DENVER (AP) — Change the coaches and switch the quarterbacks, the Raiders still own the Broncos.
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.
“It ain’t got to be pretty, you’ve just got to get it done,” Davante Adams said as he walked off the field with Garoppolo after 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.
That skid hurts even worse to some Broncos fans than the 15-game losing streak against Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs. Kansas City has owned the AFC West for seven years while the Raiders and Broncos have spent that time taking turns as the dregs of the division.
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, which erased Denver’s 16-10 lead with 6:34 remaining, followed an end zone interception by Broncos safety Kareem Jackson.
“That’s Jimmy, he’s got great mental toughness. Love his grit. Love his toughness,” Raiders coach Josh McDaniels said.
After taking the lead, the Raiders held Denver to its only three-and-out and Garoppolo got the ball back with about five minutes left and never gave it back.
Jackson was whistled for a 15-yard penalty on the drive 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.
“I thought we only had to make one more play than they did,” McDaniels said, “and that’s what we did.”
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.
Wilson only threw for 52 yards in the second half, however, after tight end Greg Dulcich (knee) left and the Raiders ramped up their pass rush.
Payton’s special teams were the biggest 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 Wil Lutz, Payton’s reliable kicker in New Orleans whom he reacquired in a trade with the Saints last month.
“My job is to make points,” said Lutz, who was wide right on both the PAT and a 55-yard field goal attempt, “and to lose a game by one and I leave four points on the board, I didn’t do my job.”
“He’ll bounce back,” Payton said.
Lutz’s dismal day brought renewed scrutiny on Payton’s decision to jettison veteran kicker 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 off Alex Singleton’s tip.
“The pick was a terrible, stupid decision,” said Garoppolo, who completed 20 of 26 passes for 200 yards without a sack. “Just got to take the points there, throw it away when nothing’s there. But you know, I thought the mental toughness kicked in and guys stuck with it. They believed in me, so I appreciate them for that.”
Garoppolo rewarded that faith by driving the Raiders 75 yards in six plays with the payoff coming on Meyers’ 6-yard TD grab 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 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. 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.
“I feel great,” Wilson said. “The only thing that’s disappointing is we didn’t come up with a win tonight.”
Javonte Williams led Denver with 52 yards on 13 rushes in his first game since blowing out his left knee at Las Vegas almost a year ago.