(CBS San Francisco/CBS Local) — The Oakland Raiders preseason was filled with off-the-field drama, mostly thanks to Antonio Brown. Last week Brown was let go; he subsequently signed with the New England Patriots and is now facing rape allegations. The Raiders started the season without the receiver they expected to be an important weapon for Derek Carr and the offense. Questions surrounded the team.
The Raiders went out and answered those questions Monday night, beating the AFC West rival Denver Broncos and looking sharp — and focused — in all facets of the game. Carr threw for 259 yards, in an efficient 22-26 outing that included multiple shots down the field. Rookie Josh Jacobs amassed 85 yards on the ground, with two touchdowns; Tyrell Williams hauled in six catches for 105 yards and a touchdown. The defense kept the Broncos scoreless until the second half, and even then only yielded one touchdown late. Even Dwayne Harris contributed a nifty kickoff return on special teams to set up a fourth-quarter field goal.
John Gruden and the Raiders stay at home in Week 2 for another division matchup, this time with the Kansas City Chiefs. The Chiefs are coming off an impressive win of their own in Week 1. NFL MVP Patrick Mahomes picked right up where he left off last season, torching a respectable Jacksonville Jaguars defense for 378 yards and three TDs on 25-33 passing. Sammy Watkins enjoyed a big afternoon himself, accounting for 198 of those yards, the three touchdowns and nine of the catches.
The Chiefs D did enough to slow down the Jaguars, who lost QB Nick Foles early and relied on a strong showing from sixth-round rookie backup Gardner Minshew. But it was clear by the third quarter that the Jags weren’t going to catch the Chiefs. The final score was 40-26, though the game wasn’t that close.
As efficient as the Chiefs offense looked — they scored on their first seven possessions — they didn’t have all of their weapons firing. And that should concern NFL defenses later in the season. Tyreek Hill left the game early with a shoulder injury, which will keep him out of Sunday’s games and beyond.
The NFL’s most prolific offense will continue to lean on Watkins, according to NFL On CBS analyst Dan Fouts. “Watkins is healthy, this is his second year in the system now. And he told us he is more comfortable with the fact that he can line up in more than just the one spot he did last year. He knows all of the receiver spots now, more than he did last year, across the formations. That is huge for Kansas City especially now, in light of the fact that Hill is going to be out for a significant amount of time.”
Overall, nine Chiefs receivers caught at least one pass in Week 1. The team will turn to tight end Travis Kelce, who only caught three of eight targets. And look for backups like Demarcus Robinson and Mecole Hardman to step up in Hill’s absence. And let’s not forget that LeSean McCoy, who picked up 81 yards on 10 carries, is a dual threat out of the backfield.
How will the Raiders counter this offensive juggernaut? Disciplined defense is a good place to start. with an eye toward limiting the big plays. Mahomes plays like he’s in a Madden video game, and the Chiefs, even with Hill out, have enough speed to get down the field.
Oakland’s defense will need another showing like Monday night, when they limited the Broncos ground game (at least for the first half) and sacked the immobile Joe Flacco three times. For reference, the Raiders managed only 13 sacks all last season. More pressure from defensive end Benson Mayowa (who had two sacks last week), among others, will force Mahomes to freelance, where he remains dangerous. The secondary, particularly safeties Lamarcus Joyner and Johnathan Abram, will have to keep those receivers in front of them. They played well in Week 1, but they’ll face a stiffer challenge in Week 2.
At least the Raiders offense should be able to move the ball on a Chiefs defense that doesn’t have to be good, just good enough. Quarterback Derek Carr finally looks healthy and comfortable after two injury-marred seasons that prevented him looking like his 2016 self. Parting ways with receiver Antonio Brown doesn’t appear to have limited the passing game. And strong protection, like Trent Brown and the Raiders offensive line provided against the Broncos, will help keep Carr upright and productive.
The Raiders face the Chiefs Sunday @ 1:05 PT on CBS.