Instant reaction from the Broncos’ 17-16 loss to the Las Vegas Raiders in Sean Payton’s head coaching debut at Empower Field at Mile High.
Opening moments: It began with former Broncos receiver Mark Jackson imploring the fans with a Bud Light tallboy. It built with former Broncos defensive end Derek Wolfe towel-waving them into a lather. And it hit a crescendo with the Broncos recovering an onside kick … almost. So, head coach Sean Payton’s first act of the preseason was to bash anyone and everyone who had a parking space at Dove Valley last year. And his first act of the regular season was to do a call-back to perhaps his greatest call (surprise Super Bowl onside) at his last stop. Say this for Payton, he sure knows how to make an introduction.
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Meet the new guys: Taking a roll call of the Broncos’ offseason additions, Week 1 was a bit of a mixed bag. And it was hard to miss some of the errors. Defensive end Frank Clark? Third-down offside call. Kicker Wil Lutz? Missed PAT and wide right from 55 yards. Wide receiver Phillip Dorsett II? A long pass negated by poor field awareness. Tight end Chris Manhertz? Drive-killing hold. Left guard Ben Powers? Whiffed on a screen. And the $87 million man Mike McGlinchey at right tackle? Oh, just Raiders edge rusher Maxx Crosby’s latest victim. But, hey, at least we have receiver Lil’Jordan Humphrey (5-yard TD reception), running back Samaje Perine (78 total yards) and defensive end Zach Allen (late tackle for loss).
Mathis on an island: Playing opposite Pat Surtain II has its pros and cons. Pros, you’re going to get a ton of action on your side of the field. Cons, you’re going to get a TON of action on your side of the field. That was Damarri Mathis’ world Sunday as Raiders quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo made a point of picking on the second-year corner. There were bad moments (Jakobi Meyers’ two TDs, including a full-on Moss-ing on Vegas’ first drive), and good ones (Mathis blanketing Meyers in the back of the end zone on the Raiders’ second). One thing that’s clear: The Broncos’ hopes in the secondary will largely depend on him being able to hold up under the pressure.
Russ delivers: Payton’s debut as Broncos head coach came down to whether Russell Wilson could deliver with his team down a point in the fourth quarter. Fitting, it seems, given that’s what this season is all about. Concerning, too, given the fact that the end result was a three-and-out that saw Russ skip a second-and-long pass to receiver Courtland Sutton, then throw short of the sticks to tight end Adam Trautman. And the Broncos never saw the ball again. Up until then, it wasn’t a particularly bad game for Russ, either. He finished 27-of-34 for 177 yards and two touchdowns. A perfectly competent stat line. But the Broncos scored only 16 points and lost for the seventh straight time against the Raiders. And that’s all that matters.