Rookie Eddie Royal caught a 26-yard touchdown pass from Jay Cutler, and the Denver Broncos took a 7-0 lead over the Oakland Raiders after the first quarter on Monday night.
Cutler went 5-of-7 for 64 yards during two drives for the Broncos, including a five-minute march to open the game at the Coliseum. Denver, coming off its first losing season since 1999, also forced a timely turnover after Oakland's own solid drive.
Denver and Oakland both were hoping for an early boost to their hopes to get back to contention in the AFC West. The two hadn't both endured losing records in the same season since 1964, when they were in the AFL.
Raiders receiver Javon Walker was scratched with a strained hamstring, preventing the mercurial pass-catcher from taking on his former teammates. Walker missed much of last week's practices with the injury, forcing Johnnie Lee Higgins to start in his place.
Denver's offense marched 76 yards on its opening drive, finishing when Royal sneaked behind new Raiders safety Gibril Wilson for a catch in the corner of the end zone.
Royal, a rookie from Virginia Tech, had two catches on the drive, an early sign the Broncos wouldn't miss 102-catch receiver Brandon Marshall during his one-game suspension for violating the league's personal conduct code. Royal had another catch on Denver's second drive.
Oakland came right back with a 58-yard kickoff return by Higgins, and rookie running back Darren McFadden, the No. 4 overall draft pick, broke an 8-yard run on the first NFL carry. The Raiders reached the Denver 7 before quarterback JaMarcus Russell fumbled while getting hit on third down.
Russell attempted just one pass in the first quarter, while Justin Fargas had six carries for 18 yards.
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