3 Takeaways from Raiders' Week 3 Win
During their first season at Allegiant Stadium in 2020, the Las Vegas Raiders played in front of no fans due to the coronavirus pandemic. This year, they're making up for lost time by putting on a show every time they play at home.
On Sunday, the Raiders continued their hot start by improving to 3-0 with a 31-28 overtime win over the Miami Dolphins. It was Las Vegas' second home overtime game of the season, the other being a 33-27 victory over the Baltimore Ravens in Week 1.
The Raiders had an 11-point lead early in the fourth quarter, but the Dolphins came back and forced overtime on Jacoby Brissett's one-yard touchdown run with two seconds remaining. After both teams traded field goals to begin OT, Daniel Carlson lifted Las Vegas to victory with a 22-yard field goal as time expired in the extra period.
Here are three takeaways from the Raiders' Week 3 win.
Passing Attack Beginning to Show More Balance
It's no secret that tight end Darren Waller is the No. 1 option for quarterback Derek Carr in the Raiders passing attack. They didn't have a clear top wide receiver entering the season, and Waller is a top-tier playmaker at his position. That's why he had 10 catches and was targeted 19 times in the 2021 opener.
However, Las Vegas can't give the ball to Waller on every play without becoming too predictable. It needs other pass-catchers to step up and become reliable options. And that's what seems to now be happening.
The Raiders spread the ball around on Sunday, as Bryan Edwards (three catches for 89 yards), Henry Ruggs III (four catches for 78 yards) and Hunter Renfrow (five catches for 77 yards and a touchdown) all had solid showings. Waller contributed as well, notching five receptions for 54 yards, but it was a more balanced approach by Las Vegas.
For Edwards and Ruggs, it's been a positive for the Raiders to see them showing improvement in their second season in the NFL.
"Both of those guys had big days today against one of the better secondaries in pro football," Las Vegas head coach Jon Gruden said. "The fun thing for me is I see these young guys really coming alive. I see a different look in their eyes. I see a different confidence."
If this is a sign of things to come, the Raiders offense could soon reach another level in the near future.
Barber Exceeding Expectations as Fill-In Starting RB
Peyton Barber was among the Washington Football Team's final roster cuts at the end of the preseason. But it didn't take the 27-year-old running back long to get another opportunity, as he signed with the Raiders on Sept. 6.
In Las Vegas' season opener, Barber never touched the ball. But with Josh Jacobs missing the past two games due to toe/ankle injuries, Barber is getting an opportunity to start. He only had 32 yards on 13 carries in the Week 2 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers, but he put up much bigger numbers this week, rushing for 111 yards on 23 carries.
Barber also scored his first touchdown for the Raiders, getting into the end zone on a 1-yard run that extended their lead to 25-14 with 13:47 to go in the fourth quarter. And he's quickly making an impression on his new head coach.
"I think he did more than just run it—we went to him as our third-down back ... he caught a pass out of the backfield, he picked up some blitzes, he was helpful in protection, he didn't blow any assignments, he ran hard," Gruden said. "I don't even hardly know this guy. But I gave him a big hug and a game ball."
While in Washington, Barber was mostly used as a short-yardage back, but he's now proving he can excel with increased opportunities. It's possible he'll still have a role for Las Vegas even once Jacobs returns with how well he's running the ball.
Raiders Are Set Up to Contend in Competitive AFC West
For the first time since 2002, the Raiders have started 3-0. And that season ended in a Super Bowl berth, where they lost to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
If Las Vegas is going to make a similar run this year, it will have to outlast some tough competition in its division. How challenging is the AFC West going to be? Well, the Kansas City Chiefs, who have won the division five straight years and have reached the Super Bowl each of the past two, are in last place at 1-2.
While the Raiders have started 3-0, so have the Denver Broncos. Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Chargers are 2-1 after going on the road and beating the Chiefs on Sunday. So this division could be wide open and may have a ton of exciting matchups throughout the season.
Las Vegas is in the mix and seems to be a legitimate playoff contender this year. But in order to get to the postseason, the Raiders will likely have to fare well in their six divisional games, all of which are still to come. They play their first against an AFC West rival in Week 4, when they go on the road to face the Chargers.
Things are going well for Las Vegas, and that could continue to be the case moving forward.