For the first time in 2016, Ballers & Busters counts for more than just roster spots. These performances are for the record while the game was one of the most exciting we’ve seen in a while.
Just as we expected; this was a shootout. The Saints top rated offense led by Drew Brees along with their league worst defense went against the up and coming Raiders.
In some regard it was a tale of two halves. At least for the Raiders it was. The Saints were consistent on offense throughout, scoring 17 in the first half and 17 in the second. The Raiders were slow to get going, scoring 22 of their 35 points in the fourth quarter.
They also converted two two-point conversions late with the final one being the game-winner. Just a 61-yard field goal attempt remained. It sailed just barely wide left as time expired and the Raiders escaped the Superdome with a 35-34 victory.
Very seldom does an offensive lineman take the Top Baller spot. That’s mainly because if these big fellas are doing their job, you don’t hear their names. KO was living up to his name, blowing through defenders to open up running lanes.
His first big run block helped paved the way for Latavius Murray to score from six yards out to put the Raiders up 10-3 in the first quarter.
The Raiders’ next touchdown came on the ground as well, but it wouldn’t happen until early in the fourth quarter. By that time, the offensive line was depleted due to injuries to Menelik Watson and Matt McCants and Osemele was playing left tackle. It didn’t matter, though. The Raiders ran behind him with Jamize Olawale to score from two yards out to bring them to down 19-24 after a failed two-point conversion.
A Saints field goal would push their lead back to eight. And in two plays, the Raiders were back in the end zone. Again it was on the ground, and again Osemele helped to clear the way. This time it was rookie Jalen Richard who went up the gut, bouncing off defenders before streaking through the defense 75 yards for the score. The two-point conversion was successful this time and the Raiders tied it up at 27-27.
The Saints would quickly go down and score again to take a touchdown lead. The Raiders would have just over six minutes to score again. The very first play they went to the ground with Latavius Murray picking up ten yards behind an Osemele block. Most of the rest of that series the Raiders took to the air and Carr was able to move the offense down the field due in part to the outstanding blindside protection he got from Osemel just as he had throughout the fourth quarter.
Carr almost entirely earned his Baller status in the fourth quarter. His day was very much up in the air at the half. His numbers looked well enough, but the results weren’t quite there.
He did led them on a touchdown drive that featured two big AC/DC connections for 35 and 34 yards. So, there was positives there.
The offense would convert just one third down conversion the rest of the first half and be held scoreless. Carr and the offense had a chance to score before the half, but poor clock management killed their chances. With the clock ticking, they had hoped to spike the ball to stop it and get one more shot to move closer. The official failed to get the ball spotted quick enough and the clock ran out. The Raiders had a timeout and had Carr noticed the time was about to run out, he could have used it to ensure they could get two more plays off. A 21-yard competion to Amari Cooper would have had time for a 40-yard field goal attempt, but there was no time left and they got nothing out of it.
Carr’s day didn’t get any better coming out of the half. He had two straight incompletions on third down throwing off his back foot from a clean pocket. A sustained drive late in the quarter would put them in position for a short field goal.
Now, then, for that fourth quarter.
Down 24-13, and with a makeshift offensive line, Carr went to work. He connected with Amari Cooper for 43 yards up the left sideline and then threw a ball on a rope to Michael Crabtree up the seam for 25 yards to put them at the 2-yard-line. Two plays later, Olawale would run it in for the score. Carr would pass up Seth Roberts in the flat on the two-point conversion attempt and opt for a covered Cooper instead and the attempt was defended incomplete.
A Saints field goal was followed by the big run by Richard to put the Raiders within two. Carr would get another shot at a two-point conversion and he went back to Cooper. This time Cooper went up high to pull it down at the pylon to tie up the game.
Another Saints touchdown drive would put them back up seven. Then Carr came out and led the Raiders on a 75-yard drive that took 5:16 off the clock. On the drive, Carr hooked up with Clive Walford for 18 yards and escaped pressure to connect with Michael Crabtree for 12 yards. The drive nearly ended twice with the Saints being called for pass interference both times. The second PI set the Raiders up at the 13-yard line. Two plays later, Seth Roberts went on a cross where Carr had the ball right on his chest for the touchdown.
Down by one point, Del Rio showed faith in Carr and went for two. Carr was going for Crabtree all the way and put the ball up high where Crabtree went up and got it. That would be the game winner.
Jack Del Rio
This status for Jack could have gone in a very different direction. That play at the end of the half that cost the Raiders a chance at three points falls on him as well (even though the officials share the blame too). But this is about one play. And we all know what that play is.
It is incredibly rare that a team with a chance to tie the game on an extra point opts instead to go for two. And it’s even more rare to win a game on such a play. How rare? The Raiders became only the fourth team EVER to do it. Conventional logic suggests you tie it up, and give it a shot in overtime. Del Rio had no intention of letting that happen.
From the moment the Raiders offense took the field for their final drive, the plan was to take time off the clock, score the touchdown, and go for two to seal the win. That’s a lot of things that need to go their way to make it work. It all happened just as Del Rio planned and he walked off the field with his fist held high and his spirits even higher. Yes, it could have turned out to be a terrible decision. But it didn’t work out that way. So, kudos, Jack. Your “Baller” status takes on the plural with that call Sunday.
For that two-point conversion to work, it needed a pair of hands to clutch it. Crabs had the hands, he had the leaping ability, and the concentration to take on his man one-on-one and secure the win. He also helped put them in that position with a team leading 7 catches in the game for 87 yards.
One of those catches came on the final drive for 12 yards. His longest catch set up the Raiders’ first touchdown of the fourth quarter. It went for 25 yards between defenders to put the Raiders at the two-yard-line. They would score two plays later.
Cooper’s yards came in chunks. His first two came on the same drive for 35 and 34 yards to set up the Raiders first touchdown of the day. His biggest catch, and the biggest of any Raiders receiver, went for 43 yards and help set up the Raiders’ first touchdown of their fourth quarter comeback. He also had the catch on the second 2-point conversion attempt. He finished with a team leading 137 yards on 6 catches.
There wasn’t a lot to sing about from this defense Sunday. Autry was a bright spot for sure. With the firsts drive ended quickly on a strip sack, Autry showed up on the Saints’ second possession. The Saints had driven all the way to the 13-yard line and Autry put an end to it. On three straight downs, he pressured Brees to flush him from the pocket and force an incompletion, stuffed a run for two yards, and then pressured Brees again, forcing an intentional grounding penalty. That’s as good as a sack and it forced the Saints to settle for a field goal.
Autry added two more run stuffs in the second quarter and another in the third. The Saints set up for a 20-yard field goal and Autry got up to tip it at the line. Unfortunately it still managed to twist through the uprights, but it was still a nice play from Autry who has become known for batting down passes and kicks.
The first three quarters he played at his native left tackle position. And he didn’t give up a sack or a pressure. He also had a couple run blocks too. He was forced to move to right tackle at the end of the third quarter and he still didn’t give up a sack or a pressure. He had a missed block on a run on the final drive, but I’m gonna go ahead and give him a pass on that one.
McGill getting the start was a surprise. Karl Joseph was the starter all through training camp and preseason and Nate Allen sat atop the first depth chart put out for the opener. But come game time McGill took the field and shocked us all. Then he showed why that was.
The former fourth round pick switched from cornerback to safety this offseason and it would appear that decision was a good one. In a tough match-up against Drew Brees, McGill held his own. He was fourth on the team with 6 combined tackles (4 solo) and added a pass breakup.
His first three tackles all came in the run game; showing his prowess as a strong safety. His pass defended came on third down early in the fourth quarter and set up a 50-yard field goal attempt which missed.
The first time he touched the ball, he burst up the middle, bounced off defenders, broke tackles, and then ran right through the rest of the defense to go 75 yards for the score. That’s one hell of an average to start a career. That run would be enough to make him the Raiders’ leading rusher. His touchdown tied the game at 27-27 midway through the fourth quarter. He added two more carries and two catches to finish with 95 yards from scrimmage.
The trifecta of Raiders receivers. While everyone will remember the gutsy two-point conversion caught by Crabtree, it was Roberts who scored the touchdown from ten yards out. He went on a cross, caught the ball just inside the five, and broke two tackles to get into the end zone standing up. It more than made up for the drop he had on the same drive.
Yet again, Roberts helped earn his spot among the Ballers for his blocking. The thin framed possession receiver’s blocking never ceases to amaze me. He had several key run blocks in this game, including one on the big 75-yard Richard touchdown run.
Latavius Murray -- One of Murray’s criticisms is how seldom he drives through defenders despite his great size. He showed he has the ability to do it when he took the ball through right guard from six yards out, burst through the line, met several defenders before the goal line and plowed through them for the score. He finished with 14 carries for 59 yards (4.2 ypc) and a touchdown.
Bruce Irvin – He had the strip sack that gave the Raiders the ball in scoring position early on. He would have had a second sack but it was negated by a phantom holding penalty called on DJ Hayden.
Sebastian Janikowski – Two field goal attempts, two made. One from 47, one from 31. He kicked two touchbacks and the Saints averaged just 17.2 yards per return.
Justin Ellis – He had three solo tackles in the run game. Pretty impressive for a nose tackle.