Las Vegas held a 10-7 lead heading into the second frame but only managed to score three points the rest of the afternoon while the defense held the league’s best offense 10 points below their season average.
So, it should come as no surprise that defensive players headline the winners in this week’s column.
WINNER: Nate Hobbs
A good argument could be made that Nate Hobbs was one of the Raiders’ best players on Sunday. He finished third on the team with eight total tackles, including one TFL where sniffed out a screen and delivered a big hit. He also logged a pass breakup to give him a career-best six on the year and forced a fumble that led to a Raiders’ field goal that made it a one-point game before halftime.
What makes the third-year pro’s outing even more impressive is he lined up as an outside cornerback more often than he normally does as the team was beat up at the position. They needed someone to step up and he answered the call in a big way.
LOSER: Bo Hardegree
Bo Hardegree received a lot of praise for being creative and tweaking Las Vegas’ offensive play calling over the last two weeks. However, it felt like he got a little too cute in Miami which played a factor in the team’s collapse. Running the ball out of the shotgun on third and one to begin the second half is one play that comes to mind.
Also, it seemed Hardegree became more conservative in the second and third quarters as the offense didn't even get a first down in those periods. Ultimately, a 13-point outing just isn’t good enough and falls on the offensive coordinator’s shoulders.
WINNER: Luke Masterson
Luke Masterson didn’t get a ton of playing time with just 23 defensive snaps, but he certainly made them count. Masterson recorded four total tackles and forced a fumble that led to Las Vegas’ first score of the game.
He also earned a team- and career-high 84.4 coverage grade from Pro Football Focus and wasn’t even targeted. The linebacker has been playing well for a few weeks now and is making a strong case to earn more playing time moving forward.
LOSER: Aidan O’Connell
Bad games are going to happen with rookie quarterbacks and Sunday was certainly a performance Aidan O’Connell will want to quickly put behind him. After dropping a dime to Davante Adams for a 46-yard score to end the first quarter, O’Connell went cold and began missing throw after throw.
He got out of his nature a bit by trying to push the ball down the field too often instead of letting the game come to him and taking those measured shots that he became known for. That played a big factor in the offense’s inability to move the ball for two quarters and led to a crucial turnover on downs in a fourth-and-three situation.
Additionally, O’Connell threw three interceptions in the second half, including one to Jalen Ramsey at the end of the game to seal the Raiders’ fate. Again, these types of outings are expected from a young signal-caller, but there’s no denying that Sunday was certainly a learning experience for the fourth-round pick.
WINNER: Isaiah Pola-Mao
Isaiah Pola-Mao is another unexpected winner this week as he deserves a ton of credit for coming off the bench cold and replacing Marcus Epps, who left the game early with a neck injury.
Pola-Mao ended up tied for fourth on the team with seven total tackles and ranked second with an 84.3 PFF defensive grade. In coverage, he was targeted three times and allowed just one catch for 12 yards while picking up the first interception of his career and surrendering a meager 6.9 passer rating.
If Epps does have to miss more time, Pola-Mao’s performance should have increased the coaching staff’s confidence in him moving forward.
LOSER: Marcus Peters
While the offense was the bigger problem and the defense played well as a whole in Miami, Marcus Peters was one of the defense’s few negatives. He struggled to cover Tyreek Hill all game, which is understandable as the entire league hasn’t been able to keep that guy in check this season.
However, Peters’ effort in a lot of those plays became an issue as he was seen jogging mid-play instead of going all out to at least try and keep the wideout contained. That’s kind of been an issue all year as the veteran cornerback seems to have no interest in tackling, and opposing offenses have taken notice by attacking him in the running game as well.
Peters received a 44.9 PFF run defense grade against the Dolphins, which is the fourth time he’s been below the 60 mark this season. So, if he isn’t covering well and isn’t a factor against the run while also showing poor effort, it’s hard to justify keeping him on the field.