ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — New year, new you.

Well, not exactly for the Denver Broncos’ offense following their Week 1 loss to the Las Vegas Raiders.

Despite hiring arguably one of the best offensive minds in NFL history this offseason to lead the team, the Broncos produced the same results as last year’s team on the offensive side of the ball in Sunday’s season opener.

For the fifth time in the team’s past 18 games, the Broncos managed to score exactly 16 points. In that same timeframe, dating back to the start of the 2022 season, Denver failed to score at least 20 points for the 12th time.

However, there was much more life to the Broncos’ offense under Sean Payton than the product that was on the field last year.

The Broncos had multiple first downs on all but one of their drives. Three of their six drives lasted at least 10 plays, including a 16-play drive, which was longer than any drive they had last year. Additionally, Payton’s group had two drives that topped eight minutes in length.

“It’s unusual in that it’s rare both teams end up with just six possessions. In other words, points then become at a premium,” Sean Payton said on Monday, explaining why the team’s 16 points didn’t necessarily reflect the offense’s performance. “Generally speaking, you’re between 10 and 12 possessions a game. Part of it was a result of both teams having long, sustained drives, overcoming some third downs, maybe some penalties to keep drives moving. It was a little unusual that way.”

The Broncos averaged 2.67 points per possession on Sunday. That would have ranked second in the entire NFL last year, only falling short to the Kansas City Chiefs.

“It’s going to be a huge strength for us, just to keep drives going,” Samaje Perine said on Monday, talking about Denver’s ability to sustain drives against the Raiders. “Just to take time off the clock. Just to wear people down.”

The efficiency and ability to stay on the field in Payton’s offense was clearly not the issue. But there was one glaring hole to the Broncos’ offense.

“Obviously, the thing offensively that stood out, is there weren’t any explosives,” Payton added, referring to explosive plays. “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.”

An explosive play is defined by a play that goes for 20 or more yards. The Broncos had two on Sunday. One was a 20-yard completion to Perine. The other was Denver’s longest offensive play of the day, a 21-yard pass to Brandon Johnson.

“When we get the explosives figured out then it’s really going to be, really going to be difficult to stop us because you have to worry about the run game, the quick passes but also the deep passes so you can’t just load the box all the time,” Perine stated.

Despite Wilson’s 34 passing attempts, the Broncos rarely looked downfield. The lone time Wilson threw the ball deep, Courtland Sutton was able to draw a defensive pass interference penalty, which helped set up the team for their touchdown before halftime.

Denver was, of course, without their starting receiver Jerry Jeudy, who is dealing with a hamstring injury, and they lost another receiving threat in Greg Dulicich midway through the game to a hamstring injury.

“I would say two things,” Payton said, when talking about how to create more explosive plays for the offense. “Certainly, you miss Jerry and you miss Greg. 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.”

Throughout the game, Wilson continuously took what the defense gave him, which was short completions. Adam Trautman (five), Perine (four), Javonte Williams (four) and Sutton (four) led the team in receptions. Only one receiver was in the top four in catches on the team, highlighting how Wilson constantly looked for the short completions.

On one hand, Denver’s offense was much improved from last year with their long drives and efficiency against the Raiders. On the other, they only scored the all-too-familiar 16 points.

But Perine, and Payton, are optimistic of where the offense can go, especially once the explosive plays emerge.


Zac Stevens was born and raised in Denver, went to the University of Denver and now covers the Denver Broncos. After graduating Summa Cum Laude from DU in 2014, Zac worked for the Cleveland Browns as a remote scout. He then jumped straight into the journalism industry at the beginning of 2016 covering the reigning world-champion Broncos and joined DNVR soon after. Catch him on Twitter @ZacStevensDNVR and daily on the DNVR Broncos podcast as the co-host.

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