Joe Flacco made his Denver Broncos debut on Monday night vs. the Oakland Raiders. It turned out to be a loss but Flacco more than held his own in his first game as a Bronco.
Flacco went 21-of-31 for 268 yards, with one touchdown and a passer rating of 105.3. That passer rating was the highest for a Broncos QB since QB Trevor Siemian (107.7) at Oakland on Nov. 26, 2017.
On top of his passer rating, Flacco's 268 yards were the second-most ever for a Broncos' starting QB in his debut, but before fans get too excited, it's important to remember that the best debut all-time came from Case Keenum, who passed for 329 yards vs. Seattle in 2018.
“I thought he had some really nice throws, and then some that weren’t obviously up to his standard," head coach Vic Fangio said from the podium post-game. "I’ll have to look at tape to be honest with you, but I saw some really nice throws and I saw some that were not exactly where he wanted them to be.”
Despite Flacco probably wanting a few throws back, he played well from the pocket and his stat-line and the final score likely would have looked different had DaeSean Hamilton not dropped a touchdown pass in the breadbasket late in the game. Flacco looked great on that drive but in Denver previous two trips to the red zone, the veteran QB failed to punch it in.
The Broncos would finish 1-of-4 in the red zone, settling for three field goals. The Raiders, meanwhile, converted every red-area possession into a touchdown, save for one. That, as Coach Fangio said afterward, was the difference in the game.
“I didn’t see much that was good, obviously," Fangio said. "We didn’t make the plays down there, I’ll have to look at the tape and see exactly for sure. That was really a big difference in the game, in spite of everything else, they scored touchdowns and we didn’t.”
The Raiders appeared to dictate the intensity level all night, while the Broncos couldn't match. Flacco, perhaps subconsciously, pointed to the first play from scrimmage for Denver — a jet-sweep hand-off to TE Noah Fant — as the impetus for Oakland's smothering energy.
“I mean obviously when you come in somewhere and you let them get a tackle for a loss on the first play, they’re going to have some emotion," Flacco said after the game. "The crowd is going to play into that and all those things, but I really do feel like even on a couple of those drives we got some things going, but it was really what we did or didn’t do that ended up hurting us. I think if we didn’t do those things, then you would have felt some of the emotion and some of the excitement of the crowd go out of it, kind of leave the stadium, but we just weren’t able to put it together. We were a little sloppy in how we executed.”
The Broncos are going to need better play-calling from OC Rich Scangarello next week, as well as better execution from Flacco and company, especially in the red zone, if the team is even going to hope to beat the Chicago Bears.