The Raiders lost their home opener to the Steelers on national television Sunday night, 23-18. Las Vegas scored the game’s first touchdown but slowly fell apart, falling behind 23-7 before making a fourth-quarter push.
Down 23-15 with just over two minutes remaining, coach Josh McDaniels decided to kick a short field goal on 4th-and-4. Las Vegas didn’t get the ball back until 12 seconds remained, and quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo promptly threw his third interception to end Las Vegas’ chances.
Here are the winners and losers for the week, as the Raiders made an average Steelers team look like a contender and fell to 1-2.
Winner: WR Davante Adams
Despite Garoppolo’s three interceptions, the Raiders passing game looked good in spots on Sunday night. Wide Receiver Davante Adams caught 13 passes for 172 yards and two touchdowns, Garoppolo’s only scoring tosses.
Adams’ first touchdown came on a gutsy 4th-and-inches call from McDaniels. Adams caught Garoppolo’s play-action pass for a 32-yard score, giving the Raiders an early 7-0 lead. Adams caught multiple passes on short yardage as the evening went on.
The Raiders offense didn’t score again until Garoppolo and Adams hooked up again late in the fourth quarter. If McDaniels plans to have a winning season, he needs Garoppolo and Adams to establish solid chemistry, and this game was their best effort yet, despite the losing outcome.
Winner: Maxx Crosby
When the Raiders lose and it’s difficult to find players for the winner list, defensive end Maxx Crosby usually comes through. He recorded the Raiders’ only sack of the evening and also had two QB hits.
Still, Crosby led a defense that let struggling Steelers QB Kenny Pickett get back on track with two touchdowns. With DE Chandler Jones on the NFI list and rookie DE Tyree Wilson yet to emerge, the defense may still struggle as Crosby shines.
Winner: CB Nate Hobbs
Cornerback Nate Hobbs made a big play when his team needed one, recording a pass breakup on a crucial 3rd-and-8 play late in the game.
The play gave Las Vegas the ball after a Steelers punt, down eight points with 4:46 remaining in the game. The Raiders drove down the field but had to settle for Carlson’s field goal and a 23-18 score.
Loser: CB Marcus Peters
Raiders cornerback Marcus Peters missed a golden opportunity for a pick-6 in the first half, and if that wasn’t enough, he got lost in space on the Steelers’ 72-yard touchdown reception in the first quarter. The play answered the Raiders’ opening touchdown and tied the score at 7-7.
Peters had a chance to redeem himself with the pick-6 but couldn’t convert the easy catch. He had a nice tackle for loss and a few other good tackles, but he takes an “L” on this night.
Loser: OT Jermaine Eluemunor/O-Line
Offensive tackle Jermaine Eluemunor had a tough assignment in DE T.J.Watt, but he allowed the Raiders’ first QB sack of the season, to Watt of course. Watt had two sacks, and Garoppolo got hurt as a result of the second, though the Raiders QB returned to the game.
Center Andre James and center Dylan Parham also had rough moments as the Raiders attempted to come back from a 23-7 deficit. James was beat for an easy sack and Parham was called for two penalties back-to-back. Overall, it was another awful performance from the line, as the running game struggled yet again.
Loser: QB Jimmy Garoppolo
Garoppolo threw for 324 passing yards and two touchdowns, but his three interceptions sunk the Raiders’ chances, especially the first two. He looks a little rushed in the pocket, even if he has time to throw. Perhaps inconsistent blocking is the reason for that, but Garoppolo has to perform better in any case.
Loser: CB Jakorian Bennett
The education of rookie cornerback Jakorian Bennett continues, as he went through another week of growing pains. He had a nice pass breakup late in the first half but then committed a pass interference on the next play, giving the Steelers a first down.
Later in the game, he was training behind Steelers WR George Pickens as Pickens caught a big 3rd-and-5 conversion for Pittsburgh. Ideally for Las Vegas, this experience translates into improvement for Bennett.
Loser: Coach Josh McDaniels/coaching staff
The Steelers offense has been the subject of jokes league-wide, but they looked pretty good against the Raiders in Las Vegas’ home opener. That must sting for coach Josh McDaniels, but he can’t put all the blame on defensive coordinator Patrick Graham.
McDaniels’ offense struggled for most of the evening, and the coach didn’t even give them a chance to tie the score with a touchdown and two-point conversion late in the game. Most of all, McDaniels’ decision to kick a field goal late in the game was questionable at best.
Furthermore, the Raiders’ roster looks suspect once you get past the star power at the top. That’s McDaniels’ doing as well, as he’s built the team with his longtime friend, general manager Dave Ziegler.
The Raiders will look to even their record at 2-2 next week on the road against the Chargers. Las Vegas’ only win thus far is against an AFC West foe, so perhaps seeing another division opponent will light a fire under McDaniels’ group. At this point, they need all the motivation they can muster.