The Jimmy Garoppolo era in Las Vegas started with a win, as the Raiders beat the Broncos 17-16 to open the 2023 campaign. Garoppolo threw two touchdown passes and sealed the game late with a first-down run from the pocket.
Overall, the game wasn’t pretty; the teams combined for 20 penalties, and Garoppolo threw an interception in the end zone. But this opening win for the Raiders will boost their confidence as they look to surpass low expectations league-wide.
Despite the win, some players performed better than others. Here are this week’s winners and losers as the Raiders bask in their 1-0 record.
Winner: QB Jimmy Garoppolo
Garoppolo and the Raiders offense started hot, notching a touchdown on their first possession. Broncos coach Sean Payton tried an onside kick to start the game, but after a penalty on Denver gave the Raiders the ball, Garoppolo took advantage of the short field and found wide receiver Jakobi Meyers for a touchdown.
An interception in the end zone by Garoppolo late in the third quarter threatened to put him on the loser list. But the Raiders defense kept the damage to a minimum, holding Denver to a field goal and a 16-10 lead midway through the fourth quarter.
Garoppolo threw another touchdown to Meyers on the ensuing drive, giving the Raiders the lead for good at 17-16. His late scramble for a first down sealed the win for Las Vegas. It was a welcome sight for coach Josh McDaniels, especially considering Garoppolo briefly left the game after a big hit early. The oft-injured Garoppolo returned and earned the victory.
The Raiders’ new weapon on offense made a big splash in his first game for Las Vegas. Meyers caught both of Garoppolo’s touchdown throws and had 81 yards on nine receptions, leading his team in both categories.
He left the game late after a crushing hit on the Raiders’ game-sealing drive. The play drew a penalty on Denver and handed Las Vegas a first down. Meyers walked off the field on his own, a good sign for the Raiders, as he and Garoppolo displayed great chemistry out of the gate.
Like Garoppolo’s performance, it wasn’t always pretty, but Crosby led a Raiders defense that got the job done in Week 1. The Broncos were just short of 100 yards rushing and tallied only 260 yards overall.
After Garoppolo’s interception, it appeared the Raiders stopped the Broncos when DE Jerry Tillery sacked Broncos QB Russell Wilson, forcing a punt. On 4th-and-14, linebacker Luke Masterson roughed the punter, handing Denver a first down.
The rest of the Raiders defense stepped up after Masterson’s mistake, holding the Broncos to a field goal and a 16-10 lead. But for a minute, it appeared the Raiders’ opening game would be ruined by a special teams blunder.
Rookie cornerback Jakorian Bennett had his moments in his debut as an NFL pro, notably his seven tackles. He also had a couple of learning moments.
He got beat on a big third-down conversion on the Broncos’ first drive of the game, which ended in a touchdown. Bennett also drew a pass interference flag on a 3rd-and-6 play late in the first half, another Denver touchdown drive.
Overall, Bennett kept battling and showed his potential. The Raiders will need him to keep learning and growing this season.
Wide receiver Hunter Renfrow seemed primed to bounce back from an unproductive, injury-riddled campaign in 2022. That notion is still on hold, as Renfrow went catchless on Sunday.
In fact, Renfrow wasn’t targeted a single time. Unlike Meyers, Renfrow wasn’t able to capitalize on the added attention paid to teammate Davante Adams. Perhaps Renfrow will still emerge this season as the offense matures under Garoppolo, but Renfrow appeared to be an afterthought on Sunday.
McDaniels gets an honorary mention on the winner list, mostly because he went for a key 4th-and-1 opportunity on the Raiders’ first drive. After Payton’s onside kick to start the game, it was important to make the Broncos pay with a touchdown and set the tone for the game.
Garoppolo hit Adams for 13 yards to convert on short yardage, and the Raiders were up 7-0 minutes later. Las Vegas played uneven football the rest of the way but won despite falling behind late. That’s a reversal of last season when McDaniels’ bunch blew plenty of late leads.
The Raiders will play the Bills in Buffalo next week, in an early-season test against an AFC contender. It’s still unclear how good this bunch is, but confidence should be sky-high as the Raiders travel to the East Coast with a 1-0 record.