Four consecutive weeks have now gone by with Aidan O’Connell holding the starting quarterback job for the Las Vegas Raiders. This past Sunday was the rookie’s latest outing, leading his team to 17 points against the Kansas City Chiefs. It’ll take more than 17 points to put away Patrick Mahomes and Andy Reid on most nights as the duo proved with a 31-17 victory over their Sin City rivals.
But how did Aidan O’Connell hold up against the Kansas City team that’s won 16 of their last 18 contests against the Raiders?
The Silver and Black were written off well before this duel went underway. Steve Spagnuolo’s defense, led by first-team All-Pro Chris Jones, has excelled all season at putting pressure on opposing quarterbacks. For a signal caller heading into his fifth career start, this was bad news from the beginning.
Yet, O’Connell far outplayed what most fans predicted.
With a passing grade of 83.7 via Pro Football Focus, the Raiders’ QB1 was the sixth-highest graded quarterback in Week 12. O’Connell’s 69.7% completion percentage ranked 10th-highest for the week, and his 101.6 passer rating ranked eighth.
The Purdue alum logged a total of zero turnover-worthy plays per the same outlet—an accomplishment not to be overlooked, as O’Connell had thrown at least one interception in every start prior.
In the biggest game of his career, the Raiders’ fourth-rounder looked calm and composed. O’Connell continues to stress the importance of improving weekly, and Sunday’s performance proved that sentiment is more than just words.
But there’s still work to be done; after all, Las Vegas was outscored 31-3 after notching a 14-point lead.
O’Connell, Raiders must be more aggressive in next match up with Chiefs
Josh McDaniels wasn’t on Allegiant Stadium’s sidelines on Sunday, but his influence certainly was. The Silver and Black, now under Antonio Pierce, were as conservative as we’ve seen since the McDaniels era ended.
Aidan O’Connell attempted just two passes over 20+ air yards, an unbelievable change from his league-high 8 deep ball attempts in Week 11. With momentum deep in Kansas City territory, Pierce elected not to roll the dice on 4th and inches.
You won’t beat Patrick Mahomes and Andy Reid by settling for field goals.
Make no mistake: Pierce, like O’Connell, is a rookie. Nothing beats experience, and the Raiders’ [interim] head coach gets his first lesson on the importance of capitalizing when everything is going right. The misjudgment isn’t too important at this juncture; what matters is how Pierce adapts to this lesson.
Three points in the entirety of the second half isn’t going to get it done on most nights. Sunday was no exception.
*Top Photo: Candice Ward