Over the last few years, it feels like an annual tradition where the Las Vegas Raiders look like they are about to implode and the season is virtually over, only to turn around a string a few wins together and show signs of life. That’s essentially what happened with the Raiders’ Week 6 win against the New England Patriots as Las Vegas has gone from 1-3 to a .500 record in the span of two weeks.
What was especially encouraging from yesterday’s win is the Silver and Black got a few key contributions from players who have been quiet this year as we have a couple of first-time winners to highlight this week.
WINNER: Michael Mayer
Coming into Sunday, Michael Mayer had just three catches for 41 yards in the team’s first five games of the season. Against the Patriots, he nearly doubled his production for the campaign with five grabs for 75 yards and was the Raiders’ leading receiver.
What was most impressive about Mayer’s afternoon was that he did exactly what a tight end is supposed to do, move the chains on third down. Four out of his five catches were third-down conversions as he provided quarterbacks Jimmy Garoppolo and Brian Hoyer a safety net all game long.
The Notre Dame product also showed off some impressive yards after the catch (YAC) skills on one of his grabs, making a couple of defenders miss and averaging 7.0 YAC per catch. He also had a nice catch through contact on another reception.
He’s come a long way since the start of the season and his blocking also continues to get better as the second-round pick seems to be finding his stride in the offense.
LOSER: Red Zone offense
This game easily could have been a blowout if Las Vegas didn’t go one for six in turning their red zone possessions into touchdowns. Converting just one more opportunity would have given them a two-touchdown advantage to begin the fourth quarter, and they would have cruised to a win by cashing in just half the time they were inside the 20.
That’s especially frustrating because Garoppolo and Josh McDaniels were supposed to fix the team’s red zone woes. Granted, playing with a backup quarterback for half the game played a factor in yesterday’s struggles, but Las Vegas was just 1-4 in the red zone when Jimmy G was under center and they rank 25th in the NFL with a 41 percent conversion rate on the season.
The Raiders also aren’t a big or explosive play team/offense so this has to change if they’re going to have success for the rest of the year.
WINNER: Jakobi Meyers
Jakobi Meyers has been arguably Las Vegas’ most consistent offensive player this season as Sunday’s five catches and 61 yards were his second-lowest totals on the year. Despite this game not being a personal best, he still managed to tie Mayer for the most receptions on the team and was second in receiving yards.
The former Patriot was consistently getting open against his former team and ended up scoring the Raiders’ only touchdown on the afternoon. He’s up to four scores in five games so far in 2023, which leads the team and is just two shy of a career-high. Meyers is also averaging 67.0 yards per game, nearly 10 yards more than his personal best heading into the season.
LOSER: Jakorian Bennett
It’s been a tough rookie season for Jakorian Bennett as he’s gone from a Week 1 starter to coming off the bench against New England. He’s struggled to begin the year which is a big reason why Amik Robertson got the start over him on Sunday, and Bennett didn’t do much to change that moving forward.
According to Pro Football Focus, the fourth-round pick participated in 22 coverage snaps and was targeted five times, surrendering four completions for 32 yards. To make matters worse, the one incompletion was a drop by DeVante Parker, so Bennett’s outing could have been even worse.
WINNER: Tre’von Moehrig
After starting the season a little slow, Tre’von Moehrig has been playing really well lately. He came down with his second interception of the year yesterday, which is already a career-high, and allowed just three completions for eight yards as the primary defender in coverage, per PFF. That resulted in a 79.5 PFF coverage grade that ranks third among safeties for the week heading into Monday Night Football.
Moehrig is putting together the bounce-back season that he needed to have after struggling in year two. He currently owns a career-high 77.6 overall grade from PFF and is tied for the site’s highest-graded safety over the last three weeks with a mark of 89.1.
LOSER: Robert Spillane
A week after praising Robert Spillane for making great plays in coverage and avoiding any missed tackles, he fell back into the rut against the Patriots. According to PFF, Spillane was targeted six times and gave up six catches for 67 yards. But what was more concerning to me is he missed two tackles, bringing his total up to 11 on the year which is tied for the second-most among linebackers.
WINNER: Bilal Nichols
Somewhat quietly, Bilal Nichols has been playing pretty well over the Raiders’ last few games. He’s recorded a PFF grade of at least 70 in each of the team’s last three outings, including a 74.2 mark yesterday in what was one of the most complete games he’s played since joining the team last season.
Nichols is more of a natural pass-rusher and had a couple of pressures versus the Patriots, one being a half sack where he and Maxx Crosby recorded the game-sealing safety, but the defensive tackle has stood out as a run defender lately. He earned a 70.9 grade in that department this week, which currently ranks 20th at his position, and he’s posted a 77.8 mark over the last three weeks, ninth-best in the league.
The 2022 free-agent signing’s emergence is a big reason why Las Vegas’ defensive line has been playing so well lately.
WINNER: Brian Hoyer
Don’t get me wrong, Brian Hoyer didn’t exactly come into the game and light it up. He completed six of 10 passing attempts for 102 yards and was just good enough for the team to hold onto the lead and win the game. That’s exactly what you’re hoping for from a backup quarterback who doesn’t enter the game until the second half.
Hoyer also did a good job of pushing the ball down the field with an 8.9-yard average depth of target (ADOT) and a pair of ‘big-time throws’, per PFF. He helped record the longest play of the game, hitting Tre Tucker down the seam for a 48-yard gain. Not a bad way to celebrate your 38th birthday!
If Garoppolo ends up missing time due to the back injury he suffered, the 15-year veteran might have earned himself a start next week.