LAS VEGAS — As Mike Tyson infamously said, everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth. And in a town that has seen so many of his world championship fights, it seemed only fitting that the Las Vegas Raiders in general — Derek Carr, in particular — had to come off the canvas Monday night.
Indeed, the Raiders, in the first regular-season NFL game in Las Vegas, recovered from their early standing-eight count to upset the New Orleans Saints 34-24. Carr, in complete control of Jon Gruden’s offense in this, their third year together, outdueled NFL all-time passing leader Drew Brees at Allegiant Stadium to improve to 2-0 for the first time since 2017.
Carr was crisp and efficient — after the first quarter, when he took three sacks in an opening quarter for the first time in his seven-year career. His three TD passes gave him 147 for his career, getting him closer to Ken Stabler (150) and Daryle Lamonica (148) for the franchise lead.
Carr completed 28 of 38 passes for 282 yards. Carr led the Raiders to 24 unanswered points to take a 31-17 lead. Tight end Darren Waller was his security blanket with 12 catches, on a career-high 16 targets, for 103 yards and a TD for a 120.7 passer rating. Brees’ rating: 91.1.
Describe the game in two words: Welcome home. Raiders owner Mark Davis deemed Allegiant Stadium the Death Star, “Where our opponents’ dreams come to die.” After a quick start in which New Orleans jumped to a 17-7 lead, the Saints’ hopes for a victory in the first regular-season NFL game in Las Vegas were summarily snuffed out by the Dark Side, er, the Raiders.
Troubling trend: Yes, the Raiders’ defense stiffened up enough to allow the offense to score 24 unanswered points. But in allowing 6.6 yards per rush in the first quarter, when New Orleans ran a mind-numbing 22 plays, the Raiders’ defense provided a blueprint for the Patriots next week in New England. Plus, the defense had only one sack last week and was shut out on that front by the Saints. But like in Carolina, the defense made plays when it needed to.
Pivotal play: Rookie receiver Henry Ruggs III, on a deep ball down the right sideline, pulled a veteran move in getting a pass interference flag thrown on Saints cornerback Janoris Jenkins. It was third-and-5 with 2:08 to play, the Saints had just pulled to within a touchdown but the penalty allowed the Raiders to maintain possession and eat more clock. Daniel Carlson’s 54-yard field goal a few snaps later, with 65 seconds to play, iced it for Las Vegas.