“I felt like I died and woke up again.”
Jon Gruden said it, but Las Vegas Raiders fans everywhere felt it — and not just once. First, they were down 14-0; then, they were tied at 17. Then they were down seven with six minutes to go, and then they were tied again. Finally, they were down three with 37 seconds left, and then they were headed to overtime.
In overtime? They won, and then they didn’t. And then, two plays later, they threw an interception in the end zone. After getting the ball back, they had a field goal attempt to win the game nixed by a delay of game call. And then, on the next play, finally, they actually won on a 31-yard touchdown pass that sent the Las Vegas crowd into what I imagine was an even more delirious frenzy than they entered the stadium in.
Regardless of how they got there, the Raiders are 1-0 — and in a four-way tie for first place in the AFC West — with a marquee win already under their belt. If you read my season preview piece, I predicted a win in Week 1 — but then three straight losses after that, so while it feels good to be right so far, here’s to hoping I’m wrong moving forward.
As for this space, I’ll be here every week a day or two after the game to rewind the tape and reflect on what I saw. This isn’t intending to be a true game recap, but rather a breakdown of the moments or players I thought were the most significant in hindsight. So, without further ado…
Offensive MVP: Derek Carr
With a new offensive line in front of him (and with no real preseason action under his belt), Carr was a tad rusty to start this one — but once he got going, he was humming. The Raiders quarterback finished the game with 435 yards passing on 34/56 attempts, with two touchdowns and one interception (which went straight through his receiver’s hands).
More than the numbers, though, were the moments. The two passes he threw to Bryan Edwards in the final 30 seconds of regulation will be forgotten — but both were rifled into a tight window and right on the money. Then there was the perfectly weighted deep ball to Henry Ruggs on the previous drive that gained 37 yards on 3rd and 10. Or how about the deep ball to Edwards that nearly won the game — again, on 3rd down — which was only topped by the backpedaling rainbow that sent Zay Jones into the paint for the game-winning touchdown.
For all of the Carr haters out there, this is why the Raiders better be handing him a brand new long-term contract — and the sooner, the better.
Honorable mention: Darren Waller, Hunter Renfrow, Bryan Edwards and Daniel Carlson
Offensively there are a bunch of guys who deserve recognition, but these four are just a half-step below Carr. Waller finished with 10 catches (on 19!!! targets), while Renfrow and Edwards seemed to make big plays just when they were needed. But the guy who we must not forget about is Carlson — who drilled a 55-yard field goal as time expired to force overtime.
Defensive MVP: Maxx Crosby
There is literally nothing I can say to truly sum up how good Crosby was on Monday night. Six tackles, 2.0 sacks and two tackles for a loss begin to describe his impact, as does the fact that Lamar Jackson was pressured on 54.5% of his dropbacks according to Next Gen Stats, but even that feels like it falls short. Crosby also played an absurd 62 snaps (out of a possible 68) and never seemed to lose speed or effectiveness.
Honorable mention: Yannick Ngakoue, Carl Nassib and Quinton Jefferson
Really, I thought the entire defense played well on Monday against one of the most prolific and unique offenses in the league. Ngakoue was on pace for what Crosby finished with before he left the game with a hamstring injury. Meanwhile, Nassib and Jefferson both forced critical fumbles on great individual plays.
This is a space where I’ll throw a bunch of my thoughts that don’t fit anywhere else, so here’s what I saw in Week 1…
- While it’s hard to tell given both the camera angles and the offense the Ravens run, I thought the third level of the Raiders defense seemed to play really well. Baltimore receivers finished with just 11 receptions on the night, and much of the Baltimore offense’s damage came on scramble plays because (apparently) nobody was open downfield.
- Nobody likes to complain about the officiating, but I thought two of the game’s biggest moments were ruined by calls that went against the Raiders. On Baltimore’s second touchdown, Lamar Jackson made an unbelievable play to escape pressure and hit Marquise Brown in the back of the endzone. BUT, if you watch the replay, check out the hold on Maxx Crosby — which could not have occurred more in the line of vision of any official watching the play. The second was an offensive pass interference call against Edwards early in the second half. The Raiders were down 14-10, and on third down, Carr hit Waller for 22 yards down the sideline — but the play was called back because of a penalty that, on replay, left the announcers stunned. So instead of first down at the 31, the Raiders were sent back for 3rd and 15 from their own 5.
- AJ Cole deserves some love in this space as well because when the Raiders’ offense sputtered out of the gate, he was an absolute field position weapon. His six punts averaged 52.7 yards (including a 67-yarder), and two pinned Baltimore inside their own 20.
- I’ve been critical of Jonathan Abram in this space before, but I thought he played well. I don’t think he’ll be an all-pro, but he looked the part of a competent, above-average NFL safety last night in a difficult matchup.