Apologies for getting the winners and losers column to you guys a little late this week. On Monday, I was busy taking victory laps around downtown Denver after the Las Vegas Raiders dominating win.
To make it up to you, I added a couple of bonus winners at the end since there are plenty to go around for the Raiders. What a generous guy I am ... and humble.
WINNER: Greg Olson
I think hands down the biggest winner from Sunday’s game has to be Greg Olson.
He didn't even know he was going to be calling plays until Monday evening and it had been about six years since he had done so. However, Olson led the Raiders’ offense to its highest-scoring game of the season, including their two overtime bouts, and 426 total yards.
What might be most surprising about those two numbers is the team recorded its second-lowest time of possession on the year by about two and a half minutes, and their lowest TOP came during the 14-point outing in Los Angeles.
Las Vegas’ offense was more efficient and looked much more creative. Most notably, they were able to get the running backs involved in the passing game, which we haven’t seen much of this season, and they averaged about 0.5 more yards per rush than their season average heading into the week.
Of course, a lot of credit goes to the players executing on the field as well, and Olson even gave up some control to quarterback Derek Carr, but to me, that’s the sign of a good coach who’s willing to put his ego aside for the better of the team. Plus, you can’t argue with the results.
It’d be remiss of me to not recognize Rich Bisaccia for getting his first win in his first game as a head coach as well. Overall, Sunday was an outstanding showing for the Silver and Black’s coaching staff.
LOSER: Amik Robertson
Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve sung Amik Robertson’s praises for how he was playing considering the circumstances. However, now that he has a significant amount of snaps under his belt, he’s past the point of being able to lean on that last phrase.
Roberston had a pretty ugly game on Sunday, allowing three of three targets to go for 44 yards and a touchdown, while also missing two tackles on five opportunities - one of which led to a 30-yard gain and scoring opportunity for Denver. He was pulled from the game after just 13 snaps, and for what it’s worth his 26.7 overall PFF grade was a personal worst and the second-lowest of any corner that played this week.
What was an opportunity for the second-year pro to make a name for himself turned into a disaster where he’s now fallen further down the depth chart. Of course, not all is lost for Robertson as he’s still young and has plenty of time to turn it around, but this certainly wasn’t the way the Louisiana Tech product wanted to make his second career start.
WINNER: Kenyan Drake
The only other argument for the Raiders’ biggest winner outside of Olson I’d listen to would be for Kenyan Drake.
Heading into the week, Drake only had 195 total yards and no touchdowns in five games, but on Sunday, he racked up 73 total yards with both a rushing and receiving touchdown. What might be most impressive about those figures is he only participated in 12 plays.
So, the versatile offensive weapon managed to account for an average of a point per play, literally. That’s a math nerd’s/EPA person’s wet dream.
For me, the most exciting/encouraging part of Drake’s big performance was his receiving touchdown. It wasn’t just a simple swing route where he makes a defender or two miss in open space. Instead, he perfectly executed a double-move out of the backfield and tight-roped the sideline to put the ball in the paint.
Kenyan Drake hauls in the DIME pic.twitter.com/Rn6aLMO9fH— Win City Silver & Black Pride (@SilverBlakPride) October 17, 2021
Those are the types of plays many people expected to see from Drake this season, but for whatever reason, he wasn’t given those opportunities through the first five weeks. Hopefully, this is a sign of what’s to come with a new play-caller at the helm.
LOSER: Andre James
It’s been a rough first season as a full-time starter for Andre James so far. While Sunday’s game was far from his worst performance, that’s not exactly a high bar and it was still not up to par.
James ended up registering a 46.7 run-blocking grade - third-lowest among centers for the week - and a 48.7 pass-blocking grade - sixth-lowest- per Pro Football Focus.
In pass protection, he allowed a quarterback hit that didn’t even come on a true pass set, meaning the protection scheme was designed to give the offensive line some help and he still managed to lose.
James struggled to create much movement as a run blocker against Mike Purcell - the Broncos’ nose tackle - and James was called for holding once, which was the fifth time he’s been penalized this year. The latter is tied for the most at the position this season.
Carr and James also had a fumbled snap exchange which looked like it might have been more of the quarterback’s fault than the center’s, but regardless, that’s happened far too much this year and it’s not a good sign that they are still having these issues six weeks in.
WINNER: Derek Carr
Speaking of Carr, other than that botched snap, it was a perfect day for him.
He tossed for 341 yards and two touchdowns while completing 66.7 percent of his passes and accounting for four big-time throws against zero turnover worthy plays, per PFF. His 90.5 overall grade was the third-highest among quarterbacks this week, and he faced pressure on 10 percent of his dropbacks which was tied for the fifth-most.
The deep ball was certainly working for the Raiders’ gunslinger, and he was cutting it loose as 22.2 percent of his attempts were 20 yards or more down the field, tied for the third-highest percentage in Week 6. On such throws, Carr was four of six for 152 yards and two touchdowns.
After a couple of shaky performances in back-to-back weeks, this was a perfect bounce-back game for the signal-caller.
What was most impressive to me is he did this despite all of the adversity and distractions that came during the week. There’s no doubt about it, Carr stepped up as a leader this week by taking on more responsibilities and getting his team ready to go for a big game that easily could have gone south with everything going on.
LOSER: Casey Hayward
This week was a very unprecedented game for Casey Hayward.
He was targeted a season-high six times and allowed a season-high four receptions. Coming into the week, he had surrendered just 39 receiving yards on the year but gave up 48 on Sunday. This was also the first time the free-agent signing earned a below-average PFF coverage grade.
Hayward did register a pass breakup but that came on a play where he was beaten by Courtland Sutton and Teddy Bridgewater underthrew his receiver, allowing Hayward to recover. Had the ball been on target, it might have been a long momentum-swinging touchdown.
Now, there’s no reason to think that the veteran defensive back won’t bounce back as this week’s game is certainly an anomaly so far this season. However, the Raiders need it to stay that way especially while Trayvon Mullen is out.
They got bailed out on a few passes by some poor throws, and they played against the worst quarterback in the division, so Sunday’s formula isn’t exactly one they want to repeat.
But again, I wouldn’t worry about Hayward too much moving forward.
BONUS WINNER: Raiders’ pass rush
I thought about singling one player out like Maxx Crosby, who had the most pressures in the NFL this week with 12 and accounted for three sacks, but he’ll get plenty of individual attention this week and it was an outstanding team effort in Denver.
Las Vegas managed to rack up an astonishing 32 pressures as a team against 56 drop backs.
Defensive tackles Solomon Thomas and Quinton Jefferson each had five and tied for the third-most at their position for the week. Thomas also forced a fumble on a scramble that led to a Raiders’ touchdown to make it a three-possession game, and Jefferson added a sack to his stat line.
Damion Square was right behind those two with four pressures, which included a half-sack, and is pretty impressive considering this was his first start since Week 10 of last season.
The Raiders’ PFF pass-rush grade as a team is now up to 84.5, the highest in the league.
BONUS WINNER: Brandon Facyson
After being signed just two weeks ago, Brandon Facyson made his defensive debut for the Silver and Black on Sunday. He entered the game in relief of the aforementioned Robertson and managed to swipe an interception, which was the first of his career.
Facyson also had a huge pass breakup against Tim Patrick that prevented a first down and helped force a Broncos’ punt. On the next drive, the Raiders went down and scored a touchdown to take a 17-7 lead into halftime. That might not have been possible if it weren’t for the defensive back’s outstanding play.
With Mullen out at least one more week, Facyson might have earned himself a starting spot against the Eagles. Seeing as he was on the Chargers’ practice squad not too long ago, that’s quite the accomplishment.