ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — In the Broncos' Week 1 meeting with the Raiders, Denver's offense found a rhythm.
The Broncos gained at least three first downs on five of their six drives, and the team posted a pair of scoring drives that took at least eight minutes off the game clock. Denver went three-and-out just once, and the team converted nearly 50 percent of its third-down attempts.
And yet, while the Broncos won time of possession and the turnover battle, Denver dropped a one-point decision to Las Vegas. In a game with just six possessions per team, the Broncos' margin for error dwindled — and they came up short of a win.
As Denver looks ahead to a Week 2 game against the Commanders, the team won't look to abandon a strong running game and precision passing attack that led to a pair of first-half touchdown drives. Denver, though, will aim to add more explosive plays to quicken the pace of the game and move the ball in chunks.
"Obviously, the thing offensively that stood out, is there weren't any explosives," Head Coach Sean Payton said Monday. "I mean, we had a couple plays that would measure into the explosive category, but it was unique that way in a game where you didn't have the same amount of possessions you were used to, and then the margins quickly shift. If you told me we were going to win the turnover battle [or] we were going to win the rushing battle against that team, I would've been really happy and said that more than likely we were going to win the game, but it wasn't the case."
In Sunday's loss, the Broncos posted just two plays of at least 20 yards: a 21-yard pass to Brandon Johnson on the first series and a 20-yard Samaje Perine catch-and-run late in the third quarter. Particularly in the second half, Denver struggled to move the ball in chunks; the Broncos had just three plays of at least 10 yards during their three second-half drives.
Payton said the absence of Jerry Jeudy and Greg Dulcich — who did not play in the second half — contributed to the lack of explosive plays, as did the Raiders' defensive plan.
"Certainly, you miss Jerry and you miss Greg," Payton said. "The other thing, we got a little bit more — a lot more — soft zone coverage. To Russ' credit, the ball came down underneath a number of times when it needed to. It's that back-and-forth. You're waiting for the down safety looks, you're waiting for the opportunities that maybe provide you those chances down the field, but I would say a little bit more shell [coverage] than expected and force the throws to come underneath."
And while Payton said he was pleased with Wilson's decision-making, he and the Broncos will certainly look for more chunk plays as the early stage of the season continues.
A year after sacking Jimmy Garoppolo four times and hitting him six in a win over the 49ers, Denver's defense recorded just two quarterback hits on the now-Raiders quarterback in Sunday's loss.
"We're all for pressure, and obviously it's an important stat line in our league when it comes to hurrying these quarterbacks," Payton said. "The ball does come out quick with Jimmy, and it comes out quick, I think route-design-wise. It's one thing to say a quarterback gets rid of it quick, but there are certain teams that are going to hold the ball longer than others. We'll constantly evaluate, 'Hey, how are we rushing this player or quarterback?', and then, 'How can we be better at it?' We knew that it was going to be a ball-out-fast offense. His rhythm all those years in San Francisco — he was always someone that had low sack totals. So how do we disrupt the passing game? We disrupt it at the line of scrimmage with the receivers. We disrupt it possibly with batted-down balls, and then we disrupt it with hurries and sacks. Obviously that's something we pay attention to."
Payton said there are two ways to bring more pressure on the quarterback: through winning one-on-one matchups and through pressure packages.
"A lot of is dependent upon what you're wanting to do coverage-wise within the framework of a scheme," Payton said. "There are times sometimes when you want to keep the quarterback in the pocket and play a certain coverage. A lot of it is dependent on your game plan."
The Broncos will look to get more pressure in their Week 2 meeting against Commanders quarterback Sam Howell, who was sacked six times in Washington's Week 1 win.