Broncos-Raiders grades: Run defense gets the high mark

Sep 12, 2023, 7:55 PM | Updated: Sep 13, 2023, 12:42 pm

There’s an old saying: It’s never as good as it seems when it’s going well … and it’s never as bad as it seems when it’s going poorly.

Which means that a 17-16 loss in which both teams were nearly even across the board ends up straight down the middle.



An average of 2.7 points per non-kneeldown possession will get it done most days. Two drives of at least eight minutes were two more than the Broncos had all of last season. They had just one three-and-out … although it came at the worst possible time.

PASSING: B-minus

Russell Wilson operated crisply and comfortably for most of the day, settling into a rhythm and taking what was there. One disappointing aspect was the yardage after the catch amassed by the wide receivers: just 11 yards on 10 total receptions from that position group. Most of the pressure on Wilson came from the right flank, which was responsible for four of the five hurries that bore down on the QB. Also … no dropped passes!


You want to see more explosiveness. That will come, particularly as Javonte Williams continues rounding into form. But both Williams and Samaje Perine produced plenty of yardage after contact — at least 3.0 yards per attempt for both of them. They were dependable and a strength of the unit.



A third-quarter takeaway helped, but with untimely penalties, no three-and-outs forced and an average of 3.4 points per non-kneeldown possession allowed, the marks will be low.


On one side, Pat Surtain II locked down Davante Adams. Just as Adams owned the day when the two collided last November, Surtain got the better of the matchup this time around. But as the game progressed, Las Vegas quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo targeted Damarri Mathis more often. By game’s end, the Raiders had eight completions — including two touchdowns — at Mathis’ expense. Expect teams to continue targeting Mathis until the second-year cornerback makes a play that makes an opposing QB pay.

Essang Bassey was solid in coverage, although his personal-foul penalty on a blitz was damaging.

The pass rush was minimal, although the quick timing Garoppolo seeks doesn’t lend itself well to the edge rushers having a massive impact. Look for the pass rush to rebound next Sunday against Washington, as second-year QB Sam Howell will hold on to the football and dart around the backfield to extend plays.


This was the type of performance for which the Broncos had been waiting against Las Vegas and Josh Jacobs. Alex Singleton and Josey Jewell pursued as though they were one step ahead; their angles were generally crisp. The defensive line struggled to generate pass rush pressure, but dominated against the Raiders’ offensive line the ground. Jonathon Cooper also set the edge well.



The idea of the on-side kickoff was well-reasoned. As Josey Jewell pointed out Monday, there was a gap on the right flank that created an opportunity for a successful surprise on-side attempt. But ultimately, the risk of a penalty like the one incurred by Tremon Smith for illegal touching is part of the calculus. A penalty on the subsequent kickoff wiped out a promising Marvin Mims Jr. return after Las Vegas’ first touchdown. And, of course, Wil Lutz’s missed extra point and a wide-right attempt from 55 yards marred the day.

Punter Riley Dixon was solid, although his final attempt — a 37-yarder with 3.68 seconds of hang time — was a disappointment, as the Broncos had a chance to pin Las Vegas deep in its territory.

Other days will be better, but this Sunday showed that it won’t be a direct path out from six years of special-teams woes.


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