Not sure if the way the Raiders played against the Denver Broncos on Monday night is exactly what coach Hue Jackson had in mind when he said he wants to build a bully, but Jackson no doubt will take the 23-20 victory without hesitation.
The Raiders beat the Broncos despite committing 15 penalties for 131 yards and passing for only 105 yards. Just the same, they rushed for 191 yards, held the Broncos to 38 yards rushing and sacked Broncos quarterback Kyle Orton five times.
Jackson said the process of building a bully started Monday night. It’s evident that the Raiders make significant progress in terms of establishing a physical, pounding rushing attack, as well as relying upon a defensive line rotation that keeps up the pressure from start to finish.
It’s also evident, as Jackson cautioned long ago, that the process of building a bully is going to take longer than one game.
So, count Monday night’s game as a nice start.
*Running back Darren McFadden rushed for a game-high 150 yards in his first game action this season. He missed all four exhibition games because of a fractured orbital bone, as well as Jackson’s reluctance to expose his star back to further injury before the real games started.
Jackson’s hunch that McFadden would be ready for the Broncos game paid off in spades. McFadden ran over, through, around and past Broncos defenders for three quarters before punctuating his night with a 47-yard run to the Broncos 1-yard line that set up the game-clinching touchdown.
After that, Jackson turned to 245-pound backup Michael Bush to throw around his muscular body at a beleaguered Broncos defense.
That strategy worked to perfection, as it has so often in the past. The Broncos wanted nothing to do with Bush plowing straight into the line, and Bush was able to churn out enough yards to help the Raiders run out the clock.
McFadden and Bush combined for 180 yards. It’s mind-boggling to imagine what the Raiders can do once they figure out a way to incorporate rookie running back Taiwan Jones into the mix.
Jones didn’t play Monday night, but he won’t sit idle for very long based on the explosiveness he showed in the exhibition season.
*The Raiders snapped an eight-game losing streak in regular-season openers. They last won a season-opening game in 2002, the season they advanced to the Super Bowl.
The Raiders also won a Monday night game for the first time since 2002, snapping a string of seven straight losses.
Finally, the victory before a national TV audience ended an 11-game losing streak in such games.
*The Raiders made two roster moves after initially reaching the 53-man limit Sept. 3. One of those involved re-signing veteran safety Matt Giordano.
Giordano validated that decision by forcing a fumble, intercepting a pass, forcing Orton into a hurried throw on a third-down play and nearly recovering a fumble.
Giordano and Jerome Boyd played a great deal Monday night and showed that they can be counted upon to make plays in subsequen games.
*Linebacker Darryl Blackstock is another one of the handful of veteran free agents signed before this season started. He, too, made his presence felt right away.
Blackstock blocked a Broncos punt in the first quarter that set up a Raiders score.
*Broncos punt returner Eric Decker returned a punt 90 yards for a touchdown that cut the Raiders lead to 16-10.
Decker had two more opportunities to turn around the game, but both times he was tackled in the open field by special teams standout Rock Cartwright.
That’s the primary reason the Raiders brought back Cartwright for a second season. What he lacks in size, he more than makes up for in experience, knowledge and determination.
*For some reason, Jackson made veteran wide receiver Derek Hagan one of the seven Raiders inactive Monday night.
Jackson said throughout training camp that he would play players based on their performance in practice and exhibition games.
Rookie receiver Denarius Moore is the only other receiver who played at or near Hagan’s level the past six weeks or so. Yet, Hagan wasn’t deemed valuable enough to play Monday.
Still awaiting word from Jackson and Hagan on the thought process that went into the move. Hagan injured his calf in practice early last week, but he was at full strength by the end of the week.
*Third-year wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey had one of the better games of his NFL career. He caught four passes for 44 yards and turned two of those into key first downs.
He also caught a deep pass from quarterback Jason Campbell, but he wasn’t able to stay in bounds. The stats for Heyward-Bey weren’t eye-opening, but he made a significant contribution in the passing game and didn’t drop any passes.
*Kicker Sebastian Janikowski tied an NFL record with a 63-yard field goal just before halftime.
His previous best was 61 yards in 2009, on the road, against the Cleveland Browns. The record-tying field goal proved to be the difference in the game.
That’s what prompted managing general partner Al Davis to use a first-round pick on Janikowski in the 2000 NFL draft.
ESPN showed footage of Janikowski converting a 70-yard field goal in pre-game warm-ups. His deep kick-offs also prevented the Broncos from returning any of his five kicks.
*Veteran offensive lineman Stephon Heyer had a Raiders debut to forget.
He subbed for starter Khalif Barnes at right offensive tackle on a handful of plays and also played the position a handful of times when Barnes was used as an extra blocker.
In one forgettable sequence, Heyer committed false-start penalties on back-to-back snaps. He later whiffed on a block on a play in which Campbell got sacked and fumbled.
*The Raiders finished one sack shy of the league lead last season. They got off to a nice start Monday with a five-spot.
Defensive tackle Richard Seymour recorded two of the five sacks. Tommy Kelly and Matt Shaughnessy added one each. The fifth was credited as a team sack.
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