It was a dark and stormy night in Minnesota. Two football teams took the field. Then they left the field. Then they took the field again. They played some football for a while before the storm made them leave the field again. Then, eventually, they took the field again.
It was the lightning that had the teams and the fans heading for shelter several times before the game and suspended the game for an hour during it. And at times the rain was pouring pretty hard. But even in the preseason, there was football to be played, so play they did.
The first team played into the second quarter in this one. They may have played longer but after the one hour stoppage at the 6:45 mark in the second quarter, once play resumed it was the second team that took the field.
Both teams had their struggles in this one. The Raiders scored just one touchdown and Vikings kicker Blair Walsh missed three field goal attempts and an extra point. Otherwise the Raiders would have lost by a wider margin than the 12-20 final score.
Even still, there were some good performances as well as some not so good. So, let's take a look at the best and the worst in this preseaon match-up.
On the Raiders' second drive, they leaned on the 'Tay Train' and he delivered. That drive started with a 6-yard run from Murray in which he looked to be stopped in the backfield, but after getting stonewalled looking for a gap at right guard, he bounced to the left and found six positive yards though the back door. He turned a negative gain into a very nice gain. His second run, he found that crease at right guard and shot through for nine yards.
With the ground threat established, Derek Carr went to the air with completions to Marcel Reece and Amari Cooper which set the Raiders up inside the 10-yard line. Two plays later, they handed it back to Murray who went right up the gut for the touchdown.
Jack Del Rio had seen all he needed to see from his feature back and pulled him. Murray carried the ball 4 times for 20 yards and a touchdown. He just looks more and more like the answer the Raiders have been looking for at the running back position.
No surprise here. After taking the Top Baller spot last week with just two series on the field, he finds his way near the top of this list again while playing just 28 snaps (38%). On the very first play of the game, he had a tackle on the running back for a loss of three. He teamed up for a tackle for loss on the next drive as well. Then he teamed up for two more tackles in the run game on the next drive as well. And he did it with the Vikings were double teaming him a good portion of the day.
Ray Ray Armstrong
He was among the players who I had pegged as needing a bounceback game after being named Top Buster last week. He answered the bell too. The Vikings' lined up in third down twice in their second drive and both times it was Ray Ray who made the stop. He sniffed out a bubble screen to tackle the receiver for a five yard gain on third and 11. The Vikings went for it on fourth down and picked it up. Two plays later, they were in third and 7 and Ray Ray had tight coverage on and tackled the receiver for a four-yard catch to force a field goal attempt. The field goal was wide right which kept the game scoreless.
Ray Ray made a play on each of the next three drives. He teamed up for a run stuff, made a tackle on a short catch, and held the edge to allow for a run stuff near the line. That was the final play before the game was suspended which means it was his final play of the game.
In that time, he showed us what he can do when he plays smart, disciplined football. The talent and athleticism is there and when he can channel it, he can be the kind of player the coaches were raving about this offseason.
Speaking of guys who were looking to show up well; Watson had a great game from the right tackle spot. First and foremost, he didn't give up a pressure. He also didn't have any penalties. And to top it off, he laid a key block that got Latavius Murray into the end zone for the Raiders' only touchdown of the game. Though he and the rest of the first team offense played just 19 snaps in this one, it was a flawless 19 snaps, so it must be recognized. The Raiders will be counting this former round two pick as their staring right tackle this season so a performance like this is encouraging.
Some Raiders fans probably don't even realize that Autry is in his second season with the Raiders. He was signed as an undrafted free agent last offseason and played well enough to land a spot on the practice squad. This year, he looks to have stepped up his game and this performance is easily his best yet.
He got in the game on the first drive with several of the first team defense and had a tackle on that drive. Two drives later, he saw more action with the first team and got in on a couple more tackles for short yardage. The next drive, he got into the Vikings' backfield to stuff a run for a loss. On the final play before the game was suspended, he stuffed a run to hold it to two yards. His day was done after that. And if you didn't know, now you know. Autry's got some talent.
It looked quite painful to be the guy unlucky enough to be tackled by Lofton in this game. Every hit he delivered looked like he was trying to send a message. His first tackle was on a short catch for a one-yard gain. So was his second tackle. He was credited with the tackle on the final play before the game was suspended, though it wasn't him who made the actual tackle. It was, however, Lofton shooting the gap the runner intended to use that caused the back to try and bounce out right where Autry made the tackle.
There were two turnovers forced by the Raiders in this one and Dowling had one of them. This 2014 seventh round pick broke on a Shawn Hill pass that looked destined for no man's land and Dowling did what no other man did, he streaked over from his deep middle safety spot and laid out to intercept it along the right sideline. It was the first official snap after play resumed in the second quarter. The Raiders took possession and drove for a field goal and a 9-6 lead. Later in the game, Dowling came up to pop the runner and assist on a stop on third and 2 short of the first down marker to force a field goal attempt (which Blair Walsh, of course, missed).
Now two straight games Ben Heeney has led the Raiders in tackles. This time he had 7 combined tackles (3 solo) after having 8 last week. And his day started later this week than it had last week. His day actually started with a missed tackle on a 10-yard dump to the running back. But it got much better from there. He had a tackle on a three-yard catch later in that same drive.
The next drive, early in the third quarter, lasted three plays. Those plays were a tipped incompletion, a run stuff by Heeney, and a strip sack. Heeney shared the sack and delivered all of the punishment on the quarterback who laid on the turf for a couple minutes afterward. Heeney lit him up like a tackling dummy. It was Mario Edwards who stripped the ball and the Raiders recovered the ball and drove for their second field goal of the day to pull within one at 12-13.
Over the next two drives, Heeney added three more tackles including a run stuff for no gain.
This undrafted free agent rookie keeps showing he has great vision and the speed to capitalize on it. He didn't get into the game until the second half. When he did, the ground game came to life. He had three carries in four plays for 17 yards and picked up a third and short.
The following drive, he had a blitzing linebacker in his face as soon as he was handed the ball. He quickly side stepped the blitzer like it was nothing and turned what could have been at least a 5-yard loss into a 4-yard gain. The next play, he was cut off trying to go left, made a spin move inside and again turned a potential loss of yards into a 3-yard gain. The drive ended with a field goal to pull within one at 12-13.
The next drive was a long one thanks in part to Dyer. He picked up four yards on the first play, ran for seven yards two plays later. and, after being spelled by George Atkinson III for a couple plays, Dyer returned to pick up the first down on third and one. He led the team with 45 yards on 12 carries.
The other turnover forced on the day was by Mario Edwards. He came around the left tackle to force Vikings' quarterback Taylor Heinicke to step up into the pocket. When he did, Edwards spun inside and hit Heinicke's arm from behind the instant before Heeney nailed the QB from the front. Edwards forced the fumble and shared the sack. The Raiders recovered and added a field goal out of it.
He very nearly had a sack or at least a pressure earlier in the game. The left tackle held him on the play but it was not called and while Edwards was flailing his arms from the left tackle's arm around his neck, the quarterback was able to get off a dump pass that resulted in a 17-yard pickup. This was the drive just before halftime that led to a touchdown. It's a woulda-coulda-shoulda moment, but this is, after all, the preseason, so those kinds of things don't go unnoticed.
The strip sack by Edwards needed to be recovered by someone and it was Harris who fell on it to give the Raiders the ball. Two plays before that, he very nearly forced a turnover of his own. He came flying in around the left tackle and got his hands up to bat the pass. He very nearly intercepted it altogether, but bobbled and dropped it. Still a great play. He later had another QB pressure.
For the second week in a row, he led the team in catches with three on three targets. He saw his first pass to begin the third quarter and it went for 13 yards. A few plays later he caught a pass for 8 yards. On the next drive, in third and three, he caught a 5-yard pass. The drive resulted in a field goal.
Dan Williams - He played just 15 snaps and had three solo tackles for a total of 3 yards gained (4, -1, 0). That's a pretty good day.
Nate Allen -- Started the day with a pass defended. He also had a couple of tackles and gave up just one catch for 5 yards in 33 snaps.
Giorgio Tavecchio - There were only two field goals made in this game and they were both by Tavecchio. Normally making a 37 and 26 yard field goal is not a big deal, but considering the winds whipping through the stadium was such that the Vikings' kicker missed three field goals and an extra point attempt, making a field goal at all on this today was a bit of an accomplishment.
Horace Miller - His five tackles (3 solo) was second on the team behind only Ben Heeney.
Neiron Ball -- Teamed up for a run stuff for no gain just prior to the strip sack in the third quarter. Helped end the Vikings' next drive by pressuring the quarterback to throw to a covered receiver and the pass fell incomplete. Later teamed up for a tackle on a 3-yard catch. Tied for third on the team with 4 tackles (3 solo).
Leon Orr -- He teamed up for a run stuff for one yard on third and two to force a field goal attempt (missed). Then ended the next drive as well with a body slam style tackle for no gain on third and seven.
Khalif Barnes, Austin Howard -- Neither of them gave up a pressure or run stuff of any kind despite both being in the top five in snaps among offensive players.
His day started late in the second quarter when he made the tackle on the first play of the Vikings' final drive of the first half. Later in that drive he gave up an 8-yard catch on third and 7. A few plays later, with the Vikings' in the red zone, Wilkins pressured the QB into an incompletion. In the third quarter he was called for being offsides on kickoff. The next drive, he had a pass defended in the end zone to delay the Vikings' touchdown by one play. Early in the fourth quarter he was blocked on a pitch right that resulted in a conversion on third and six. He was around the ball a lot in this game and the results were mixed. Hence Betweener.
Like Wilkins, his day began on the final drive of the first half. On that drive, Edwards came up to assist on a tackle on a 3-yard catch. Two plays later he missed a tackle on a dump pass that resulted in a 17-yard gain. Late in the third quarter, he helped end a drive with a pass defended on third down. He began a Vikings' drive in the fourth quarter with a pass interference penalty. He also had a coverage incompletion on that same drive.