Post-game recap of the Oakland Raiders @ New Orleans Saints regular season opener.
Oakland won the con toss and deferred the kickoff, showing faith in the defense. That decision paid off immediately, as Bruce Irvin got a sack-fumble on Drew Brees, which was recovered by Jihad Ward.
The offense sputtered on their first drive, and offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave was in midseason form. A 3rd & 18 screen play went nowhere, and the Raiders settled for a 47-yard field goal.
Unfortunately for Oakland, the defenses first drive effort would be its best of the first half. The Saints carved up the Raiders defense for much of the first half, particularly through the air.
Sean Smith, D.J. Hayden, Malcolm Smith and just about everyone was beat for a reception at least once. Brees looked as good as ever, and minimal pass rush gave him way too much time to work with.
When given an opportunity to throw, Derek Carr showed what he can do. A few big plays to Amari Cooper marched the team downfield, and was capped by a Latavius Murray touchdown that gave Oakland a 10-3 lead. Carr was 4-4 on that drive.
The highlight for Oakland in the first half, aside from the forced fumble, was Carr’s first-down leap. He took off scrambling when pressured on third down, and front-flipped over a would-be tackler for a first down. It was beautiful and terrifying.
Too many penalties, particularly ones such a Clive Walford holding call that negated a third-down conversion, were brutal. It was a theme of the preseason and it continued in the first half, as Oakland committed seven for 50 yards.
Menelik Watson left the game with a groin injury and Oakland trailed 17-10 at halftime.
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The Raiders offense continued to sputter to start the second half. Fortunately, the defense was holding strong, until…
Thanks to a Marquette King punt, the Saints had to start at the two-yard line. Brandin Cooks beat Sean Smith on a go-route and Brees hit him in stride — 98 yards to the house. Down 24-10.
Smith had a rough game, even outside of this one big play. He was benched in the third quarter in favor of D.J. Hayden, which obviously says a lot.
Most of the way through the third quarter, Matt McCants was injured. With Austin Howard and Vadal Alexander inactive, Oakland was forced to do some shuffling on the offensive line.
From left to right — Osemele, Feliciano, Hudson, Jackson, Penn.
With the score at 24-13, Oakland found the endzone via a Jamize Olawale run, and Jack Del Rio decided to go for two points, in an attempt to bring the game within three. The conversion failed, and the score was now 24-19.
The Saints went on to kick a FG, extending the lead to 27-19 — an eight-point deficit. If the Raiders would have taken the PAT, it’d just be a one touchdown game, without the need for a two-point conversion.
Fortunately, Jalen Richard and Cooper bailed out that the decision. Richard took a run 75-yards to the house for his first career touchdown, and Amari hauled in a two-point conversion with an impressive catch.
Brees fired back quickly, completing a 57-yard pass to Willie Snead, who gave the secondary trouble all game long. Snead fumbled and the ball went upfield about ten or so yards, and was recovered by the Saints Michael Thomas, down at the 2-yard line. Bad break, and the Saints took a 7-point lead on the very next play.
Oakland had about six minutes to find the endzone, and Carr led the team downfield. An 11-play, 75-yard drive that took up 5:16 was capped by a Seth Roberts touchdown reception.
Instead of going for the PAT and the tie, Del Rio opted to play for the win — something Herm Edwards would be proud of. A fade route was thrown to Crabtree, and he made a hell of a play to come down with it. Raiders up 35-34, with about 45 seconds to go.
Brees threw a few passes to the middle of the field, and got the Saints in range for a 61-yard field goal to decide the game.
And like that, the Raiders were 1-0. A young team, down but not out, learning how to close out games.
Just Win, Baby.