Just Win, Baby!

The Las Vegas Raiders look good.

Jim Rome
September 22, 2020 - 9:21 am
Derek Carr

USA Today

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Saints-Raiders in Las Vegas last night was so weird. Really, really weird. And not just because the Raiders were opening a stadium in Las Vegas without any fans. Don’t get me wrong. That’s a really nice looking stadium. But I’d be lying if I said I didn’t I miss the infield. I miss third base. And deep short. And the pitcher’s mound. Always loved QB1 toeing the rubber, and running backs sliding hard into second base to break up double plays.

Again, incredible looking stadium. The torch is cool. The grass looks great, but you can’t tell me that field wouldn’t look better with the second base bag around the forty yard line. It would, and you know it. And so do the players. And the network who show up to televise those games. 

But that wasn’t the only weird thing about last night. There was the location of the TV cart that damn near killed Raider Johnathan Abram.

 Yeah, that’s cool. Who cares if you lose a player or two because of the TV cart?  Just the price of doing business. And just about every guy who has ever put on a pair of pads will tell you, they know what they signed up for. Violence. And a TV cart positioned right near the field. Seems to me the game is dangerous without parking your TV cart on the sideline. Hell, why not just roll that bad right onto the field itself. After networks are paying huge bones to get the games, and they have to get THEE shots. And if it costs a player or two their leg or their life, who cares. Let’s keep the main thing, the main thing and that freaking TV cart is apparently the main thing; or they wouldn’t have it right there on the sideline. Damn, ESPN, feel free to move that thing back a few feet!

But all of that said, let’s get down to the game. And Alvin, I’m going to need some music for this one. Today is the official start of fall, so give me that famous Autumn bed you like to bust out with on occasion.

That was a macho performance from the Raiders. Yeah, I said it. You thought the Raiders were just there to open up a stadium and then watch the Saints open a can of whoop ass on em. And when New Orleans opened up a ten point lead, that’s exactly how it looked.  Like a boat race. Be honest. How many of you hit the Saints, -4 and thought you stumbled onto a pot of gold, before the game. Seriously. Be honest. Shoot straight. You thought the Saints would just march up and down the field. The hell they were! 

Yes, they looked flat early. Yes, they were in trouble early. Yes, it looked like they were just happy to be living the Death Star life. But then, suddenly, they flipped the script.  Derek Carr was sacked three times early, got up off the turf, and did this.

An 11-play touchdown drive that Derek Carr finished off with this:

 

 

A 10-play touchdown drive that Derek Carr finished off with this:

 

Pick off Drew Brees and then go on an 8-play drive capped off with a field goal as the half expired. From down 10-0 to tied 17-17 heading into the locker room.

And you know Raider Mike was absolutely lighting up the message boards after that half. And it only got better for the Silver and Black in the second half. And Raider Mark was furiously thumbing text messages to PF CHANGS on his flip phone, looking to secure a post win table to get his grub on. 

And it only got better for the Silver and Black in the second half. They got the ball to start and went nine plays for 75 yards and this score. 

 

24-17 and then the defense forced another New Orleans punt. Las Vegas goes on a 12 play drive, but Derek Carr fumbles. And I know what you were thinking. Here we go. Here come the real Raiders. Here’s where the Raiders remember they’re the Raiders.  They’re going to choke this away and find a spectacular way to blow a two touchdown lead and gag away this game.

Wrong.

Because the defense forced another punt and then the offense went on a 10-play, 89-yard drive that was capped off with this.

 

 

If you’re wondering why I keep saying how many plays the Raiders were running on their drives, it’s because they were flat out dominating the Saints. That is a damn good Saints defense, or at least that was the hype, but the Raiders were all about the ground and pound, mauling them on the ground. And Derek Carr was picking them apart in the air.

And that last touchdown was as brass it gets. A twenty yard TD run is always nice. A twenty yard touchdown run on 3rd and ten is brass as hell. That is a statement. That’s a dude and a team imposing its will; and send a message: message being: we’re not the same slugs we’ve been. We’re not getting punked any longer. Not in our house!! Not ON OUR DEATH STAR.

How many of you were laughing when Mark Davis opened that stadium last month, saying: “Welcome to the Death Star, where our opponents' dreams come to die.” Yeah.  Well. No one is laughing anymore. Most of all the Saints, who were completely outplayed, outhit, outclassed, and outcoached. The Saints did not look like the Saints. At all. You can point to Drew Brees not being the player he once was. And you’d be right.  You can say they’re not the same team without Michael Thomas. And you’d be right about that too. But the biggest reason the Saints didn’t look like the Saints, is because the Raiders are no longer the Raiders. At least not the Raiders we’ve known.  Did you ever think Derek Carr would outplay Drew Brees?  Did you ever think Jon Gruden would outcoach Sean Payton? Because both those things happened last night. And the nation saw it. And no, not Raider nation, but the actual nation.

From the Saints standpoint, I’d love to say, that’ll happen; that’s just one bad night.  But given how bad a night that was, I’m not sure that’s a one off or an anomaly.

Get up 10 and then were outscored 31-7 until a late touchdown. That’s bad. That’s really bad. When was the last time a Saints team coached by Sean Payton and quarterbacked by drew Brees allowed someone else to drop a 31-7 run on them?  Ever??? 

Here’s a word I never thought I’d use in describing a Sean Payton-Drew Brees offense: anemic. Like use your words, Rome. All right. Anemic. And the defense wasn’t much better. The defense couldn’t get off the field and the offense couldn’t keep them off it.

And as rough a night as it was for the offense and the defense, the penalties were even worse.

10 penalties for 129 yards, including the backbreaking PI on Janoris Jenkins in the fourth quarter. 10 penalties for 129 yards, are you kidding me? That’s what the Raiders do, not the Saints. But the Raiders were practically perfect in that department – 3 penalties for 13 yards. And the Saints led the league in penalties for the second straight week.

But just so we’re clear, I’m not here to bash the New Orleans Saints. I’m here to praise the Las Vegas Raiders.

The Las Vegas Raiders are 2-0. And they looked damn good getting there. Josh Jacobs running angry. And Darren Waller being nearly unstoppable with 12 receptions for 103 yards and a touchdown. 

And remember all the heat Derek Carr took from Jon Gruden and Raider fans? Well, that tune has changed. Here’s Gruden on Carr: “This guy’s a great quarterback. We’re surrounding him with better players. And once our defense I think starts playing to their potential, he can even be better. He does so much with the ball and without the ball and behind the scenes that I think Raiders fans should really be proud of him, and I know I am.”

Derek Carr is tough as hell. I’ve been saying that since I first spoke to him when he was in college. Yes, he’s taken heat as a pro, but he has been through way worse than that. He’s made of some really tough stuff. The right stuff and you knew he wasn’t going to give up or give in.

I know he won’t want to make it about him, but I will. He deserved last night. He deserved to have a night like that on national television. The only thing that would’ve made it better would’ve been Raider fans packed in that Death Star while their opponents’ dreams died.