How about for a name for this game we call it "Big Balls in the Big Easy"? This game is one of those immediate classic games that many of us will remember for years to come. Through the first 3 quarters it sure didn't seem like that would be how I would open up this article. It was hard to be excited about the Raiders game against the New Orleans Saints for those first 3 quarters, but the 4th quarter was a thing of beauty.
Let's start off by talking about the biggest part of the game, Jack Del Rio's decision to go for 2 instead of tying the game by kicking the extra point. There is no sugar coating it, most people watching that had their breath held thinking that it was a terrible decision to try to go for it there. Then Michael Crabtree went up and the victory came down with him as he out jumped the UDFA rookie guarding him and easily snagged the catch that won the game.
In hindsight, it was a great move by Del Rio to go for two but if it had backfired on him the might of Raider Nation would have collapsed upon him with second guessing the likes we rarely see. Seriously, can you even imagine the comments section of Raider sites across the internet if Crabtree had dropped that ball? Thankfully, he didn't and the ballsy move paid off big with an improbable victory in the Bayou.
It actually did make sense to go for the 2pt conversion though even if it was an incredibly ballsy call. Let's face it, the Raiders defense was shredded this entire game by Drew Brees and the prospects of facing him in OT was very daunting. Oakland may have won the toss in OT and continued their impressive offensive momentum but if they would have lost the coin toss they likely lose the game. Instead of relying on a coin toss, they relied on their franchise QB and their veteran wide receiver to win one on one against an UDFA rookie. Ballsy call, but a great one.
That wasn't my favorite play of the game though even if it was the game winner. No sir, my favorite play of the game was Jalen Richard's 75 yard run that really changed the game. To watch someone go through being undrafted and making the team as a tryout player make a huge game changing play like that was amazing. To add in it being in front of his friends and family in their home town, that is literally the stuff that Hollywood movie scripts are made out of.
It wasn't just Richard that made that play so awesome, it also was watching Kelechi Osemele utterly pancake a Saints defensive player right in the middle of that great run. There were people wondering outside of the Raider Nation why a team would give $12M a year to a Guard, and Osemele already proved why in just the opening game of the season. That block is as beautiful as it gets (Gif of it below for those that missed it), and him being able to switch over to Left Tackle in an emergency like he did in this game is absolutely priceless.
Why did the #Raiders pay almost $12M per year for a guard? Check out Kelechi Osemele on this 75-yard run pic.twitter.com/Dh5PlcDyli— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) September 11, 2016
Osemele wasn't the only free agent acquisition immediately showing their worth either, Bruce Irvin made his presence felt early with his strip sack on Drew Brees on the Saints' first drive of the game. Khalil Mack was actually held in check for most of this game, but Bruce Irvin managed to get that strip on Brees and was in the backfield several more times in the game as well. It looks like that tag team will be everything that was advertised once Mack has a normal, dominant game again.
The other highly touted free agent acquisition had a very rough game though. Sean Smith was even benched after giving up a 98-yard touchdown to Brandin Cooks on a perfectly placed pass along the sidelines from Brees. It was a terrible game by Smith, he also gave up a big 49 yard play earlier in the game, but it's too early to get too upset with him.
Simply put, Sean Smith was doomed in this game before it even started because this was the exact type of matchup that Chiefs fans have known to be his Achilles Heel. Smith is a big, physical cornerback that doesn't have great speed but makes up for it with his tenacity. The problem with that is when he has to matchup against quick, speedy receivers it can be very dangerous.
He needs to make sure to always get his hands on the receiver at the line when lined up against speedier receivers and that is exactly what he didn't do on that 98-yard touchdown. He missed his bump on that play and allowed the receiver to the outside of him where the help couldn't get there in time. That's a recipe for disaster and disaster struck big time. However, this was the type of frustrating matchup for Smith that had disaster a distinct possibility and I'd expect him to bounce back better next week against a big, physical receiver in Julio Jones.
As for the Raiders in general in this game though, wow what a difference. Think about how difficult of a win this really was for Oakland. They played the early game after traveling halfway across the country in an extremely loud and hostile environment, and they WON. In other years this was the type of game that the Raiders lost and it usually wasn't even close. To go out in the season opener and get this win, it can't be overstated how huge it was.
Now they are undefeated on the year (it's always fun to say that even if it is just 1-0) and have a home game matchup against the Atlanta Falcons next week. The Falcons are a pretty scary matchup in their own right with a solid QB in Matt Ryan, an all-world receiver in Julio Jones, and two extremely quick and shifty running backs in Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman. This is the type of game that could get out of hand if the defense doesn't show up, it has shootout written all over it with the Falcons not exactly known as a defensive powerhouse themselves.
It's a winnable matchup though and it will be in the Black Hole where the fans will be given their first chance to see regular season action for their team after this huge win in New Orleans. It is going to be a rocking environment that will be as intimidating as they come, hopefully the crowd will motivate the defense into playing way better than they did yesterday. It was great seeing this come from behind win with 22 points scored in the 4th quarter for the Raiders, but it would be even better to see them run away with it instead.