The Oakland Raiders started their 2016 season off with a thrilling victory against the New Orleans Saints winning 35-34 in the waning seconds of the game. How did the Silver and Black grade out in their win?
If there was a single factor that decided the outcome of the Raiders victory over the Saints, it was their passing offense as Derek Carr and the receivers were lights out. While Carr only threw for one touchdown and 314 yards, it was his impressive poise that led the Raiders on two consecutive scoring drives as the game neared its end. Another underrated aspect of Carr's performance was that he did not commit a turnover or a sack the entire game.
As for the receivers, there were some dropped balls. But when a catch needed to be made, the receivers were coming down with the ball. Both Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper made fantastic catches to convert crucial two-point conversions. Seth Roberts made a nice catch in traffic to score the final touchdown that ultimately led to Crabtree's two-point conversion.
The Raiders offensive line needs to take a bow after how they performed week one under the circumstances of losing both Menelik Watson and Matt McCants. Overall, the unit did not give up a sack and both Kelechi Osemele and Donald Penn were Pro Football Focus standouts.
The Raiders run offense has an effective game with 167 total yards (6.3 yards per carry) and three rushing touchdowns. The shining moment came late in the 4th quarter when rookie undrafted free agent Jalen Richard ran for a 75-yard touchdown to keep the Raiders hopes alive.
Latavius Murray ran hard all game and even trucked a Saints defender during his touchdown run. It was refreshing to see the 6'3", 230 lb running back use his size to punish defenders. DeAndre Washington struggled on the ground totaling just 14 yards on 5 attempts, but the explosiveness was there and he should bounce back nicely in week two against the Atlanta Falcons.
Drew Brees had his way with the Raiders defense throwing for 423 yards and four touchdowns. Sean Smith was actually benched during the third quarter after getting burnt by Brandin Cooks for a 98-yard touchdown. There was just no answer for the Saints passing attack and it ultimately led to Head Coach Jack Del Rio gambling on a two-point conversion at the end of the game due to his lack of trust that the defense could stop Brees. The unit has another tough test this week against a Falcons offense featuring Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, and Muhammed Sanu.
Granted, the Saints offensive line is no all-star team, but the Raiders front-seven actually didn't do a bad job stopping the Saints rushing attack. They held Mark Ingram to 58 rushing yards on 4.8 yards a carry. Certainly not great, but it could have been a lot worse. This unit should be much improved when Mario Edwards Jr. returns and as first round pick Karl Joseph continues to develop.
I am thoroughly convinced Marquette King is a magician. I would not argue with a statement that said King was the best punter in the NFL. His cannon of a leg and improved accuracy was on full display week one as he downed the Saints inside the two-yard line and showed impressive hang time. Sebastian Janikowski was also money converting both field goal attempts and his lone extra point.
Seabass came up big forcing the Saints to start their final drive from the 23-yard line despite a 15-yard penalty that was enforced on the kickoff due to Crabtree's excessive celebration after the game winning two-point conversion. That kickoff was huge considering Lutz's 61-yard field goal miss at the end of the game would have likely gone in had the Saints been five yards closer.
The only drawback to a great performance was penalties.
With exception to their touchdown drive, Offensive Coordinator Bill Musgrave refused to push the ball vertical the entire first half. It was like watching the Rams offense Sunday night, horizontal offense. Luckily for the Raiders, that changed the second half, especially the final two touchdown drives when Carr and the offense started taking shots deep.
I love Ken Norton Jr. and the fire he brings to this team, but he and the Raiders defense had absolutely no answer to Drew Brees and the Saints offense. I am convinced Del Rio went for two specifically because he had zero faith that the Raiders could stop the Saints in overtime.
As for Del Rio, going for the two-point conversion at the end of the game was a ballsy call, but also the correct one. He recognized that if the Saints got the ball first in overtime, the game would be over as Brees was having his way with the defense. Del Rio had faith in his offense to convert, and they came through as Michael Crabtree made a beautiful catch to win the game.
Overall, there are certainly improvements to be made heading into the home opener against the Atlanta Falcons. But the Raiders did what they needed to do and pulled out a tough win in New Orleans to open the season 1-0.