1. New coach. New quarterback. Same attitude problem.
The Broncos checked all the wrong boxes on Monday Night Football, and Vic Fangio’s head coaching debut and Joe Flacco's Broncos debut were prime-time duds in a 24-16 loss. Where on earth was the energy for a season opener against the archrival? The Broncos moped around their own sideline like Jon Gruden personally had kicked their dog, and the Raiders jumped ahead, 14-0. Couple weeks ago when the Broncos snoozed through a joint practice with the San Francisco 49ers, their meager performance was explained away in some corners as, “Eh, it’s just practice.” But when you sleepwalk through the first half in the Black Hole it’s time to come with the truth: the Broncos still strut around like Super Bowl 50 was yesterday. Yikes. So what exactly is the Broncos’ attitude problem? They don’t play with one.
2. Broncos quarterback Joe Flacco prefers to not grade himself, at least in public, so we’ll play the role of professor.
Flacco gets a ‘D’ in his Broncos debut. In the first half, Flacco looked more like Case Keenum than an upgrade. (And not the Case Keenum who threw for almost 400 yards with the Redskins on Sunday.) After going three quarters without scoring a touchdown, Flacco will leave this one here next to the dynamite that's going to blow up Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum. His Broncos offense went three-and-out on their first possession, and soon the Raiders smashed through the offensive line to force a Flacco fumble. It was 14-0 at halftime. Where’s the juice? It didn’t help that DaeSean Hamilton dropped a sure touchdown that would’ve trimmed the deficit to 14-10, Raiders. But now the Broncos own four straight losses in Oakland, the longest streak since the 1970s.
3. Paging, Broncos pass rushers. Anyone seen Bradley Chubb and Von Miller?
How the defense played in the first half was the scariest part of the night. With Derek Carr opening the game by completing 16 of 17 pass attempts, it was fair to wonder if Vance Joseph and Joe Woods were back on the Broncos sideline. It’s clear the Broncos will need injured cornerback Bryce Callahan sooner rather than later with flamethrowers Aaron Rodgers and Patrick Mahomes on the schedule. This Broncos defense defense can be dynamic but is just OK when forced to play from behind. Didn't help that Chubb and Miller were no-shows.
4. One man’s theory: Antonio Brown got his first up-close look at the Raiders organization and stadium and changed his mind.
Simple as that. What millionaire in his right mind would choose to play for a team that can’t manage a playing field with actual turf? “I still don’t get it,” Broncos defensive lineman Shelby Harris said last week. “I’m going to keep saying this over and over again: How does a pro football team play on a baseball field?” Turns out, the Rockies aren't alone in their struggles on a baseball diamond. The Raiders already moved some of their business offices to Las Vegas, where they are scheduled to begin play next season. But good luck fixing this dysfunctional franchise simply by moving its headquarters.
5. The Patriots on Sunday night confirmed their status as Super Bowl favorites.
Has Handsome Tom ever looked better? And their blowout of the Pittsburgh Steelers came without Antonio Brown, the best wide receiver in the game. Who’s going to beat those guys? But the Patriots are not the Broncos’ concern. Their concern is what’s on their schedule, and that schedule includes a bunch of teams that took some serious shots before the Broncos even opened their season. Indianapolis lost quarterback Andrew Luck to retirement. The Los Angeles Chargers don’t have Melvin Gordon (holdout) or Derwin James (injury). Kansas City lost Tyreek Hill (to injury), and Oakland lost Antonio Brown (to the Patriots). Quality breaks for the Broncos. The season opener did not suggest they will take advantage.