It might have taken four weeks, but the Las Vegas Raiders finally have their first win of the season after taking down the Denver Broncos 32-23 yesterday. The Raiders finally managed to put a complete game together, as the defense got stops when they needed to and the offense was able to answer back when the Broncos scored. Players on both sides of the ball made plays throughout the contest so we’ll have a bonus winner this week and have fewer guys to call out as losers.
WINNER: Josh Jacobs
Jacobs has been playing well all season, he just finally got the volume of touches against Denver to put up some eye-popping numbers.
Heading into the game, he had 42 rushing attempts for 192 yards — 4.6 yards per carry — and no touchdowns, and he never had more than 20 total touches in one game. On Sunday, he toted the rock 28 times for 143 yards — 5.1 yards per clip — and scored twice on the ground. So, Jacobs came into the matchup averaging 14 carries per game and more than doubled his per-game rushing yard average with twice as many carries. He also set a career-high for a single game with his rushing total.
But perhaps the most significant rushing stat the four-year pro had yesterday is that he forced eight missed tackles as a rusher, bringing his season total up to 22. Yesterday’s mark currently ranks first among all running backs and the latter is second-best behind Nick Chubb.
Jacobs got the job done in the passing game too. He caught five passes on six targets for 31 yards, with four of those five receptions going for first downs. In pass protection, he pitched a shutout with no pressures on nine opportunities to earn an 83.1 pass-blocking grade from Pro Football Focus.
If I had to guess, we’ll be seeing more games like this from JJ moving forward.
LOSER: Red Zone offense
Heading into Sunday, the Raiders’ woes in the red zone were frustrating, and unfortunately, even after the big win, they didn’t show a lot of promise in the scoring area. They had no problems getting down there, bringing the ball inside the 20 on five of their 11 drives, however, they only hit pay dirt twice.
A 40 percent touchdown rate in the red zone just isn’t going to be enough against better teams like Kansas City, who Las Vegas plays next week. For comparison’s sake, the Chiefs rank fourth in the league with a 73.7 percent TD conversion rate inside the 20 while the Raiders are tied for the fourth-worst in the league at 44.4 percent on the year. That’s something Josh McDaniels will certainly focus on in practice this week as three points is basically a failed offensive possession against Patrick Mahomes.
WINNER: The Fresno State Connection
Throughout the week leading up to the game, a lot had been made about the connection between Derek Carr and Davante Adams. Some claimed that Adams was open and Carr just wasn’t pulling the trigger while others said teams are double teaming the wideout, but the overall message was pretty similar; the Raiders need to get their top target the ball more. And that’s exactly what they were able to do against the Broncos.
Adams led the team with 13 targets, nine catches and 101 yards, and that was the first game he was thrown at more than 10 times since the season opener. That accounted for about 38.2 percent of Carrs throws, 42.9 percent of his completions and 53.7 percent of his yards on the afternoon. That’s the type of market share people were expecting when the former Bulldogs teamed back up this offseason. Plus, the quarterback added seven carries for 40 more yards on the ground, which is something else fans have been asking for recently.
Now, McDaniels, Carr and the rest of the offense do want to find the balance of getting the other receiving threats more involved, as Mack Hollins was the second-leading receiver with just 33 yards. But it was still good to see Adams and Carr get back on the same page, and with what Jacobs did on the ground, the offense is starting to show sines of becoming a “pick your poison” type of unit.
LOSER: Kolton Miller
Yesterday was a game to forget for Miller, but one that he might get constantly reminded of on the internet...
Coming into the contest, he had allowed six pressures on the season — two in each game — but ended up surrendering four on Sunday alone. That led to his lowest pass-blocking efficiency rating of the year (94.9) which currently ranks 46th out of 61 qualifying offensive tackles for the week. Luckily, that’s been his strength for the majority of his career and the Broncos do have a couple of good edge rushers in Bradley Chubb and Randy Gregory, so there’s reason to believe Miller will bounce back and be just fine.
However, he struggled as a run blocker and that’s been an issue through the first month of the year. He posted a sub-par 59.0 PFF run blocking grade and was responsible for at least one tackle for loss. What’s more problematic though is his mark for the season is now at 51.7, tied for 62nd out of 76 qualifiers at the position. That obviously has to change moving forward.
But what will make Sunday truly live in infamy for the five-year veteran was a moment that was more hilarious than negative. The Raiders called a play-action pass for a deep shot down the field, but Miller very clearly thought it was a run call as he was about 10 yards past the line of scrimmage and looking for a linebacker to come scrape over the top. The problem was, they were all dropping in coverage...
With the pass falling incomplete, Denver ended up declining the penalty so no harm, no foul, but that play could live on the internet for a while.
WINNER: Amik Robertson
With Nate Hobbs in concussion protocol for most of the week and Rock Ya-Sin sidelined with an injury, Vegas’ cornerback depth was going to be tested yesterday. That meant Roberston was needed to step up and have a big performance against Denver, and he delivered with one of the most exciting plays in the game.
The Broncos had just picked up a fourth down conversion and were driving in the Raiders’ territory when Duron Harmon jarred the ball loose from Melvin Gordon. Roberston was sitting right in the perfect spot to collect the fumble and capitalized by taking it 68 yards to the house for the team’s first defensive touchdown since 2019.
That play swung the momentum of the game right before halftime as the score was tied and it looked like the Raiders were going to go into the locker room down at least three. Instead, they took a six-point lead and never trailed from that point forward.
Overall, Roberston had a strong outing against the run, logging a 78.2 PFF run defense grade that is the second-highest among cornerbacks for the week, pre-Monday Night Football. He also managed to notch three defensive stops in coverage, tied for the second-most at his position.
Don’t get me wrong, the defensive back was far from perfect, allowing four completions on four targets for 87 yards, but the clutch plays are something he can build off moving forward and add value to the defense even when the secondary is at full strength.
LOSER: Punt Coverage
Arguably the biggest negative the Silver and Black had yesterday was their punt coverage as Montrell Washington returned three punts for 66 yards and a 22.0-yard average. While yes, part of that is aided by one 30-yard return, 18 yards per return outside of that outlier is simply too much.
A lot of those runbacks allowed the Broncos to either flip the field on the Raiders or prevented them from having to start a drive backed up in their own end. Having a Pro Bowl-caliber punter like AJ Cole is great, but that’s not going to matter much if the rest of the unit can’t get down and cover.
The good news is Washington ranks second with 15.2 yards per return on the entire season, and the Raiders have allowed the second-fewest average yards per punt return (4.0). So they just got bested by a good returner, but it’s certainly something they will want to clean up moving forward to make sure a performance like yesterday’s doesn’t happen again.
BONUS WINNER: Maxx Crosby
I won’t spend too much time on this since Crosby has been on a tear so far this year and has been a winner just about every week, but he put together another strong outing. He finished with two sacks, making Sunday the third game in a row that he’s gotten to the quarterback, and he had a batted pass for the second week in a row. Crosby also registered five defensive stops which bring his season total up to 20, the most among edges, and he’s currently sitting in a tie for fifth with 18 pressures on the year.