Three takeaways from the Raiders’ 34-24 victory over the New Orleans Saints on Monday night at Allegiant Stadium:
1. The Raiders showed fight
The only highlights for the Raiders early in the game were the ones ABC/ESPN showed of the team’s rich history and of the sparkling new stadium.
It certainly wasn’t on the field. The Raiders fell behind 10-0 in the first quarter in their first game in Allegiant. They were thoroughly outplayed on both sides of the ball.
But then the Raiders began to move the ball, often using a short passing game to keep what has been a tough Saints pass rush at bay. The Raiders made some key plays defensively as well, including an interception just before halftime by linebacker Nick Morrow to set up a tying field goal.
And with the outcome still uncertain, Daniel Carlson drilled a 54-yard field goal with 1:07 left to end any doubts.
The Raiders showed similar resolve the week prior at Carolina. After giving up two touchdowns and the lead, the Raiders marched 75 yards for the winning TD. Then they preserved the victory with a stop on fourth-and-1.
2. Waller still the top option
The Raiders were aggressive in upgrading wide receiver in April’s NFL draft, selecting Henry Ruggs in the first round and Bryan Edwards in the third. They also signed free agent Nelson Agholor in the offseason.
But this is still tight end Darren Waller’s offense. At least the passing portion.
Waller caught 12 passes for 103 yards and a touchdown against the Saints, threatening the club’s single-game receptions record of 14 set by Tim Brown in 1997 and Brandon Myers in 2012.
This kind of production wasn’t unexpected. Waller caught 90 passes for 1,145 yards and three touchdowns last season.
But with the addition of the receivers, Waller wasn’t expected to have quite the same impact. It might be time to rethink that idea.
3. Going after Jacobs
The Saints made no secret of what they wanted to accomplish defensively, making stopping Raiders running back Josh Jacobs their top priority.
They held Jacobs to 26 yards on 11 carries in the first half, forcing the Raiders to go to the passing game. Plan B worked for the Raiders, who rallied from two 10-point deficits to tie the game at 17 at halftime. Quarterback Derek Carr passed for 177 yards and two touchdowns by the break.
Jacobs figures to get a lot of defensive attention this season. He was coming off a three-touchdown performance in the season opener at Carolina, and Jacobs rushed for 1,150 yards and seven touchdowns last season.
Even against the Saints, he showed his importance, gaining 62 yards on 16 tough second-half carries to help the Raiders keep momentum and eat clock.