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Raiders’ quick slants: Jets edition

It was an ugly win for Las Vegas but there were moments of Silver & Black brilliance

New York Jets v Las Vegas Raiders
Las Vegas Raiders rookie tight end Michael Mayer, top, outleaps New York Jets safety Jordan Whitehead for a seven-yard touchdown catch on Sunday night. That was the lone end zone visit by both teams as Las Vegas won 16-12.
Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

To steal a line from former head coach Josh McDaniels: “It’s an imperfect game.” That surely sums up the Las Vegas Raiders 16-12 victory over the New York Jets Sunday night.

The win was as ugly as you can get under Antonio Pierce’s stead as interim head coach — in place of McDaniels — but the team is 2-0 in the AP era. And the Raiders find themselves the Kings of New York by dropping the Giants and Jets in back-to-back-weeks.

But in the midst of a Sunday night game where it often looked like both the Raiders and Jets were trying to sprint in mud without shoes, there were moments of Silver & Black brilliance.

Let’s start with the lone touchdown of the night — which arrived near the onset of the fourth quarter, mind you.

After getting stymied at almost every turn by the Jets stout defense, the Raiders found themselves with 3rd-and-4 at New York’s seven-yard line. Dropping back to pass, rookie quarterback Aidan O’Connell wanted to go left, to wide receiver Davante Adams on a slant. AOC didn’t like what he saw, and scanned the field before moving right. There fellow rookie and tight end Michael Mayer caught his eye as he got a step on safety Jordan Whitehead and O’Connell lofted a jump ball. Did Mayer ever high-point that pass.

Mayer outleapt Whitehead, snatched the ball with both hands, and had the feet coordination to get both feet down and secure the ball on the fall — touchdown Raiders. How the play unfolded initially, it looked very much like a cluster-you-know-what but instead, it was a rookie-to-rookie hookup and Mayer’s first touchdown of his young career.

That scoring drive was set up by an 11-yard punt return by veteran DeAndre Carter. And running back Josh Jacobs had a demonstrative 40-yard gallop (he did fumble, but out of bounds) to put Las Vegas in prime position.

Speaking of Carter, he was involved in arguably the Raiders best executed offensive play of the night.

Faced with 4th-and-1 at their own 44-yard line Las Vegas decided to go for it and keep its foot on New York’s throat. Interim offensive coordinator Bo Hardegree had his offense line up in an “obvious” quarterback sneak formation — likely the Tush Push — and the Jets responded by clustering the entire defense in the middle. But that sneaky Hardegree, he paid homage to the prep high school days of the Double Wing T formation and instead of having O’Connell plunge forward, he had the quarterback hand it to Carter who scampered around the left end and past Jets defenders for a 15-yard gain.

I covered plenty of high school football games in my day — many teams running the Wing T and Veer formations — and it took me back to those days.

While that Raiders’ drive ended on Jacobs’ fumble that the Jets recovered, it stood out as very smart play call, design, and execution. Kudos to Hardegree and his offense for making it all work.

New York’s ensuing drive after was a lengthy one but was stamped out by Las Vegas linebacker Robert Spillane. Despite having one of his hands in a soft cast and taped up — due to surgery to repair the break he suffered against the Detroit Lions — Spillane read Zach Wilson to perfect, stepped in front of the pass for the takeaway. The pick was so smooth, it was truly a sudden-change possession.

And yes, Las Vegas had to punt again, but the interception allowed the Raiders to bleed the clock and with New York unable to come down with the desperation heave in the end zone, game over. Las Vegas improves to 5-5 while New York falls to 4-5.

The Raiders draw a tough road matchup with the Miami Dolphins (6-3) next Sunday and then a home date with the AFC West leading Kansas City Chiefs the following Sunday before a bye week.

Let’s hit the quick slants as fast as Carter turned the corner for the 15-yard gain on fourth down:

—Jacobs finally eclipses the 100-yard rushing mark with 116 on 27 carries. The 4.3 yards per carry was impressive considering the Jets defense did get to the Raiders’ bell cow running back behind the line of scrimmage at times.

—O’Connell finished 16 of 27 for 153 yards with a touchdown pass and interception. He was also sacked three times. But the 25-year-old rookie continues to show poise and confidence and that’s encouraging for Las Vegas.

—Adams led the Raiders pass catchers with six receptions for 86 yards (a long of 42). He drew 13 targets and outpaced any other option in that department as Mayer was the second-highest with five targets.

—Las Vegas’ defense did limit New York tailback Breece Hall to 28 yards on 13 carries. But it turns out Zach Wilson was the more productive rusher with 54 yards on his four scrambles. Overall, the Jets churned out 108 yards on 21 carries on the ground.

—New York did well to limit Maxx Crosby’s damage as a pass rusher but both Spillane and Malcolm Koonce did get to Wilson for one sack, apiece. Koonce had a strip sack screaming off the edge but the fumble was recovered by the Jets.

—To be perfectly honest, it was quite odd to see a team out-Raider the Raiders in the penalty department. The Jets were snagged for eight infractions for 83 yards — many of those mental lapses killing momentum and offensive drives. The Raiders? They were flagged three times for 25 yards.

Play of the Game: