OAKLAND, Calif. | The night started with Oakland Raiders fans derisively chanting at former disgruntled receiver Antonio Brown and ended with coach Jon Gruden celebrating a victory in the Black Hole.
The saga that consumed the football world for days didn’t hamper the Raiders a bit.
Derek Carr threw a touchdown pass on the opening drive of the season, rookie Josh Jacobs ran for two scores and the Raiders responded to a tumultuous week surrounding Brown by beating the Denver Broncos 24-16 on Monday night.
“As much as people talked about it, I mean my god. I feel like somebody was smashing my temple on the side of the head,” Gruden said. “Get over it, man. It’s over. We were good this preseason without him. We were fine without him. We wish him the best. We gave it a shot. Now New England gets their turn. Good luck to them. I can’t deal with it anymore.”
The Raiders (1-0) took out any frustration over the drama surrounding Brown with a convincing win over the AFC West rival Broncos (0-1). The offensive line cleared holes for Jacobs and protected Carr, and the defense harassed Joe Flacco into three sacks and kept Denver out of the end zone until 2:15 remained in the game.
The win spoiled the Denver debuts for Flacco and coach Vic Fangio and ended the NFL’s longest opening weekend winning streak at seven games.
“Disappointed but we’re not discouraged,” star edge rusher Von Miller said. “First game of the season. Hats off to the Raiders, they outplayed us today. Killed us on third down in the first half.”
The final scheduled home opener at the Coliseum before the Raiders planned move to Las Vegas next season began with derisive chants from the boisterous fans toward Brown. Those only grew louder after each successful pass play as both the fans and Raiders players seemed relieved to have the monthlong saga over Brown in the past.
He arrived with optimism following a trade from Pittsburgh in March. But a bizarre foot injury, fight with the NFL over his helmet, skipped practices, multiple fines, a run-in with general manager Mike Mayock and odd social media posts ultimately led to the decision to release the game’s most prolific receiver two days before the opener.
Brown agreed to a deal with New England just hours after being granted his wish to be released by Oakland on Saturday and the Raiders wasted little time proving they had moved on.
“He’s gone. I wish him the best,” Carr said. “There’s no hurt feelings. There’s no anger in me. It stung as a friend seeing him go somewhere else, but I wish him the best.”
The Raiders took the opening kickoff and marched 75 yards in 10 plays. Carr completed all five passes to four receivers, capped by an 8-yard TD to Tyrell Williams.
Oakland added another score in the second quarter when Jacobs capped a 95-yard drive with a 2-yard run to make it 14-0. Jacobs scored again in the fourth quarter, becoming the first Raider to run for two TDs in his debut.
BY THE NUMBERS
Carr completed 22 of 26 passes for 259 yards and wasn’t sacked once after going down 51 times last year. … Jacobs had 23 carries for 85 yards and a 28-yard reception. … Wiliams had six catches for 105 yards, including a game-sealing 10-yard catch on third down after the two-minute warning. … Flacco was 21 for 31 for 268 yards with a 1-yard TD pass to Emmanuel Sanders in Sanders’ first game back from a ruptured Achilles’ tendon.
After recording an NFL-low 13 sacks last year following the trade of Khalil Mack, the Raiders got off to a much better start this year with the pass rush, sacking Flacco three times. Benson Mayowa had two sacks, becoming the first Oakland player to record more than one in a game since Mack had two against Denver on Dec. 17, 2017. Rookie Clelin Ferrell also had one.
Denver’s comeback attempt fell short in part because the Broncos had to settle for field goals on three red zone trips in the second half. A pair of third-down sacks by Mayowa and Ferrell stalled two drives and DaeSean Hamilton dropped a potential TD in the end zone.
Broncos: RT Ja’Wuan James left the game in the first half with a knee injury. … WR Tim Patrick left in the second half with a hand injury.
Raiders: CB Gareon Conley was taken off the field strapped to a stretcher with a neck injury after being hit in the head by teammate Johnathan Abram.
Conley was down on the ground for several minutes with players on both teams kneeling on the ground out of concern. Conley was taken off the field on a stretcher but was able to give a thumbs-up to the crowd.
Gruden said reports on Conley were positive.
Broncos: Host Chicago on Sunday. Fangio spent the past four seasons as defensive coordinator for the Bears.
Raiders: Host Kansas City on Sunday in a second straight division matchup. The Chiefs have won eight of the past nine games in the series.