To call last season for the Las Vegas Raiders an emotional roller-coaster would be an understatement. Almost every week involved a heart-attack-inducing level of stress. In spite of that, it was a lot of fun. Here are the highlights from this edition of Raiders Rewind.
Raiders Rewind: No. 3 – Week 1 vs Ravens
Result: WIN 33-27 OT
What a way to start off the season. An overtime win over a playoff team on Monday Night Football. It was a barn-burner, with Derek Carr and Lamar Jackson combining for 670 yards passing. The Raiders’ offense, in particular, was firing on all cylinders. We witnessed several huge drives in critical situations. The Raiders had three game-tying drives in the fourth quarter alone.
Somehow, the fourth quarter drama was just a teaser for what we’d experience in overtime. Just when it looked like the Raiders had won it on a Bryan Edwards touchdown catch, he was ruled down at the one after review. Still, it was first down and a few feet to go to victory. What could go wrong? Well, apparently a lot. Then Carr got stuffed on a QB sneak on the first play. Alex Leatherwood then jumped offside, relegating Vegas to the Baltimore five-yard line. Now in pass-mode, the penalty was followed up by an incomplete throw to Hunter Renfrow. The next pass would go even worse, bouncing off of Willie Snead’s hands only to be intercepted. Now Jackson and the Ravens would have the ball and would only need a Justin Tucker field goal to win.
A few plays later, Carl Nassib came up huge with a sack-fumble on Jackson, giving the Raiders the ball back deep in Baltimore territory. At this point, fans were ready to sweat through three runs and a Daniel Carlson field goal attempt. Two plays later, Carr and Jon Gruden shocked everyone by dialing up a pass to Zay Jones for a 31-yard game-winning touchdown.
This game was a huge spark for the Raiders, as they would go on to win their next two games en route to a five-and-two start to the season. It was a preview of much more late-game (and specifically overtime) drama to come.
Raiders Rewind: No. 2 – Week 18 vs Chargers
Result: WIN 35-32 OT
This, of course, makes the cut. The Raiders make the playoffs for the first time since 2016 and eliminate the Chargers from contention. Then you add in prime time in the regular season finale. Plus, more overtime drama. It was spectacular.
What was interesting about this game is that, unlike most of the tight games that the Raiders played in 2021, Vegas was actually in the driver’s seat for most of this one. The Chargers’ only lead came late in the second quarter and lasted less than two minutes.
I might get some heat for this, but the guy that made this game great was none other than Justin Herbert. After a Carlson field goal with just over eight minutes left in the game put the Raiders up 15, Herbert took over. The Los Angeles quarterback converted five fourth downs, threw two touchdown passes, and added a two-point conversion in the last six minutes of the fourth quarter. Then, after a Carlson field goal in overtime made it look like the Chargers were going to lose again, Herbert led the Bolts into field goal range to tie the game. Along the way, he converted another fourth down.
Fittingly, the Raiders were able to get back down the field and win the game on yet another clutch kick by Carlson. Another crazy thing about this game is that at one point in the drive, the Raiders seemed content to tie. A Chargers timeout gave the Raiders a chance to run another play. A ten-yard carry by Josh Jacobs put Vegas in a much safer range. The tie factor adds intrigue, but it also makes everyone play a little safer. It keeps this game from getting the top spot.
Raiders Rewind: No. 1 – Week 12 at Cowboys
Result: WIN 36-33 OT
Thanksgiving is the premier holiday in the NFL. College football has New Year’s, the NBA has Christmas, but Thanksgiving belongs to the NFL. Unfortunately, these games, like most Thursday games in general, are usually not very good. This was one of the greatest Thanksgiving games played in recent memory, and arguably the league’s game of the year. It was also the NFL’s most watched regular season game of 2021.
Fans were not disappointed. They were treated to a back-and-forth thriller that went right down to the wire. The game was highlighted by an epic quarterback duel between Carr and Dak Prescott. The two get compared frequently, but this game made it clear that they are top 10 contemporaries. They sure put on a show, combining for just under 750 yards passing.
The Raiders held an eight-point lead heading into the fourth quarter. Despite tacking on two more Carlson field goals, the Cowboys managed to send the game to overtime (see a pattern yet?). After a tough first quarter, the defense came up big in overtime, forcing a three-and-out. Afterwards, the Raiders began driving, but things appeared to stall after a negative carry by Jacobs and a Carr sack. On third and 18, Vegas was bailed out when Zay Jones drew a crucial defensive pass interference penalty, taking the ball down to the Dallas 24. A few plays later, Carlson hit his fifth field goal of the game to save the Raiders’ Thanksgiving.
This game was a massive spark for the Raiders, who were reeling from a three-game losing streak. While they didn’t win their next two games, this win provided hope that the season was not over. I’m not sure that the Raiders could pull off that four-game winning streak if they dropped their fourth game in a row in Dallas.
*Top Photo: CNN Sports