Jimmy Garoppolo threw two touchdown passes to fellow newcomer Jakobi Meyers in their Las Vegas debut and the Raiders spoiled Sean Payton’s first game as Denver’s coach with a 17-16 win over the Broncos on Sunday.
The Raiders stretched their winning streak over their AFC West rivals to seven games despite the absence of star pass rusher Chandler Jones, who’s involved in a feud with the front office.
Garoppolo, who came to Las Vegas after six seasons in San Francisco, and Meyers, who joined the Raiders after four seasons in New England, connected 10 times for 81 yards, including touchdowns of 3 and 6 yards.
The second came with 6:34 remaining, erasing Denver’s 16-10 lead.
The Raiders’ defense then held Denver to its only three-and-out, giving the ball back to Garoppolo with about five minutes left.
Safety Kareem Jackson, who earlier intercepted Garoppolo in the end zone, was whistled for a 15-yard penalty when he hit Meyers in the head with an elbow after a key catch, sending him to the sideline. That infraction helped the Raiders run out the clock and go into victory formation.
Payton returned to the sideline after a year’s sabbatical in the FOX broadcast booth in large part to revive Russell Wilson‘s career after the quarterback’s worst season. Wilson looked much better than he did last year with Nathaniel Hackett at the helm, completing 27 of 34 passes for 177 yards and two touchdowns without an interception.
Payton’s special teams were the problem for Denver. There was a costly hold that negated one return, a botched onside kick to open the game and two big misses from kicker Wil Lutz, whom Payton had during his time in New Orleans and was acquired from the Saints following training camp.
Lutz missed his first extra point to the right and also was wide right on a 55-yard field goal.
That brought renewed scrutiny on Payton’s decision to jettison veteran Brandon McManus last spring. McManus quickly signed with Jacksonville and was 5 for 5 on PATs and field goals Sunday in the Jaguars’ 31-21 win over the Colts.
Lutz was good from 24 yards out to push Denver’s lead to 16-10 midway through the fourth quarter. That capped a 16-play, 75-yard drive that followed Jackson’s end-zone interception after the Raiders had reached the Denver 1.
Garoppolo responded by driving the Raiders 75 yards in six plays. The payoff was a 6-yard touchdown toss to Meyers, and Daniel Carlson’s PAT proved the final margin.
Wilson threw two 5-yard touchdown passes in the first half. The first was to wide receiver Lil’Jordan Humphrey, another of Payton’s former Saints players, on Denver’s first drive. That marked the first time since 2008 at Oakland that Denver had scored a touchdown on its first drive of the season.
Wilson’s 5-yard strike to Courtland Sutton with 18 seconds left in the second quarter gave Denver a 13-10 halftime lead as Wilson retreated to the locker room having completed 17 of 19 passes — with one of the misses being a clock-stopping spike — for 125 yards.
The Raiders also scored on their first drive when Garoppolo connected with Meyers from 3 yards out after the Broncos botched an onside kick to start the season when Tremon Smith touched the football a yard shy of the 10-yard marker, negating Essang Bassey’s recovery.
Raiders: D Tre’von Moehrig left in the third quarter with an injured thumb.
Broncos: ILB Justin Strnad (left knee) was carted off in the first half and TE Greg Dulcich (knee) was injured on Denver’s opening drive after halftime.
Raiders: Visit Buffalo next Sunday.
Broncos: Host Washington next Sunday.