Las Vegas clearly suits the Raiders.
The Raiders defeated the New Orleans Saints 34-24 in Monday's inter-conference showdown, which was the first-ever game in Allegiant Stadium. Las Vegas is 2-0 on the season with two wins over NFC South foes after Derek Carr and Darren Waller led the way in the latest effort.
New Orleans was without star wide receiver Michael Thomas and fell to 1-1 on the campaign despite a solid showing from Alvin Kamara.
Notable Player Stats
- Derek Carr, QB, LV: 28-of-38 for 282 yards, 3 TDs and 0 INT
- Josh Jacobs, RB, LV: 27 carries for 88 yards
- Darren Waller, TE, LV: 12 catches for 103 yards and 1 TD
- Drew Brees, QB, NO: 26-of-38 for 312 yards, 1 TD and 1 INT
- Alvin Kamara, RB, NO: 13 carries for 79 yards and 2 TDs; 9 catches for 95 yards
- Tre'Quan Smith, WR, NO: 5 catches for 86 yards
Derek Carr, Darren Waller Keep Offensive Momentum Rolling
Nobody is going to mistake Carr for Aaron Rodgers, but there was plenty of reason for optimism regarding Las Vegas' offense coming out of Week 1.
He hit nine different pass-catchers without a turnover in the win over the Carolina Panthers with Henry Ruggs III's speed on the outside and Waller as a matchup nightmare in the middle of the field. Throw in three rushing touchdowns for Josh Jacobs, and the Raiders appeared to have a dynamic group in the making.
Whether they could replicate such a performance against a realistic Super Bowl contender was a primary focus of Monday's game, and things got off to a rocky start in a scoreless first quarter.
However, Carr settled in and established a rhythm with Waller whenever he was in an ideal single-coverage situation. That connection helped Las Vegas march down the field, and touchdown passes to Alec Ingold and Zay Jones closed the early deficit.
Fittingly, it was Waller who put the Raiders ahead for the first time in Allegiant Stadium with a touchdown reception on 4th-and-goal in the third quarter. He was simply too big for the safeties and too athletic for the linebackers, which opened up everything else for the offense.
In fact, almost everything hit for Las Vegas. Carr spread the ball around even more in this win and connected with 11 different pass-catchers, while Jacobs picked up tough yardage on the inside and Jalen Richard sprinted for a touchdown to go up two scores in the fourth quarter.
A botched pitch play when Carr fumbled was about the offense's only mistake after the opening 15 minutes. The unit may not be quite ready to compete with the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC West, but the playoffs are very much a possibility.
Saints Offense Sputters Down Stretch Without Michael Thomas
There is no replacing Thomas.
After all, he set the NFL single-season receptions record last year on his way to 149 catches for 1,725 yards and nine touchdowns while making his case to be considered the best wide receiver in the league.
Making up for that lost production figured to start with Drew Brees, especially considering he was under the bright lights of Monday Night Football. According to NFL Research, the future Hall of Famer entered the contest one win behind Tom Brady's 17 for the third-most MNF victories. He also had the highest passer rating (106.0) of all quarterbacks with 10 or more MNF starts.
However, it was Kamara carrying the offense at first with the opening touchdown run in the first quarter. He made defenders miss on screens, ran between the tackles and bounced to the outside, forcing additional attention into the box and helping open up the aerial attack.
Brees found Jared Cook to go up two scores in the first half, but an interception to Nicholas Morrow helped the Raiders tie the game by halftime and seize the momentum following a slow start.
That interception took the wind out of the Saints' sails, as Brees started missing throws, receivers failed to get open downfield and penalties undercut promising chances. Kamara did add a late touchdown, but it was after the Raiders seized control of the game when New Orleans punted on its two possessions after the pick.
Thomas not only puts up his own head-turning numbers, but he also opens everything up for his teammates because of all the attention he attracts. That was missing in the key moments of Monday's game, which led to the Saints' first loss of the season.
Both teams are in action in Week 3 when the Raiders are at the New England Patriots and the Saints host the Green Bay Packers.