First things first, what a Week 1 of football.
Right from the opening Thursday nighter coming down to the wire, to last nights game… Well, also coming down to the wire. Being that this is our company name, I’m going to make it clear from the start that the phrase will be a clear theme throughout this article.
And rightfully so, last night’s viewing experience was more of a rollercoaster than an actual rollercoaster. I’m not even talking about the final five or so minutes of the 4th quarter and overtime, which in itself was enough for me to admit I should seek therapy. At this time, I would like to apologize on paper to my roommate who absolutely does not deserve to hear the things I yelled at my television between the hours of 11:30 and 1a.m on a work night.
What you all ACTUALLY experienced from the opening kickoff was exactly what it’s like to be a Raiders fan, which was beautifully put on display in primetime for everyone to see on Monday Night Football. Now, I am not a Raiders fan, I’m actually a 49ers fan and have been since the days when Trent Dilfer and Shaun Hill were our quarterbacks.
But there's a black hole in my heart for the Raiders, being born into a family that has bled silver and black since the early 70’s, it’s hard not to. I’ve heard it all, from the Al Davis vs the NFL front office drama, the “Immaculate Reception”, the “Tuck Rule” game, and all the countless ways the league has screwed over one of its most historic franchises. Listening to that at every family function is similar to listening to a conspiracy theorist not shut-up about the same thing over and over. I say this because those on the listening end have to decide to do one of two things:
1. Tell the conspiracy theorist uncle to sit down, shut up and pass the salt, or
2. Buy into it and make it your life's goal to make a point about how the Raiders are the most fucked over team in the history of sports whenever you get the chance, kind of like what I'm doing right now.
Clearly, I chose the latter. Thanks uncle John.
But don't worry, I'm not going to make this blog into another rant about how the Raiders deserve retribution from the league, it's just not fair to take away from the wild victory that took place in Vegas last night. I just want the people who were casual viewers last night or even those who bet on the underdog Raiders to know that the good, the bad and the ugly you saw from the Las Vegas Raiders is the type of emotion fans of the club have experienced since the team was in Oakland... the first time.
The game started out great, Marcus Mari(GOAT)a fooled the defence on a crucial 3rd and 1 as he sprinted for huge gain to get the Raiders into Baltimore territory. Then Josh Jacobs goes off for a few signature Josh Jacobs runs and keeps the chains moving, up until a holding call and injury to one of their linemen in Denzelle Good stopped just about everything. After this Vegas abandoned the run and quite literally threw away a great opening drive.
Here's that first glance at the classic high's and lows of watching the Raiders, you get a glimmer of explosiveness, then in a snap everything blows up in your face. But that's quite obvious and not the take I'm going for, the actual reason why I point to this opening drive is because it leaks into how the Raiders play out their next few possessions.
So Gruden's one of those play-calling coaches who takes pride in the fact that he scripts out the initial 10-15 plays of a game. So basically that means the whole offence knew that run by Mariota on 3rd and 1 was going to happen. Simply because Gruden said so back on Friday afternoons walk-through practice. But here's the thing, not everything goes according to plan as they would later find out in that opening drive.
Which is inevitable and Gruden knows that, I'm not trying to mock the idea of scripting out plays. I'm actually a fan of it, it means you know what you're capable of as a play caller and not only understand your offence's strengths, but also the defence's weaknesses. Here's the thing though, if you're going to have a script, stick to the damn script. Even if it blows up initially, have the mental toughness as a longtime coach to know it's a long game and don't abandon your plan in the first quarter.
Coach Shanahan of the 49ers scripts out his initial plays as well and just like the Raiders, things didn't go according to plan for San Francisco on their opening drive against Detroit. In fact their situation was far worse, Jimmy G fumbled on the opening play of the game. But Shanahan didn't panic and stuck to the plan when they got the ball back and went off for 31 points in the first half.
After the Raiders first drive initially started run heavy before the penalty and injury, they went pass happy immediately in the following drives which led to a punt, after punt, after punt. I know for a fact throwing the ball early wasn't in the original plans, they wanted to run the dang ball.
Sandra Bullock in 'The Blind Side'
I know this because in the NFL Network pre-game show Derek Carr's brother, David, said something along the lines of "I know Baltimore can't hear me anymore so I'm going to tell you what the Raiders plan is... They're going to run the ball".
Except they didn't, did they David?
You know why David? Because your brother hates you and lied knowing you would leak confidential information on national television.
I'm kidding, Derek is way too into Jesus to lie to his own brother and keep secrets. The real reason is because when the script didn't go according to plan, Gruden panicked and went off-script which is where he sucked as a play caller last year when the Raiders blew a 6-3 record.
So now you stall all of your first quarter drives and do exactly what you don't want to do; rely on your horrendous defence to stop Lamar Jackson. To which Max Crosby said "fuck you, I got this".
To me that was the story of the game, the Raiders defence that was ranked bottom three in the league last year had a whole offseason of hearing it from the media and were put in a position to respond to all the doubters on Monday Night Football against the best dual threat quarterback in NFL history, Lamar Jackson.
They are the reason they won last night, every time the offence gave the Raiders a reason to lose and turn the ball to Lamar the defence stepped up. Without Max Crosby getting a couple sacks and applying pressure all night alongside Yannick Ngakoue, I'm not sure we even get a chance to see any late game heroics from Derek Carr.
But let's talk about Derek Carr for a minute.
This dude was an MVP candidate in 2016 and 12-3 as a starter that season, didn't matter. The guy threw for over 4,000 yards the past 3 seasons playing with a brutal supporting cast during a coaching change, no one cares. Not only that but last year he went toe to toe with Patrick Mahomes twice, beat him on the road in Arrowhead and almost beat him the second time if it wasn't for Mahomes answering Derek Carr's last minute go-ahead touchdown pass with one of his own with 28 seconds left, but alas, it still doesn't matter.
He has not gotten the respect he deserves year in and year out. Which I understand, he hasn't played in the playoffs. The year they made it in he broke his leg in the second last game of the season and had to watch Connor Cook throw 3 interceptions in a Wildcard Weekend loss to the Texans.
But riddle me this.
Matthew Stafford, like Carr, has played for a dysfunctional franchise for years over in Detroit yet he always got a pass because "it's Detroit", despite having Calvin Johnson to throw to for nine years. Now, that he's got a supporting cast in L.A people are saying they're going to the Super Bowl after one game against Andy Dalton's Chicago Bears.
Well if that's the case, it's time to give Derek Carr his flowers after last night. He proved to us last year that he can keep up in the division against Patrick Mahomes and last night he proved he can not only out play Lamar if need be, but can overcome top-tier defences like that intimidating Baltimore Ravens unit. And if he can have a defence, which don't get me wrong is no where near the level of the L.A Rams, but if he can have the defensive side of the ball actually keep them in games this year, Vegas might be onto something.
Derek Carr had to go out there and win the game twice for any of you to even notice he can ball. Hold up, let's not even jump ahead to overtime just yet, because the ending of regulation was also spectacular.
As this game was winding down in the final quarter, it was starting to feel like a typical Raiders game. There were dropped balls by the teams best player, Darren Waller, bullshit flags, missed calls against the Ravens, the opposing QB was running wild, it just wasn't looking good.
But then something happened that we haven't seen from the Raiders since they traded away Khalil Mack, the defence applied pressure. It was the first time that there was ever even an ounce of faith in this defence since the "Mack Attack" days. As I mentioned earlier the team did enough to give the offence a chance to match the Ravens and either tie the game or go ahead.
Now it wasn't looking good in the final minutes of regulation, in fact after Lamar scrambled for a big first down gain in the final minutes it looked like it was over. But the defence didn't break and held them to a field goal attempt with under a minute to go. I'm telling you there's a chance.
At this point we're down to 37 seconds and the Raiders have zero timeouts left, this is about as down to the wire as it could get. It's these moments when things are "coming down to the wire" that determine the 'clutch' trait of a quarterback. In my head I'm thinking that this is some Tom Brady shit if Carr can get into range with 37 seconds and no timeouts. And sure enough, boom, quick 20 yard gain, then bang quick 19 yard gain and just like that the Raiders have a chance to tie it up.
Daniel Carlson boots a 55 yarder and holy shit Vegas might do it.
In overtime the Raiders drive down the field and face a 3rd and 4 in within field goal range. Now, you do't want to field goal here and give Lamar a chance to end it with a touchdown. So here we are again, the game basically comes down to this, a crucial down to the wire moment.
And this happens...
"THAT'S HOW YOU END A FUCKING GAME!", I yelled at what is now after midnight. But hold up, turns out Edwards is down at the one yard line. Alright, no big deal just punch it in, right?
First down, QB sneak attempt doesn't work. Okay cool just run it again.
Second down, a false start... Are you kidding me.
Move it back five yards, do nothing on what's now second and goal from the five yard line. So now we have 3rd and goal. Here it is, game on the line, another down to the wire moment to prove you can close it out in the clutch.
And well, I can't even say it you know what happens, just take a look for yourself.
Here we go again, classic fucking Raiders. At this point, this play summed up the entire game being just frustrating to watch, further summing up what it's like to watch this team every week for the past God knows how many years.
Then the defence stepped up yet again when they needed to and forced the Ravens into a 3rd and 7 in their own end of the field. Here it is, our third down to the wire moment of the game, and well, you tell me how you think the defence responded.
Lamar's second fumble of the night exploded Allegiant Stadium, or the 'Death Star' I should say, and what a moment for the first ever game with fans in Las Vegas. Here it is, your story of the night, the Raiders defence kept giving Derek Carr a chance.
A chance they almost blew. Coach Gruden opted for the early field goal try on 2nd down but got the special teams unit out too late and cost them a delay of game penalty. So now the offence had to go back out there on a 2nd and 14 and this thing was looking like a disaster again.
Ravens are showing an all out blitz and Carr audibles to a deep pass which is a big dick move considering this play against this defence will either go for 6 points or a sack to take you out of field goal range. Him knowing this, he also knows he's in yet again, another down to the wire moment.
And sure enough Carr does what he's capable of and in the clutch airs out this bomb off his back foot to Zay Jones, who caught one pass all game leading up to this point, for as we all know is the play that ended one of the wildest Monday Night Football games we'll ever see
It was frustrating to watch, may have shaved a couple years off my life, but this is the Oakland Rai-, I mean, Las Vegas Raiders. Just an absolute rollercoaster as Derek Carr described post-game, but if they can pull through in the "down to the wire" moments, step up when it matters I could get behind watching a team that can go out and find a way to JUST WIN BABY.
Written by: Jacob Racco