First-year Las Vegas quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo made the plays when needed to deliver the Raiders a win in their 2023 season opener.
Las Vegas beat AFC West rival Denver, 17-16, Sunday, Sept. 10 from Empower Field at Mile High. With a regular season sweep last year along with this victory, the Raiders have won their last seven meetings with the Broncos.
“Just proud of our team,” head coach Josh McDaniels said. “On the road, in the division right off the bat. We’ve talked about this all week, probably for a couple of weeks.”
Both of Las Vegas’ first two games are on the road, keeping the team from Allegiant Stadium until Sunday, Sept. 24. Buffalo awaits the team next with that matchup scheduled for Sunday, Sept. 17 from Highmark Stadium.
“I probably could’ve told you what the speech was going to be tomorrow morning regardless of the outcome,” McDaniels said. “It’s going to be, ‘Alright, there’s some things that we did okay, some things we did well and then here’s the load of things that we’re going to have to clean up.”
In his first showing with his new team, Garoppolo made timely play after timely play. None more timely than his eight-yard quarterback run to snatch a new set of downs and seal the season-opening victory.
“That’s Jimmy,” McDaniels said. “Jimmy’s got great mental toughness, he’s a competitor. You have to have a short memory if you’re going to play quarterback in this league and win games in the fourth quarter.”
Now playing with his third team during his 10-year career, Garoppolo has won his debut during all three stops. Earlier in the fourth quarter, he manufactured a touchdown drive to regain the lead for good.
It started with an 18-yard dime to his new No. 1 target Davante Adams. Immediately after, Jimmy G. found first-year Raider receiver Jakobi Meyers, who came over this offseason from the New England Patriots.
Meyers was the primary target for Garoppolo in his first official start in the Silver & Black, finishing with nine receptions for 81 yards, both game-highs. He also scored twice including the team’s first of the game and the team’s last to give it its first lead since late in the second quarter.
“He’s a football player,” McDaniels said. “He’s tough, he does a lot of dirty work, he blocks in the running game. He can go inside and make plays inside and he’s got good size and can make good things happen on third down and the red zone. That’s why he’s here.”
Facing a 3rd and 7 on the team’s game-sealing drive, Meyers hauled in a first down catch but would be knocked unconscious on the tackle. He’d leave the game and not return.
There was no official update on his condition following the game.
Finally, it was a 20-yard pitch-and-catch to tight end Austin Hooper to set up Meyers’ second and last touchdown.
Garoppolo left the field for a short time on the team’s opening drive of the game, turning the quarterback reps over to another longtime Patriot in Brian Hoyer. Shortly after leaving the field, Garoppolo would return to take over under center.
In his first official Las Vegas start, Garoppolo went 20-for-26 with 200 yards, two touchdowns and an interception to go along with the game-deciding scramble.
Similar to their motto ‘Just Win Baby,’ the Raiders’ were able to squeak out the win despite racking up 97 penalty yards on 10 flags. On three separate occasions, Las Vegas penalties provided Denver with three additional scoring opportunities.
“I thought some of the penalties, we can definitely avoid that,” McDaniels said.
Early in the second quarter, the Raider defense had a chance to get off the field facing 4th and 1 but a neutral zone infraction by defensive lineman Jerry Tillery gifted the Broncos with a new set of downs. While that error didn’t lead to any points, others did.
Rookie defensive back Jakorian Bennett was flagged for defensive pass interference in the secondary on a 3rd and 6. That mistake led to a Denver touchdown pass that gave the home team its first lead of the game.
Bennett did record a tackle for loss on a 3rd and 1 in the first quarter in his first official NFL game.
On another 3rd and short, this time in the third quarter, Las Vegas had another turnover chance slip through its hands. Denver quarterback Russell Wilson fumbled on a run which was recovered by the visitors. That play would be called back after Vegas was whistled for illegal contact, granting its opponent the first down.
The Broncos wouldn’t make the Raiders pay for its mishap as the team squandered its field goal attempt. In addition, the team also missed an extra point in the first half that ultimately became the deciding point.