiders were often their worst enemy.
The Raiders overcame an interception in the end zone to wipe out a scoring opportunity, a penalty for roughing the punter that led to a Broncos field goal and an offside call on fourth down that extended a Denver drive on Sunday.
Overcoming such miscues will be much more challenging when the Raiders visit the Buffalo Bills, who are 9 1/2-point favorites according to FanDuel Sportsbook. Or, for that matter, against most teams on their schedule.
“The most important thing we can do is learn from this game and the things that we need to do better, which are numerous across the board,” coach Josh McDaniels said Monday. “There are many things that we can do better and need to do better as we go forward, so that’s my job as the head coach.”
The Raiders did show resiliency in overcoming those mistakes, and that should serve them well.
They did more than just overcome. Las Vegas ran off the final 5:08, picking up three first downs on that last drive. Two came on third downs, including quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo scrambling to convert a third-and-7 to secure the victory.
“I thought there was a lot of mental toughness and resiliency required from our team in that situation on the road, and I thought our maturity showed up,” McDaniels said. "We didn’t flinch.”
In his first Las Vegas start, Garoppolo efficiently and effectively ran the offense, getting the ball out quickly to negate any hint of a Broncos pass rush.
He completed 20 of 26 passes for 200 yards and two touchdowns while not getting sacked. Garoppolo established a rapport with Jakobi Meyers, who caught both TD passes and finished with nine receptions for 81 yards.
Meyers left in the fourth quarter after a hit to his head, but this performance is something for the two to build upon. It also will give opposing defenses plenty to consider when they think of double-teaming Davante Adams.
WHAT NEEDS HELP
Questions about the pass rush didn't go away. The Raiders got to Russell Wilson twice, once by usual suspect Maxx Crosby and the other time by Jerry Tillery. Even with Crosby's 12 1/2 sacks last season, Las Vegas was 30th in the NFL with 27 quarterback takedowns.
Wilson has long been one of the league's more elusive quarterbacks, and he moved around well to avoid pressure, but the Raiders will face many mobile QBs, including the Bills' Josh Allen. So this isn't a problem that will go away on its own.
That said, defensive end Chandler Jones didn't play because of a dispute with management. The Raiders used three players at that position, including rookie Tyrell Wilson and Tillery, who moved from defensive tackle. The Jones situation shows few signs of being quickly resolved, so this will be a position to watch.
The play of Meyers brings up the question of what were the New England Patriots thinking? They could've kept Meyers, but offered essentially the same contract to JuJu Smith-Schuster that the Raiders gave Meyers. Smith-Schuster caught four passes for 33 yards in the Patriots' 25-20 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles and his impact is being questioned in New England. The same can't be said of Meyers in Las Vegas.
Hunter Renfrow and rookie tight end Michael Mayer not only didn't make any catches, they weren't targeted. It's not shocking regarding Mayer since it was his first NFL game, but the Raiders traded up in the draft because of his pass-catching skills. Renfrow, who had 1,038 yards receiving two years ago, has never looked comfortable in McDaniels' system. But the Raiders will need him, especially if Meyers will be out for a week or so.
McDaniels said Meyers is in the concussion protocol. There was no update on safety Tre’von Moehrig, who injured his thumb. McDaniels also said he didn't have any update on Jones, who was active on social media over the weekend, posting what he said was a text-message exchange with Raiders owner Mark Davis, who expressed his support for the player.
2.5 — Josh Jacobs' yards per carry. He admitted to being rusty after missing training camp over a contract dispute. Jacobs averaged 4.9 yards last season in leading the NFL with 1,653 yards. It would be shocking if he continues to have days like Sunday in which Jacobs rushed for 48 yards, but missing so much practice time could mean it will take him a while to get back to last season's standards.
The Raiders will spend this week at The Greenbrier resort in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, in preparation for Sunday's game at Buffalo, which opened its season Monday night against the New York Jets.
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Mark Anderson, The Associated Press