The drawing board for Las Vegas Raiders head coach Josh McDaniels is well-used just two games into the regular season. McDaniels’ offense went into the the locker room with a 20-0 lead and didn’t come back out for the second half.
As result, his Raiders will once again go back to the drawing board and regroup after a stunning 29-23 overtime loss to the visiting Arizona Cardinals on Sunday. The defeat was the Raiders’ rendition of the classic fable The Tortoise and The Hare as the team sports an 0-2 mark to start the 2022 campaign.
“They coached and played 60 minutes and then some a little bit better than we did,” McDaniels said of Arizona in the postgame press conference. “Made a few more plays than we did at the end. I thought we thought we got off to a good start, I thought we tried to play the game the right way out, ran out of gas little bit on defense and played a lot of plays in the second half. A big part of that was we really couldn’t establish much offensively in terms of rhythm in the third and fourth quarter, and kind of left our defense out there a little bit.
“We had opportunities, certainly, to win the game at the end. But they deserve a lot of credit.”
That is the largest blown lead (20 points) in Raiders HISTORY pic.twitter.com/Gq8DDUFRMZ— NFL on CBS (@NFLonCBS) September 18, 2022
A balanced offensive attack paced by running back Josh Jacobs (he finished with 19 carries for 69 yards) along with quarterback Derek Carr’s accuracy and decision-making led to a domineering opening-drive touchdown. Las Vegas methodically chipped away at Arizona’s defense on an impressive 15-play, 75-yard drive that culminated in Carr hitting Davante Adams on a wide receiver screen for the one-yard TD, 7-0 Raiders. The drive chewed off 9:38 off the clock.
Las Vegas’ defense matched the offense’s spirit by containing and suffocating Arizona quarterback Kyler Murray. That forced three-and-outs to give Carr and the offense the ball resulting in not only a lopsided time of possession mark, but second-quarter drives that resulted in two field goals with a touchdown pass in between to tight end Darren Waller, 20-0 Raiders. The first half performance was a 180 from the season-opening loss.
Then, it all changed.
Arizona didn’t waver, just kept grinding and eventually, Murray began breaking contain and making the off-script plays — Las Vegas’ Achilles heel in the Week 1 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers. The Cardinals’ first touchdown — a five-yard strike from Murray to receiver Greg Dortch — came with 6:03 left in the third. And in the fourth, a gassed Raiders defense was getting worked in every which way possible rattled off 22 unanswered points as Las Vegas could only muster another field goal.
How a team with the weaponry the likes of Jacobs, Adams, Waller and Carr can only generate three points and not sustain drives in a half is wild. But it happened. And the complementary football the Raiders played in the first half disappeared in the second. Back-to-back weeks, back-to-back loses and a whole bunch of Silver & Black coulda, woulda, shoulda.
Murray — who ran the Raiders defense ragged with his ability to scramble, keep plays alive, and score with his arm and legs — succinctly summed up the difference between Arizona and Las Vegas on Sunday:
“The defense just kept getting stops. We’ve got to play complementary football and they kept getting stops, and we’ve got to have their back,” Murray said. “This was a complete team effort today. I am just proud of how we fought, proud to be able to come here and get a W against a great team.”
Let’s hit the quick slants as fast as the Cardinals dusted the Raiders in the second half:
—Cornerback Amik Robertson had a coming out game of sorts for Las Vegas. His open-field tackling improved, his coverage sticky at times and he snared his first career interception. It was a positive sign from a player who showed signs of living up to his potential.
—Carr was only sacked once behind an offensive line that consisted of Kolton Miller (left tackle), John Simpson (right guard), Dylan Parham (rookie center), Lester Cotton Sr. (right guard) and Jermaine Eluemunor (right tackle). The lone sack was Arizona’s JJ Watt making a mockery of Eluemunor’s blocking skills.
—Flip it and Murray was only sacked once despite being in the clutches of Maxx Crosby throughout the contest. Pressure was rampant but Murray’s capability to elude the rush and slip out of would-be tackler’s grasps made the difference and left the Raiders defense huffing and puffing.
—Fortunately for the Raiders, specialist Daniel Carlson and AJ Cole were on the money Sunday. The kicker and punter, respectively, showed off their big legs with Carlson going 2-for-2 on field goals (including a 55-yard boot) and 3-for-3 on extra points while Cole punted a trio of times for 161 yards (53.7 yard average) and a long of 66 yards.
—Raiders defenders Divine Deablo (linebacker), Duron Harmon (safety), Nate Hobbs and Rock Ya-Sin (both cornerbacks) played 100 percent of the defensive snaps. Safety Johnathan Abram (99) and Crosby (94) nearly played every single snap.
—Adams played 97 percent of the Raiders offensive snaps and had only two catches for 12 yards and at touchdown on seven targets to show for it. Fellow wide receiver Hunter Renfrow led the team in targets with 10 and finished with seven catches for 59 yards and two fumbles.
—Interestingly enough, Foster Moreau out-snapped Waller — 41 snaps (61 percent) to 37 snaps (55 percent) — at the tight end position for Las Vegas.