The Las Vegas Raiders opened up life at the Allegiant stadium with a 34-24 win over the New Orleans Saints in Las Vegas. This was a highly impressive win, with the Raiders taking down a potential Super Bowl contender to go 2-0 for the first time since 2017. So what was the key to victory? The Raiders dynamic offense caused the Saints defense issues all over the field, led by a confident Derek Carr.
The key to victory
After making offensive firepower a priority this offseason, Las Vegas come away with another win and significant improvement on last year.In 2019, the Raiders didn’t have a single game with over 31 points. For the second time in two games, they put up 34 points to seal a victory – clear development. Along with this, the Saints defense allowed 30+ points to be scored on them just twice in the 2019 season.
Derek Carr is back. He’s acknowledged after the game that criticisms from the media, along with Brady rumours, fired him up. It certainly looks like that. Carr completed 28 of 38 passes for 284 yards and three touchdowns. He commanded the offense, and found the best matchups throughout the contest. Over the game he managed to find 11 different receivers; impressive stuff.
“This organization means everything to me. They stuck behind me through some hard times,” Carr said. “Through some times our team, we struggled, there’s no doubt about it. But when you get on the other side of things, to be 2-0 as the Las Vegas Raiders, that’s a pretty cool thing, you know?”Derek Carr post-game interview – 21st September 2020
Darren Waller was electric during this game. Finishing the game with 12 receptions for 105 yards and a touchdown. Jon Gruden did an incredible job finding one-on-one matchups for him, evidenced below. Waller played all over the offense and was a nightmare for the Saints defense to deal with. He is a joy to watch and is set for another big season.
Looking at the stats, Henry Ruggs III didn’t have much of an impact in this game. Catching just one pass for four yards, it wasn’t a big Ruggs performance. However, he doesn’t need to touch the ball to have an influence on the game.
Multiple times, Ruggs was used to draw attention away from Waller who had a huge game. Along with this he was missed by an overthrow from Carr, which would have almost certainly been a 50+ yard touchdown. Ruggs also draws PI calls, moving the chains without the need to touch the ball. He’s a young player learning to play in the NFL, but his impact even without the ball is not to be understated.
The offensive line
The Raiders offensive line has been one of the strengths of the team over the past few seasons. However, due to a slew of mounting injuries, the team is relying on it’s offensive line depth.
With guard Denzelle Good playing all game against the Saints at right tackle, and rookie guard John Simpson stepping in at left guard, the Raiders gave up three sacks. Yet even giving up three sacks is still an impressive feat. The Saints managed 51 sacks last year, the third most in the NFL. Credit should go to Tom Cable getting the Raiders offensive line ready for any situation.
Week three – Patriots preview
Week three brings yet another challenge for the Raiders to deal with. While they might not be the team of years past, the Patriots and Bill Belichick are still a formidable opponent.
After signing Cam Newton this offseason, the NFL’s all time quarterback rushing touchdown leader has started this season in good form. He’s scored four rushing touchdowns in the first two games, along with completing 73.4% of his passes.
If anyone knows how to utilise a player like Cam, it’s Belichick. Newton’s favourite target this season has been Julian Edelman, who already has 236 yards on the year. If the Raiders defense can limit targets to Edelman, they should find it a little easier. With just one sack on the year this season, the Raiders defensive line needs to up their game and bring pressure to force Newton to make quick decisions.
The Patriots have one of the best defenses in the NFL. In 2019, they finished with 25 interceptions and 11 forced fumbles, giving up just 276 yards a game. This season has started off in a similar way, with four interceptions in the first two games – but giving up close to 349 yards per game.
The Raiders should look to target the strong safety position due to the absence of Patrick Chung, after he opted out of the season. If the Raiders can create the separation they have been doing with the offensive line, Josh Jacobs should be in for a majority workload and big game.
Prediction: Las Vegas Raiders 31 – 27 New England Patriots
The offense is the strength of this Raiders team. If they can produce as efficiently as in the last two games, they have a chance at winning this game. The Patriots may have lost some key pieces over the offseason, but they are still a strong opponent. Yet again, the Raiders will be forced into a shootout. Las Vegas go 3-0 on the season for the first time since 2002.