The Oakland Raiders looked like a team that was happy to play football.
They were finally free of the nonsense. No more having to read about crazy tantrums over a helmet. No distraction of a diva receiver skipping meetings and walkthroughs. Nobody left who would interrupt practice to cuss out the general manager.
Antonio Brown is gone before he ever played a snap with the Raiders, and while it’s hard to say the Raiders are more talented without him, they also didn’t miss him on Monday night.
Oakland played very well on Monday night in a 24-16 win over the Denver Broncos. For weeks, the only thing the Raiders heard about was Brown and his constant drama. It must have been nice to just play ball.
“Let’s get the elephant out the room,” quarterback Derek Carr told ESPN’s Dianna Russini postgame. “Antonio is no longer with us and we love Antonio. We wish him the best. But we knew with the guys we have in our locker room, we already had a good football team. And if he wanted to be part of it, awesome. If he didn’t, awesome.”
Raiders offense has a strong night
The biggest positive on Monday was that Carr played very well without Brown, who was supposed to be his All-Pro target all season. Carr was very efficient, spreading the ball around. He was 22-of-25 for 259 yards. Carr also played well in the second half of last season, though not too many people noticed after he stumbled early in the year.
Tyrell Williiams, another offseason addition who moves up to be the team’s No. 1 receiver with Brown off to New England, scored early and looked like he could do just fine as Carr’s new favorite target. Williams had six catches for 105 yards. Tight end Darren Waller was tough to match up with. Rookie running back Josh Jacobs made big plays, and became the first player in his NFL debut to have 100 total yards and two touchdowns since LaDainian Tomlinson in 2001.
It was just one game, and we’ve seen weird outcomes in the second Monday night game of Week 1 before, but the Raiders looked like a team that has improved a lot, even with Brown having sabotaged his Oakland career before it started.
For the Raiders who were overshadowed by the sideshow, the coaching staff and front office who had to babysit Brown’s drama and even the fans who felt betrayed by Brown (and broke out an explicit chant to voice their feelings), it had to feel pretty good to play that well on Monday night without him.
Oakland dominates Denver
The Raiders were the better team from beginning to end. They took an early 7-0 lead on a Williams touchdown and Denver was never really in the game after that.
Oakland’s defense, which was not good last season, was stifling. The Raiders upgraded in a few spots and looked strong against the Arizona Cardinals in the preseason. The preseason generally means little, but that was a preview of what happened on Monday night. Denver didn’t get in the end zone until 2:15 remained against a new-look Raiders defense. There will be some important questions about how the Broncos could look so bad in the season opener, but that’s for another day.
Monday night was for the Raiders, who have been beat up a lot since Jon Gruden came back to coach them. There were no jokes to be made about them after they controlled the Broncos. Maybe AB can post about that on social media.
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