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Three Key Plays: The Jimmy Garoppolo-Jakobi Meyers connection paid dividends

Within a football game of hundred of snaps, sometimes there are certain plays that can make or break a game.

The Las Vegas Raiders hung on for a one-point victory over the Denver Broncos on Sunday, proving how vital each play can be in determining who wins and loses. While there were many things the Raiders did well, and also many things they can improve on, there were a handful of plays that could be considered vital in the ultimate outcome.

In this new article series, we break down three key plays that fueled the momentum for the Week 1 win.

Raiders go up 7-0

First quarter, 9:32

LV-3rd and 3 at the DEN 3

This game truly started out with a bang.

Broncos Head Coach Sean Payton called an onside kick on the first play of the game. The Broncos appeared to recover, however an illegal touching penalty gave the Raiders the ball at the 44-yard line.

The 10-play drive ended in the Raiders scoring a touchdown on their opening drive of the season for the first time since 2019. Jakobi Meyers had a single coverage opportunity against Broncos cornerback Damarri Mathis. Jimmy Garoppolo threw a back shoulder fade to Meyers on the left side of the end zone to put the first points on the board.

"Jimmy [Garoppolo] and [Jakobi Meyers], they were communicating at the line of scrimmage," Josh McDaniels said of the touchdown. "It was a fade. I think it was Mathis, if I'm not mistaken, he was kind of tight on him – but Jakobi has incredible hands. He has good size and length. Jimmy put it in a great spot, Jakobi went up and got it."

Broncos lead 13-10

Fourth quarter, 9:04

DEN-3rd and 5 at the LV 5

With less than 10 minutes left in the game, the Broncos could've put the Raiders in a really compromising situation. Denver was deep in the red zone after a roughing the kicker penalty extended their drive. If the Raiders surrendered a touchdown on this play, it would've given the Broncos a 10-point lead.

However, the Raiders were able to make a stop at the goal line. Marcus Peters was sticky in coverage on his assignment, allowing Maxx Crosby to get pressure on Russell Wilson. Before Crosby could get a potential second sack on the day, Wilson threw the ball away, setting up a 24-yard field goal by Will Lutz. This defensive stop after the penalty mishap kept it a one-possession game.

"I thought there was a lot of mental toughness and resiliency required from our team in that situation on the road, and I thought our maturity showed up," McDaniels said. "We didn't flinch. The guys hung in there, just kept trying to focus on doing their job, and thought we played some of our best football at the end of the game, which obviously you're going to need that in close games."

Raiders go up 17-16

Fourth quarter, 6:38

LV-2nd & 6 at the DEN 6

The previous defensive stop was so important because it led to the drive that ultimately won the Raiders the game.

After holding the Broncos to three points, Garoppolo drove the offense 75 yards down the field in two minutes and 20 seconds. During the drive, Garoppolo connected with Meyers on two catches for 22 yards.

On this play, the Raiders quarterback threw a dart on a slant to Meyers, right in between Broncos linebacker Alex Singleton and Mathis. It was the second Garoppolo-Meyers touchdown of the game, giving the Silver and Black the one-point lead they would hold on to.

"I thought Jimmy read it good," McDaniels said. "It was going to be a bang-bang play because they thought [Justin] Simmons was right there on the right. ... I thought Kobs [Jakobi Meyers] did a good job of flattening his route down and really being able to kind of give him the only shot to complete that ball. And Jimmy put it right on the money."

View the best photos from the Raiders' Week 1 victory over the Denver Broncos at Empower Field at Mile High.

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