DENVER | Ugly wins are a thing of beauty in Denver, where the Broncos learned all their hard lessons last year in the dreariness of defeat.
“We’re sitting here 2-0 but we’re struggling,” Emmanuel Sanders after the Broncos eked out a 20-19 win over Oakland on Sunday on Brandon McManus’ 36-yard field goal with 6 seconds left.
It was their only lead on a sweltering afternoon in which the temperature at kickoff was a record 92 degrees.
The Broncos, who overcame a 12-point second-half deficit, hadn’t opened a season with back-to-back fourth-quarter comebacks since 2007. Last week, they rallied past Seattle 27-24 in Case Keenum’s Denver debut.
“It does feel good to win the hard-fought games,” Sanders said. “But I can’t wait until we can win one of those smooth games. But we’re going to keep pushing. I’m going to wake up in the morning and stretch my arms and go, ‘Ahh. It feels good to be 2-0.'”
Especially after going 5-11 last year.
It was for times like these that Broncos general manager John Elway ditched his stopwatch drafts in April in favor of players who had been captains in college and left school with degrees in hand.
“One thing we learned last year when you’re 5-11 and you’re in a losing streak, you need that maturity and that leadership to get things turned around,” Elway said last spring.
Royce Freeman scored on a 1-yard run and fellow rookies Bradley Chubb and Josey Jewell had key stops, but the biggest contributions came from Tim Patrick, a receiver who spent his rookie season on Denver’s practice squad in 2017, and undrafted rookie Phillip Lindsay, a hometown hero who starred at the University of Colorado.
Patrick’s first NFL catch was a doozy: an 18-yarder that set up the winning field goal . And all Lindsay did was make history Sunday.
He became the first undrafted player in league history to top 100 yards from scrimmage in his first two games. He followed a 103-yard debut with a 111-yard performance that included 14 rushes for 107 yards.
Other takeaways from the game, which marked the 350th win in Broncos owner Pat Bowlen’s tenure:
CARR REVVS UP: Derek Carr was on target all afternoon, completing 29 of 32 passes for 288 yards and a touchdown. His 90.6 completion percentage is the best mark in franchise history — with a minimum of 20 attempts — topping the record of 89.5 set by Rich Gannon on Nov. 11, 2002, in Denver.
“He was great. Very accurate in getting us the ball. Made a lot of plays,” said receiver Amari Cooper, who caught 10 passes for 116 yards four days after coach Jon Gruden gave Carr grief for not finding Cooper more in Week 1.
The Raiders protected rookie left tackle Kolton Miller by having Carr get rid of the ball quick, keeping Von Miller to one sack a week after he destroyed Seattle’s game plan with four quarterback hits, three sacks, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery.
Miller’s day could have been very similar to the Seahawks game had teammate Todd Davis not been whistled for a holding call that negated Miller’s strip sack and Domata Peko’s fumble recovery at the Oakland 20-yard line in the first half.
“I had Derek Carr, it was one of the few plays that he held the ball,” said Miller, who later had a sack that counted. “I was able to get in and get the sack. And the forced fumble. And we recovered it. But we had to go back out because Todd was doing the Viennese waltz with whoever it was out there.”
Rookie Courtland Sutton had a 42-yard catch overturned after Gruden threw his red challenge flag. He also thought he had come down with a 21-yard TD catch, but Broncos coach Vance Joseph lost his challenge when the officials confirmed Sutton’s left foot slipped out of bounds just before his right knee hit inbounds.
So, Sutton finished with a single catch for 9 yards.
“I don’t know. I thought Courtland’s touchdown was a touchdown,” Joseph said. “Obviously, I challenged it. The second catch, I guess he didn’t finish the catch. We’ll figure it out. It’s a tough game to officiate. There are so many rules right now and hopefully it’s fair on both sides.”
One of the few things that went right for Denver in a dismal first half was Shaq Barrett’s block of Mike Nugent’s extra point, leaving the Raiders ahead 12-0 at the half.
“Who knew that would be huge?” Keenum asked.
Barrett did, that’s who.
“Coaches always say you never know what play can end up being a game-winning play,” Barrett said. “That’s why you’ve just got to play every play like that. When I’m out there, that’s what I’m trying to do.”
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