The Las Vegas Raiders kicked off 2020 with a 34-30 win over the Carolina Panthers. In a game featuring eight lead changes, it was the defense left standing tall when the smoke cleared. Although that might have been good against the Panthers, the Raiders can’t allow 30 points again against the New Orleans Saints.
The Raiders are 1-0 heading into Week 2. There is no need to make excuses for winning football games in the NFL. Fighting through all the offseason distractions and beating the Panthers was pivotal towards engineering a fast start to the 2020 NFL season. Was it a perfect victory? No, but for a team that rose above all the adversity, it was a good opening.
Head coach Jon Gruden and his offensive gameplan was a beautiful complement to all of his skill players. Explosive on offense, the Raiders maneuvered up and down the field with relative ease. In spite of opening the game with a three and out possession, the Raiders would go on a four drive scoring streak. Time and time again, the Raiders offense carved up the Panthers defense en route to putting up an impressive 34 points. Overcoming the loss of his first and second string right tackles, Josh Jacobs shined brightly gaining 93 yards and three touchdowns on the ground. Quarterback Derek Carr kept a clean jersey and was not sacked or even hit all game long. This wasn’t an anomaly, their offensive line has played well going back to last season. That streak of solid play should continue in Week 2.
Penalties and the Raiders have gone hand in hand for nearly the last 20 years. However, moving to Las Vegas, Nevada, has given birth to a cleaner brand of football. Three penalties for 40 yards is a wonderfully welcome change. No pre-snap mistakes made, not a single false start or offsides. Many will blame the lack of crowd noise, even though some of it was piped in. Overall the lack of penalties suggests the Raiders may just possibly be done beating themselves. The Raiders need keep playing that brand of clean football against the Saints.
The defense played just well enough to get the win
When they needed a stop the most, former fourth overall pick Clelin Ferrell was up to the task. Playing in the short-yardage package, he exploded off the line of scrimmage and helped stuff the fullback for a turnover on downs late in the fourth quarter up 34-30.
All game long Johnathan Abram was sensational. Abram was simply everywhere for the Raiders in the first half, finishing the day with 13 total tackles and one for a loss. Seeing Abram flying all over the field while tackling everything moving was positively delightful.
Marred by an inconsistent pass rush, getting to quarterback Teddy Bridgewater proved a daunting task for the Raiders. Only Maurice Hurst was able to successfully sack Bridgewater. As a whole, the defense kept McCaffrey under 150 total yards but yielded two touchdowns. Wide receiver Robby Anderson caught six of his eight targets for 119 yards and 1 touchdown. First-round draft pick Damon Arnette surrendered his first touchdown reception of the season despite a solid overall debut. Raiders defensive coordinator Paul Guenther has to go back and see what went wrong. The Saints offense is better than the Panthers, and the Silver and Black can’t afford its defense to be a liability in Week 2.
Lamarcus Joyner and Nicholas Morrow both missed turnover opportunities when letting potential interceptions slip through their fingers. Meanwhile, the Raiders defense allowed McCaffrey to singlehandedly convert 30 plus yards of offense in back to back plays negating a second-and-26 down and distance advantage.
Under Guenther, this defense may not eclipse the likes of the 85′ Bears or the 01′-03′ Buccaneers. Nonetheless, they must seize all opportunities and create turnovers. All of these missed opportunities contributed to a relatively unknown offense putting 30 points on the board.
The harder they fall
Big Trent Brown didn’t last longer than a series and moving forward the health of his calf is a major point of contention. Sam Young who manned the right tackle position for the majority of training camp also fell injured leaving reserve guard Denzelle Good to fill in.
Rookie wide receiver Henry Ruggs III was enjoying a solid rookie debut prior to injuring his lower leg heading into the half. Ruggs got what appeared to be his leg rolled up on from behind as he was running a jet sweep. He would return after the half but wouldn’t see another target. Bryan Edwards also appeared to get his lower leg rolled up on after catching a tunnel screen and taking it nine yards.
Nick Kwiatkoski the green dot wearing linebacker free-agent acquisition has a pectoral injury. Once he exited it gave new life to the Panthers rushing attack and helped close the gap in points. Arnette got a little dinged up as well and spent some time off the field before returning.
Kwiatkoski will miss some time, but Ruggs seems to be fine and Brown could play against the Saints. The Raiders can surely use both in what’s looks to be a daunting Monday Night Football matchup against the Saints.
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Top Photo: AP Photo/Brian Blanco