A win is a win, right Raider Nation? The Las Vegas Raiders vanquished the Dallas Cowboys in a hail of yellow flags and Daniel Carlson field goals on Thanksgiving Day. By doing so, they staved off a late collapse to secure a 36-33 victory in overtime.
That win helps keep the Raiders’ playoff hopes alive. However, there is no time for Derek Carr and company to exhale. The Silver and Black will return home to face the Washington Football Team on December 5th, and while the Team That Has No Name is far from the threat that Dallas posed, the Raiders have to show something they have struggled with for years.
Just How Hurt is Waller?
Derek Carr would finish Thursday’s game with 373 yards passing. A majority of which came with his most imposing target on the sidelines for a bulk of the action. Tight end Darren Waller was injured in the first quarter on a tackle after a catch over the middle when his leg got rolled up underneath a defender. While Waller was able to stand and walk without any signs of a major limp, Waller was held out for the remainder of the contest.
Watching the much-maligned Raider receiving group step up and carry the load in his absence was admirable. The Raiders must have been relieved to learn that Waller’s MRI was negative, revealing only a strained IT band in his knee. Naturally, if ‘83’ has to miss time, it could be the final blow to the team’s playoff chances. No other option in the Raiders’ arsenal evokes true fear in opposing defenses as Waller does. For now, everyone will be watching to see how this injury affects Waller’s playing time, but speaking of injuries.
Injuries Allowing Teams to Catch up to Bradley’s Cover 3 Scheme
Defensive Coordinator Gus Bradley has done what some didn’t think was possible. For the first time in nearly two decades, he’s given the Raiders a competent defense. The stats don’t always tell the whole story in this scheme. The concept is simple; eliminate the threat of the deep ball, force the offense to play the short game, rally to the ball carrier, and keep them short of the sticks. When the offense is clicking and the defense has their full unit intact, winning with this mindset is not impossible.
The Raiders faced a Cowboys team missing its two best wideouts, Amari Cooper and CeeDee Lamb. While the first half saw Dallas playing right into what Bradley wanted, the second half found the Raiders gashed often. Dallas found success with running back Tony Pollard, over the middle with Dalton Shultz, and deep with receiver Michael Gallup, allowing Las Vegas to give up twenty points in the third and fourth quarters.
While I’m not always a fan of the rally and tackle mentality, one has to believe the numerous injuries at corner and linebacker are finally catching up to the Raiders. It shouldn’t take opposing coordinators long to realize that starting inside linebacker Denzel Perryman can be easily beaten in coverage. Or that their current number two cornerback, Brandon Facyson, was just a few weeks ago on the practice squad.
The Raiders got the stop they needed in overtime. Nevertheless, the argument could be made that when your offense gives you 30 points and your opposition is compromised, overtime should never have happened.
Avoiding The Letdown
The cycle of Raider fandom is inevitable. Many assumed that Las Vegas was cooked. Just like many thought Carr was a scrub while draft think-pieces were being drafted mere minutes before Thursday’s afternoon kickoff. Fast forward five hours, and everyone has renewed faith in the chances of ending the postseason drought.
The truth is somewhere in the middle. Yes, Thursday’s win was important. But not as impressive as it could have been if the Dallas offense had had one of its star receivers.
Now the Raiders get some extra rest before facing a team at home that they are better than. If the calendar said September, I’d have more faith in the Raiders closing the deal against Washington. Unfortunately, we know what the fall has meant for this team over the years.
WFT has a victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers under its belt. Even with Chase Young sidelined for the remainder of the season (Brandon Parker should be thanking God for that), they boast a potent defensive front. That should in no way indicate a blowout, but anything other than a win for Vegas is unacceptable.
The Well-Being of Carr Haters
You thought this was your week, Carr Haters.
You assumed Carr would lay an egg in Dallas on the national stage. In turn, leaving no doubt that Carr was not the solution. But that he was the problem.
Certainly, some fans envisioned a game that saw Carr throw an unscrupulous interception midway through the second quarter with the team down two scores due to the offense’s inability to sustain any momentum. A pass so far behind its intended target, so blatantly offline, that Greg Olson would have to be restrained on the sidelines as Carr jogged back with his chin strap firmly nestled into his chest. Rich Bisaccia would rest his hand on Derek’s shoulder, his eyes saying what didn’t need to be said to the eight-year pro. Bisaccia would then glance at Marcus Mariota and nod, knowing that this was the man that would save this team’s season with his arm and legs.
Reality is often disappointing. No matter the circumstances, DC4 kept the Raiders’ offense humming all day long. But hey, I get it. He used to check down a lot, and he didn’t hit every open receiver on every play like you do in Madden. He’s working on it. I promise.
*Top Photo: Jose Carlos Fajardo/Bay Area News Group