The Denver Broncos kicked off the Sean Payton era with a 17-16 loss to the Las Vegas Raiders. It was not an ideal start for a team coming off a 5-12 campaign in which former head coach Nathaniel Hackett was fired 15 games into his first season.
“Obviously a disappointing loss,” Payton said in a postgame interview on September 10. “A hard-fought game that we kind of felt at halftime this was going to come down to a possession. We didn’t make enough plays.”
Much like the 2022 season opener against the Seattle Seahawks, the Broncos finished with 16 points scored on offense. Last season, Denver scored over 16 points in five of their 17 games.
However, players aren’t losing faith in Payton or the team with such a long season left to be played.
“No one’s thinking about the last seven years,” safety Justin Simmons said via the Broncos official team website. “It’s a new year. It was a close game, we’ve just got to figure it out. It’s Week 1. No one’s throwing in the towel. We’ll watch the film, we’ll come back, we’ll make adjustments and we’ll win those games down the road.”
Simmons and the defense limited Josh Jacobs, the NFL’s leading rusher in 2022, to 48 yards on 19 carries. All-Pro cornerback Patrick Surtain II echoed Simmons when speaking with the media following the game.
“It’s a long season ahead,” Surtain said in a September 10 postgame interview. “We have a lot to look forward to as a team. This is only the beginning. I have trust and belief in everybody on this team. I know we’re going to get better and improve.”
Sean Payton Defends Kicker Wil Lutz
Lutz had a rough afternoon in his first regular season game with the Broncos. Payton defended his kicker after he missed an extra point and a 55-yard field goal in the loss.
“He’s had a good two weeks with us, hasn’t had any issues. We attempted the longer one, the 55-yard field goal. That one looked pretty close. That too I think was missed right. We’ll work to get that cleaned up,” Payton said on September 10 via Denver Sports analyst Will Petersen.
“I missed it, it’s tough,” said Lutz via Mike Klis of 9NEWS Denver. “I was brought here to win close games and today wasn’t my day. You know, I’ve been in this business before and I’ve come out of it so we’ll get back to work this week and focus on next week.”
Lutz replaced longtime kicker Brandon McManus after the veteran was released in the offseason. McManus debuted with the Jacksonville Jaguars on September 10 and made all four of his field goals, including a 45-yarder.
Broncos Unable to Correct Penalty Issues in Sean Payton’s First Game
In the offseason, Payton stressed the importance of cleaning up crucial penalties that could cost the team games.
“Before you ever get going, you put yourself in a hole,” Payton said after Broncos practice on Friday, August 4. “It’s something that we’ve obviously got to improve on. There is a point at which you pull the player out. There is an emphasis to it, but it has to be more than just that. It has to go away.”
Against the Raiders, Denver committed 10 penalties for 83 yards. A few of them aided Las Vegas, including the one to open the game.
The Broncos seemingly recovered an onside kick to open the game. Instead, cornerback Tremon Smith was ruled to have illegally touched the ball before it went 10 yards.
Cornerback Essang Bassey had a crucial roughing-the-passer call on Raiders QB Jimmy Garoppolo with just over six minutes left in the game. Las Vegas was able to drive down the field for the go-ahead touchdown.
The Broncos will get a chance to correct their penalty woes ahead of their next home game against the Washington Commanders on September 17.