OAKLAND, Calif. - Midway through the first quarter, Raiders fans were already digging into their game programs to learn more about that rookie Denver receiver out there embarrassing their $70 million cornerback.
He's Eddie Royal, a second-round pick from Virginia Tech. After his superb NFL debut in Oakland, the Raider Nation should be worried it'll become far too familiar with the Broncos' budding star in the future.
Royal had nine catches for 146 yards and a touchdown, and Jay Cutler passed for 299 yards and two scores in Denver's 41-14 season-opening victory over the Raiders on Monday night.
"You dream about it, and you hope you can come out and play this well, but the main thing is we won," Royal said. "It was a great feeling, especially in the stadium against our rivals. Our game plan was to attack. We knew we had a lot of weapons and Coach drew up a great game plan. We just wanted to keep the pressure on them."
Royal did most of his damage against DeAngelo Hall, acquired from Atlanta in the biggest move of the Raiders' offseason restocking. The new look was still unsightly for the Raiders, who fell behind 27-0 in the third quarter with a bumbling effort on both sides of the ball.
Hall committed two 15-yard personal fouls against Royal on the same drive in the second quarter, losing his discipline while the game slipped away from Oakland.
"They just outschemed us and outplayed us. We didn't show up at all," said Hall, who claimed both penalties were bad calls. "They came out and dominated us from start to finish."
"We played 1-on-1 football with them. We didn't outscheme them," Cutler replied. "Eddie Royal beat DeAngelo Hall time after time after time. That's what happened."
Royal slipped behind the Oakland secondary for a 26-yard TD catch to cap Denver's opening 76-yard drive, and he repeatedly got open for big throws from Cutler. The Broncos finished with 441 total yards, including a 92-yard scoring march.
Darrell Jackson caught a 48-yard TD pass to end that drive, and Michael Pittman rushed for two short scores in both players' Denver debuts. Cutler went 16-of-24 without an interception or a sack, even while playing without 102-catch wideout Brandon Marshall, who sat out the game for violating the league's personal conduct policy.
"Nobody has been giving us a chance since before the season started," Denver cornerback Dre' Bly said. "They keep picking the Chargers and the Colts and the Pats, and that's what we want. We want to shock the world."
JaMarcus Russell went 17-of-26 for 180 yards for the Raiders, who avoided a shutout on Ashley Lelie's 8-yard TD catch early in the fourth quarter. Ronald Curry added a TD catch with 1:34 to play, allowing Oakland to avoid the worst home-opening loss in franchise history.
"It's extremely disappointing," Oakland coach Lane Kiffin said. "Since I've been here, we've played well at home. Even when we lose, we're in almost every game in the fourth quarter. I was shocked with the results today, but you go back to the first quarter, some plays we could have made, some situations that we didn't do a very good job at. All of a sudden, the game got out of hand."
At 19-62, the Raiders have the NFL's worst record since 2004. Even the first game together for Russell and new running back Darren McFadden didn't change it.
The Raiders played without longtime Broncos receiver Javon Walker, who sat out with an injured hamstring. At least McFadden had a mildly encouraging debut, rushing for 8 yards on his first NFL carry and finishing with 46 while also lining up at quarterback and receiver.
"We don't want that feeling any more," Russell said. "We had a chance to make some plays, and as you can see, we didn't connect."
Notes:@ Lelie and Jackson both played for the 49ers last year, and both were disappointments for the club with the NFL's worst offense in 2007. The 49ers let Jackson leave as a free agent, while Lelie was among San Francisco's final cuts of the preseason after spending most of training camp on the sidelines with a minor injury. ... Arizona's Anquan Boldin caught 10 passes for 217 yards in his NFL debut in 2003. ... McFadden didn't finish the game after getting a stinger in his shoulder. He'll be re-evaluated Tuesday.
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