Defiant Oakland Raiders Survived their Day of Reckoning

by Jordy McElroy

The Oakland Raiders stepped into RingCentral Coliseum with expectations they’d serve as fodder for their own Black Hole. In the wake of Antonio Brown, otherwise known as Tony Tornado, the Raiders looked like a mess of an organization, sure to fulfill the punch-line on the field as they have off it.

The kick-off came, the Raiders scored a touchdown on the opening drive and the defense stood its ground against the visiting Denver Broncos.

No one was laughing. 

The Black Hole that was supposed to serve as the tomb for coach Jon Gruden’s Raiders buried the unsuspecting Broncos instead. Through all of the drama and without Brown on the field, the Raiders served up a galvanizing performance that brought the city of Oakland to its feet. It also stirred up a chorus of “F— AB” chants that reverberated throughout the stadium.

“No Brown, no problem” was the common theme after an emotional season opener. The Raiders can take solace in a fresh start with players that actually want to be on their roster. 

“As much as people talk about it, I mean, my god,” Gruden said after the game, when asked about Brown, via Pro Football Talk. “Man, I feel like someone smashed me in my temple on the side of the head. Get over it, man. It’s over. You know? We were good in the preseason without him. We’re going to be fine without him. And we wish him the best. You know, we gave it a shot. Now New England [Patriots] gets their turn. Good luck to them. I can’t deal with it anymore.”

Brown quickly signed with the Patriots after forcing his way out of Oakland and ultimately being released from his contract last Saturday. His immediate exit left quarterback Derek Carr and the Raiders offense without a true No. 1 receiver. 

However, if Tyrell Williams’ performance was any indication, perhaps he can one day work his way towards filling that void. He finished the game against the Broncos with six receptions for 105 yards and one touchdown. 

But can the Raiders keep it up? Is it really “no Brown, no problem” in Oakland?

They passed the first test against a Broncos team that finished 6-10 last season. So while their 24-16 victory on Monday was an impressive outing considering the circumstances, it wasn’t anything that suddenly made them jump out as legitimate AFC West contenders.

If they roll over or even compete with the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 2, however, we’ll be having a completely different discussion. 

No team is better without Brown from purely a football perspective, which makes his antics all the more frustrating.

Not only is he a tremendous individual talent, but his mere presence on the field soaks up most of the attention in the defensive backfield, which opens up the game for everyone else.

Look at how different the Pittsburgh Steelers looked on offense without him. After Week 1, Steelers wideout JuJu Smith-Schuster would be the first to tell you there’s a huge difference between being a No. 1 and a No. 2 receiver. 

Still, the Raiders had exhausted every effort to make the marriage work, but Brown was determined to buck the system until Gruden had no other choice but to cut the cord. Unfortunately for the Raiders, that cord cost them a third and fifth-round draft pick, although they were able to save the $30 million on his contract. 

The loss of Brown is even more unfair to Carr, who is still trying to prove himself in many ways as being the long-term answer for the Raiders. It’s tough to do that with a receiving corps of Williams, Hunter Renfrow and Ryan Grant. 

Yet, maybe the loss of Brown is the driving force that ultimately brings the team together.

There are no expectations for the Raiders to even be competitive this season, which automatically makes them the Mike Tyson team in the NFL, giving them a weekly puncher’s chance.

They may not be able to finesse their way to victories, but if any team approaches them with their hands down, they’ll end up napping on the floor next to the Broncos.  

Sometimes the most dangerous teams are the ones with nothing to lose.