Hello 2021 season, what an introduction! Las Vegas Raiders fans were jumping, the entire NFL world’s blood was thumping, and the result was one of the most thrilling opening season Monday Night Football games in history. That isn’t even hyperbole, this 33-27 victory over the Baltimore Ravens was an instant classic.
Where do we even begin? Let’s start with the most impressive player of the night for either team, ‘Mad’ Maxx Crosby. Are you serious with that performance Monday night? The guy had a Pro Football Focus grade of 93.0 on the night with 13 pressures, eight QB hits, two sacks and one huge play where he outran Lamar Jackson to the sidelines.
Maxx Crosby can FLY pic.twitter.com/vOJxtj71gs
— Barstool Sports (@barstoolsports) September 14, 2021
It was the type of performance that could launch Crosby onto the scene as one of the elite defenders in the entire NFL. His motor was running high all night long as Crosby didn’t look gassed in overtime. He wasn’t the player who had the strip-sack of Lamar Jackson in overtime, but he was the reason for it. With the Ravens double-teaming him and allowing Carl Nassib a free run at the quarterback. You know it was a dominant night when the team is so focused on one player that they completely ignore an edge rusher on such a pivotal play.
The whole defensive line played great last night. The unit is already the most improved aspect of the team. Shout out to Darius Philon for recovering the pivotal Nassib forced fumble and Quinton Jefferson for the other fumble in the fourth quarter. Both plays saved the Raiders game and led to touchdowns. A nod to newly acquired linebacker Denzel Perryman for his fumble recovery as well.
Victory came with a price for the Silver and Black
Las Vegas lost two key veteran signings to injuries: Yannick Ngakoue and Gerald McCoy. Both left the game with injuries. The fans were great all night, but doing the wave while McCoy was injured on the field was pretty ignorant. Be better than that, Vegas. There is no excuse good enough to justify that one.
Another bad look was Jon Gruden not taking the field goal down 17-10 and inside the Ravens 20 in the third quarter. How does a coach who’s always so conservative not take the field goal in that situation? Instead, he ran Josh Jacobs on 4th and 1, who got stuffed for a turnover on downs.
Raider Nation would not have forgiven Gruden for that mistake if not for the incredible resiliency of the team. When Justin Tucker made the 47-yard field goal with 37 seconds left, the rage at not taking the field goal was at full-on blown gasket levels.
Mr. Fourth Quarter
Thankfully, Derek Carr went into his fourth-quarter clutch mode and did the unthinkable in 35 seconds. Those two passes to Bryan Edwards were incredible, one for 20 and one of the hardest passes he’s ever thrown for 18 yards. That completion set up the game-tying, overtime-forcing a 55-yard field goal from Danial Carlson.
The best offensive play of the whole night ended up not even mattering. Still, the 32-yard back-shoulder pass to Edwards on the first overtime drive was so damn exciting. It’s too bad it wasn’t the game-winner after all when it had looked like Edwards extended his arm and powered into the end zone. Hopefully, Edwards builds off the momentum of those three plays heading into his second season.
It ended up not mattering because, after review, Edwards was down on the half-yard line, and the drive ended on one of the most absurd interceptions you will likely see all season. Willie Snead has to make that catch, and then for it to bounce off another player’s head and get intercepted in the end zone. The stuff of nightmares!
The Raiders got another shot with the ball thanks to Nassib, and this time, there was no question about it. Zay Jones ran his route perfectly, and the high arching toss-up to him from Carr was just beautiful. The moment was perfect, following the chaos of not getting the field goal unit on the field as expected.
What’s next for the Raiders?
Next up, the Raiders head to Pittsburgh for a classic rivalry matchup with the Steelers. It will be interesting to see how Vegas responds after such an emotional victory this week. They have to go to the East Coast and play the dreaded early game, which has been rough historically. Though the team now being based in Nevada instead of California helps with the travel time.
Nevertheless, it’s a scary proposition after this emotionally draining game against the Ravens. Huge, last-second wins like this are difficult to follow up and then adding in the traveling, early game time, and historic rival makes for a tough mixture for the Raiders.
It’s a great early-season test for this squad. If they can move on and play well again under challenging circumstances, it would be another great moment for the season. Here’s hoping Crosby can put up another Defensive Player of the Year-type game against Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers.
In the meantime, let’s savor Monday night’s victory for just a little bit longer. Miraculous victories don’t come around too often, so one more victory lap on it is well warranted. Just Win Baby!
*Top Photo: Courtesy of Raiders Official Website