The night started with Oakland Raiders fans derisively chanting at former disgruntled receiver Antonio Brown and ended with coach Jon Gruden celebrating a victory in the Coliseum’s Black Hole.
The saga that consumed the football world for days did not hamper the Raiders a bit.
Derek Carr on Monday threw a touchdown pass on the opening drive of the season and rookie Josh Jacobs ran for two scores as the Raiders responded to a tumultuous week surrounding Brown by beating the Denver Broncos 24-16.
“As much as people talked about it, I mean my god. I feel like somebody was smashing my temple on the side of the head,” Gruden said. “Get over it, man. It’s over. We were good this pre-season without him. We were fine without him. We wish him the best. We gave it a shot. Now New England gets their turn. Good luck to them. I can’t deal with it anymore.”
The Raiders (1-0) took out any frustration over the drama surrounding Brown with a convincing win over the Broncos (0-1).
The offensive line cleared holes for Jacobs and protected Carr, while the defense harassed Joe Flacco into three sacks and kept Denver out of the end zone until 2 minutes, 15 seconds remained in the game.
The win spoiled the Denver debuts of Flacco and coach Vic Fangio, ending the NFL’s longest opening weekend winning streak at seven games.
“Disappointed, but we’re not discouraged,” Broncos edge rusher Von Miller said. “First game of the season. Hats off to the Raiders, they outplayed us today. Killed us on third down in the first half.”
The final scheduled home opener at the Coliseum before the Raiders’ move to Las Vegas next season began with derisive chants from the boisterous fans toward Brown. Those only grew louder after each successful pass play as both the fans and Raiders players seemed relieved to have the month-long saga in the past.
Brown arrived with optimism following a trade from Pittsburgh in March, but a bizarre foot injury, fight with the NFL over his helmet, skipped practices, multiple fines, a run-in with general manager Mike Mayock and odd social media posts ultimately led to the decision to release the game’s most prolific receiver two days before the opener.
Brown agreed to a deal with New England just hours after being granted his wish to be released by Oakland on Saturday and the Raiders wasted little time proving they had moved on.
“He’s gone. I wish him the best,” Carr said. “There’s no hurt feelings. There’s no anger in me. It stung as a friend seeing him go somewhere else, but I wish him the best.”
In New Orleans on Monday, Wil Lutz made a 58-yard field goal as time expired to lift the New Orleans Saints past the Houston Texans 30-28 in a game that had three scoring plays in the final minute.