The Las Vegas Raiders were able to get the 2020 NFL season started off on the right foot with their 34-30 victory over the Carolina Panthers in Week 1.
Although they managed to escape with a win this time around, the Raiders acknowledged that there is still plenty of work to be done if they hope to establish themselves as bonafide playoff contenders. They also suffered a few key causalities in the process with right tackle Trent Brown and linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski forced to exit the game.
Head coach Jon Gruden has acknowledged his concern with some of the critical injuries that took place in the season opener. While this will continue to be the case for Las Vegas in the coming weeks, there are also a few silver linings for them to build on.
Gruden was happy to see his team grind out a win under the circumstances, via Levi Edwards of the team’s official website:
“I just loved the way we finished,” said Coach Gruden. “It’s a long flight, 3,000 miles, it’s a hot day. We were in the hotel; we weren’t allowed to leave. We got out there, we fought hard for 57-58 minutes. Offensively, we took a drive the distance to take the lead late in the fourth quarter. We finished the drive. And defensively we finished the game with a critical fourth-and-1 stop. So, we fought through a lot of ups and downs. We lost key players; we lost the lead but we didn’t lose the game. And that’s a character builder if anything.”
Gruden added that the onus will fall on the defense to make improvements:
“Anytime you watch a game like that and the quarterback has time to get to his second and third look, get to the checkdowns, it’s not good enough. And our players know that. They’re capable of better.”
The Raiders’ revamped defense had its work cut out trying to contain a talented Panthers offense. Aside from trying to keep running back Christian McCaffrey contained, the young secondary struggled to keep up with the explosiveness of wide receiver Robby Anderson.
It certainly did not help that this group found itself without Kwiatkoski and cornerback Trayvon Mullen. While Mullen was eventually able to return, Las Vegas is still keeping their fingers crossed on the results of Kwiatkoski’s pectoral injury.
Things will not get any easier for the defense as they prepare for their primetime showdown with the New Orleans Saints in week 2.