OAKLAND — Antonio Brown wasn’t physically at Monday night’s showdown between the Raiders and the Denver Broncos, but he was there in sprit
The superstar receiver was a Raider on Friday, but a week’s worth of drama culminated with him asking for his release. He was cut by Oakland on Saturday, and agreed to a contract with the New England Patriots just hours later, a sting that didn’t hurt these Raiders much.
It just pissed them off.
Fueled by an raucous Coliseum crowd chanting, “F—k, AB!” at every turn, the Raiders engineered a near-flawless performance in a 24-16 season-opening win.
It was a page-turner to be sure, a cathartic moment that could allow the Raiders to find some normalcy in the regular-season routine.
Here are three takeaways from a victory the Raiders wanted and needed.
Carr finds top form
Raiders quarterback Derek Carr was nothing short of awesome, completing 22 of 26 passes for 259 yards, one touchdown and a 121.0 passer rating. He was pinpoint accurate all night, wearing a game face he brought in from parking lot. He made life easy on Raiders receivers, and spread the ball around to seven different receivers.
Carr was in complete command of the offense, knowing when to get into better plays based on coverage. Josh Jacobs and the run game aided his effort, as did solid protection from the offensive line.
If Carr continues to play like that, the Raiders could win a few more games than people expect.
Receivers still thrive without AB
The Raiders are not better without Brown. Let’s make that crystal clear. Hate him or not, he’s a Hall of Fame talent. No team improves without him in the pattern.
The receiving corps performed just fine on its own, though, led by new No. 1 receiver Tyrell Williams and tight end Darren Waller. They by far were the team’s biggest and best targets, so Carr had no problem throwing to them in tight windows — and he made several big plays doing exactly that.
That duo combined for 13 receptions and 175 yards, including Williams’ touchdown to open the game. Ryan Grant and Hunter Renfrow got in on the act as well, providing confidence that the passing game will function well despite losing its best player at the 11th hour.
Losing Conley a significant blow
Gareon Conley has been injury plagued during his NFL career, but he finally put together a full training camp and preseason entering his third professional season. He came in as the Raiders’ unquestioned No. 1 cornerback, excited and motivated for a breakout year.
That positivity slammed to a halt in the third quarter, after a scary neck injury. Johnathan Abram’s thigh and knee hit Conley’s head while the rookie safety was going for the ball carrier.
Conley was down an extended stretch and taken away on a cart. He was ruled out with a neck injury, and can’t be expected back soon.
After the win, Raiders coach Jon Gruden told reporters that he believes Conley will be OK.
Gruden got word that Gareon Conley is okay. The reports he has received at this point have been positive.— Scott Bair (@BairNBCS) September 10, 2019
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The team has great confidence in Trayvon Mullen, but he’s a rookie and would be yet another newbie to be counted on early this season.
Cornerback is an area of depth, but losing the position group’s top guy is a big blow.