The Raiders win before a national audience on Monday Night Football was a monumental accomplishment for a team and a franchise building a contender in the desert.
September 21st, 2020, will go down as a historic day for the Las Vegas Raiders franchise. The first game in Las Vegas, unveiling the brand new state of the art Allegiant Stadium and now, it will go down as a victorious day as well. The Raiders played one of their best games under Jon Gruden en route to a 34-24 victory on Monday Night Football. The win puts the Raiders at 2-0 for only the second time in the past 18 seasons.
In a game featuring future Hall Of Famer Drew Brees, Derek Carr was the best quarterback on the field. For the young Raiders to succeed, Derek Carr needs to prosper. So far in 2020, he has. In Monday’s game, Carr threw for 289 yards and three touchdowns and looked locked in the majority of the night. The most impressive part to me was the fact that he bounced back after a pretty terrible first quarter. The Raiders were down 10-0, and the game had the potential to get out of hand. Carr led them down the field on an 11 play touchdown drive. From that moment on, Carr looked locked in as the leader of the Las Vegas Raiders. It was the most important factor in the Raiders win.
Second Half Adjustments
For decades, the Raiders have struggled in the second half of football games. Going into halftime tied at 17, the Raiders needed to come out hot in order to win the football game. Gruden and his coaching staff came through in a big way. The Raiders outscored the Saints 17-7 in the second half and the game plan was a huge part of it. The Raiders adjusted to missing two key players on the offensive line by using quick hot reads to get the ball out of Derek Carr’s hands quickly. Gruden wasn’t alone in switching up his game plan. Defensive Coordinator Paul Guenther also made key adjustments that help lead to the Raiders win. Las Vegas realized quickly that Alvin Kamara was going to be a problem and did a good job of run blitzing and attacking him in the second half. That, along with dialing up more blitzes to get pressure on Drew Brees, were a major reason why the Raiders only gave up seven second half points.
There’s a reason why Waller’s nickname is “baller.” Darren Waller continues his career resurgence as he tramples through opposing defenses on a weekly basis. On Monday night, it may have been the best game of his career. Waller finished with 12 catches, 103 yards, and a touchdown. While the statistics were impressive, the most impressive was when the catches came. Clutch catch after clutch catch, including a touchdown on 4th down to give the Raiders a 24-17 lead in the third quarter. If Waller continues to be Carr’s number one option, he’s poised for another huge season.
The penalty and turnover differential is always key in the outcome of games. Over the years, the Raiders have been on the wrong side most often when it comes to penalties. On Monday, the Raiders were +116 yards in this category. A huge differential. That discrepancy wasn’t just because the Saints were sloppy. Henry Ruggs III caused a huge holding penalty beating his man and Maxx Crosby did the same on the defensive side. Sometimes plays like that don’t show up in the stat sheet but are very important in the outcome of the game. The Raiders look like a well-coached, disciplined team through two weeks and that’s a sight for sore eyes for Raider fans everywhere.
The young Raiders secondary is going to struggle at times this season. Young guys making mistakes but also making flash plays. In the first quarter, the Raiders were getting diced up by veteran Drew Brees but the secondary made adjustments and played well enough. Brees threw for 312 yards, which is not going to cut it in a lot of victories. However, the eye test showed the Raiders in good position for most of the second half. The Raiders, and second-year corner Trayvon Mullen, held Emmanuel Sanders to one garbage time catch for 18 yards. A great feat for an up and coming star in this league in Mullen. While the pass defense didn’t shine in the Raiders win, it showed enough to know it’s on the right track.
A pretty rough beginning to this game was a slight cause for concern. The banged-up offensive line gave up three early sacks but bounced back in a big way and Tom Cable deserves a ton of credit. The Raiders played without their studs on the right side and rookie John Simpson played major snaps. In the end, the line played well and did enough to help the Raiders win. What’s impressive is the way the Raiders can interchange guys and not miss a beat. Obviously, it’s vital to get Trent Brown and Richie Incognito back but Denzelle Good and John Simpson played very well and give the Raiders flexibility not to rush guys back.
The Raiders only forced one turnover on Monday and almost had two. However, the Nicholas Morrow interception before halftime was vital in the path to a Raiders win. Scoring 10 unanswered points going into the locker room changed the path of the game. If the Raiders were able to recover Alvin Kamara’s fumble in the second half this would be in the good category. For a team that struggles defensively, turnovers will go a long way in determining the win total on the season. Similar to 2016, you don’t need to be a dominant defense if you can force turnovers in key situations. Another reason why I think Guenther will begin to dial up even more blitz packages moving forward.
There wasn’t much to be disappointed in on Monday Night. The only thing that could use improvement from this team is the way the start football games. The 1st quarter was pretty ugly, and the Raiders trailed 10-0 at the end of it. If this football team can come out a little less flat, they will have a good chance to win a lot of football games. Even though the first quarter was ugly, the resilience and determination the team showed overshadowed it on this night.