If you’ve spent any amount of time watching Las Vegas Raiders games, you’ve seen your share of close games. Sunday’s game was more heart-pounding than most and took years off all our lives. In previous years, the Raiders may have folded late in a game like this, but this year’s group is made of sterner stuff, and they sent the fans home happy.
Plenty of players in this game showed their talent on the field and played well, while others showed that they have work to do. Let’s take a look at who was on top and who was a flop.
The Las Vegas signal-caller bounced back from an early pick-six and showed why he is in the driver’s seat for the MVP award. He willed the Raiders to a third consecutive victory to begin the season. He went 26 of 43 for 386 yards, two touchdowns, and a pick with a passer rating of 95.7. Those are big boy numbers that nobody can ignore. Carr found nine different receivers with completions against Miami; young pass-catchers Bryan Edwards and Henry Ruggs III continued to distinguish themselves as top-tier targets. While tight end Darren Waller made the most of his receptions as well.
Did the team sign Peyton or Tiki Barber? Here’s a guy who was on the street a couple of weeks ago, and he didn’t look like anything special against Pittsburgh in Week 2. But against Miami, Barber received 23 carries, and he responded with 111 rushing yards and a score. Las Vegas has been without a functional running game in the first two weeks, but Barber’s tenacity and speed helped the Raiders sustain drives and wear down the Dolphins’ defense. That may have been the finest performance of Barber’s career.
The Dolphins quarterback was pressed into service against Buffalo last week. However, he had a terrific game against the Raiders on Sunday. Even in the face of a ferocious Raiders pass rush, Brissett used his mobility to escape the pocket and scramble for yards or extend plays and find his receivers downfield. Jacoby put in a tremendous effort, and the Dolphins would not have been in any position to win this game or even be competitive without him.
Casey Hayward came flying in 😤
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) September 26, 2021
Raiders top cover man Casey Hayward allowed his only catch of the season, which went for minus-one yards and a safety. Nevertheless, it was Mullen’s coverage skills late in the game that helped Vegas to this win. Mullen had six tackles and two passes defensed, and while he was flagged for pass interference, he showed that he is in the top echelon of corners in the NFL. Mullen has become a key cog in the Raiders’ improved pass defense this year.
Once again, James’s play shows why the loss of Rodney Hudson hurts so much. James kept snapping the ball too high, making Carr have to jump for the ball, and once, he even snapped it right over Carr’s head. He and the rest of the o-line had trouble opening holes for the Raiders running game in the first half but played better afterward. James has to get it together, or he will be replaced.
This group was shuffled in anticipation of this game, and it didn’t work very well. The Raiders’ defensive line dominated the line of scrimmage and were in Brissett’s face constantly. The Miami running game was successful early on. However, in the second half, the Raiders snuffed it out. Miami had no answers for Maxx Crosby and Yannick Ngakoue. Back to the drawing board.
Miami’s coaching staff
Brian Flores and his staff made several boneheaded decisions in this game, first and foremost being the screen pass to Jaylen Waddle that Hayward stopped for a safety. Miami didn’t blitz enough and should have gone for it on fourth down more than they did. Which looked like a team trying not to lose, but they did anyway. That was because their early aggressive play did not continue late in the game.
Kansas City Chiefs
No matter the outcome of this game, the Chiefs’ loss to the Chargers in the early game guaranteed that Kansas City would be alone in last place in the AFC West at 1-2. The team many power rankings had atop the list coming into this season has been a massive disappointment thus far and really should be 0-3, as Cleveland outplayed them in Week 1.
Patrick Mahomes threw two picks, and the team lost two fumbles against the Bolts, exemplifying the sloppy play that has plagued their season so far. Raiders fans can take solace today knowing that, no matter what questions they have about the Raiders, it’s nothing compared to the sheer panic that Chiefs fans feel.
*Top Photo: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports