In case you didn't stay up until midnight to watch it: Vic Fangio’s head coaching debut produced an uninspiring result on both sides of the ball in the Denver Broncos’ 24-16 loss to the Oakland Raiders on Monday.
The Broncos didn’t score their first touchdown until just before the two minute warning (though Bears fans reading this might appreciate that they even scored a touchdown). This Joe Flacco-led offense shouldn’t inspire much fear in a Bears’ defense that stifled Aaron Rodgers and the Packers last week, with sloppy, inconsistent play defining this group's evening. Losing high-priced free agent right tackle Ja’Wuan James to an apparent knee injury is something to watch this week — if he doesn’t play, an already-shaky Broncos offensive line will have an even tougher challenge blocking for a largely-immobile quarterback on Sunday.
Perhaps more worrying for Denver was how sub-optimal their defensive performance was. The Broncos appeared to miss ex-Bears slot corner Bryce Callahan, who was scratched with a foot injury:
Vic Fangio on Bryce Callahan’s foot injury: “It’s a concern. He didn’t have a setback this week. He’s just not ready yet.”— Nicki Jhabvala (@NickiJhabvala) September 10, 2019
Callahan suffered a season-ending foot injury in Week 14 against the Los Angeles Rams last year. The Raiders picked on his backup, Isaac Yiadom, with receiver Tyrell Williams and tight end Darren Waller finding plenty of success when matched up against him. Along with James, Callahan’s status on a short week leading up to Sunday’s game should be closely monitored in Chicago.
The Broncos allowed 6.6 yards per play and were surgically picked apart by Derek Carr, who completed 22 of 26 passes for 259 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions. Credit the Raiders’ offensive line and scheme here, too, as Carr wasn’t sacked by a Broncos front featuring Von Miller and Bradley Chubb. The Broncos didn’t generate a takeaway, either.
We’ll dive deeper into this matchup later in the week, but on the surface, Denver’s Week 1 showing was underwhelming. For what it’s worth, it did come on the road in a charged-up atmosphere (anyone watching the game on TV could hear the “F*** AB” chants). The Coliseum did not look like an easy place to play Monday night.
Returning back to Colorado should help. Bizarrely, Denver is an incredibly difficult place to play early in the season: The Broncos are 22-2 in Week 1 or Week 2 home games since John Elway retired before the 1999 season, and have won a dozen such games in a row. More narrowly: The Broncos haven’t lost at home in Week 2 of the regular season since 1979, a streak spanning 22 games.
Is that relevant for the two teams that’ll meet this Sunday? Not entirely. But for whatever reason, there’s something in the thin air of Denver that's consistently given the Broncos an advantage early in the season for 40 years, whether Elway, Peyton Manning or Case Keenum is the quarterback.
“All streaks are a little different,” Bears coach Matt Nagy said. “I don’t know the relevance behind early in the season. I just know for us that we know where we’re at right now. And whether it’s in Denver or at home, we want to be able to play better football.”
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