All it took for the Raiders to set right what had turned into a wild few days leading into the start of the 2023 NFL season was a wild few quarters in which mistakes and mental miscues ruled. But the Raiders were mistake-free when it counted, and though they won’t get any style points for Sunday’s opening victory over the Broncos, they don’t much care.
Las Vegas is 1-0 and atop the AFC West, with the Chargers and Chiefs each dropping their opener, as the Broncos did, in a tight loss (Kansas City by a point, and the Chargers by 2 points).
But veteran receiver Davante Adams said the win-ugly approach that served the Raiders in Week 1 won’t be acceptable in Week 2, when the Raiders face the Bills in Buffalo.
The Raiders piled up 97 yards of penalties (on 10 whistles against) and coughed up what could have been a back-breaking interception by Jimmy Garoppolo in the end zone on a third-and-goal from the 6-yard line in the third quarter.
“We definitely made it tough on ourselves with some of the penalties, didn’t come out and play as clean as we would have liked to, especially playing against a good football team” Adams said. “As we go into next week and we obviously got another good football team we are going against (in Buffalo) so, we gotta be smarter and finish it out. In the end, we finished it out and that was the difference today.”
Raiders Could Not Win Close Ones in 2022
But Adams conceded that the kind of win the Raiders wrestled from the Broncos in Denver on Sunday is the kind of win the team was not getting a year ago, when Las Vegas went 6-11. The Raiders’ schedule was loaded with close games, but the Raiders almost always came out on the losing end. The point-differential ledger (395 points for, 418 against) was indicative of a .500 team, not one that was five games below .500.
“Last year, we just talked about it, this type of game was the difference in our season last year, just finishing these,” Adams said. “They say you trash when you don’t, and we had about nine of them or something like that, and didn’t finish them out on the right side. When we do finish these, they talk a lot different about you, regardless of what it took to get there, if it is ugly or not. At the end of the day, it’s about winning and we obviously want to win prettier than what we did today, but at the same time, it’s complementary football, we gotta play well together as a team to win and we did it just good enough.”
He is right. The Raiders in all, had nine losses decided by one score or fewer. There were five games decided by a field goal or less.
Rough Patches Abounded in Week 1
Garoppolo, too, acknowledged there were too many rough patches on Sunday for the Raiders.
“It wasn’t pretty, it wasn’t perfect by any means, but division games, you always know those are going to be tough,” he said. “But guys just stuck with it for 60 minutes. We knew it was gonna be one of those games. It was cool.”
Toughness from Garoppolo was one reason the Raiders survived on Sunday. He threw a critical deflected interception after the Raiders had gained a first-and-goal from the 1-yard line, following a huge pass interference penalty on Patrick Surtain of the Broncos. Denver recorded a field-goal on the next drive, but Garoppolo responded with a touchdown drive to give the Raiders a lead they’d go on to protect.
“It was awesome. Just everything came together,” Garoppolo said. “I thought guys really stepped up in those big moments today. … All those little things coming together.’
Sean Deveney is a veteran sports reporter covering the NBA and NFL for Heavy.com. He has written for Heavy since 2019 and has more than two decades of experience covering the NBA, including 17 years as the lead NBA reporter for the Sporting News. Deveney is the author of 7 nonfiction books, including “Fun City,” “Before Wrigley became Wrigley,” and “Facing Michael Jordan.” More about Sean Deveney
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