LAS VEGAS — As slow, clunky and as ugly as the Las Vegas Raiders offense was early Monday night, it was just as efficient late. And as terrible as their defense was last season, it did just enough against the Baltimore Ravens.
In front of a delirious Allegiant Stadium crowd of 61,756 — and in the first regular-season NFL game played in front of fans in the city’s history — the Raiders came back from an early two-touchdown deficit to pull out a 33-27 win over the Ravens in overtime on ESPN’s Monday Night Football.
“I felt like I died and woke up,” Raiders coach Jon Gruden said. “And died again. I was like a cat — I had multiple lives tonight. I don’t like playing like that. It was tough but, again, we did a lot of good things to win that football game tonight.
“Our defense made a signature play at the end of that game and I thought Derek Carr was awesome playing under some really tough circumstances today against a really good defense.”
It was a wild OT period with the Raiders thinking they had won on a 33-yard pass from Carr to Bryan Edwards, who was instead ruled to have been down inside the 1-yard line. Carr was then stuffed on a sneak and a false start penalty on first-round pick Alex Leatherwood at right tackle was followed by Carr’s pass to Willie Snead IV bouncing off him into the end zone for an interception by Anthony Averett.
On the ensuing Ravens drive, Carl Nassib’s strip-sack of Lamar Jackson and Darius Philons recovery at the Ravens’ 27-yard line set up Carr’s game-winning 31-yard pass to Zay Jones with 3:38 remaining in the extra period.
Carr said the game was a microcosm of his eight-year NFL career with the Raiders: “Yes! Crap! Gosh! Dang!”
After a slow start, Carr finished with 435 yards passing and two TDs with the interception in completing 34-of-56 attempts, tied for the third-most passes in a game in his career.
“I hope this is a sign of things to come for us,” said Carr, who has now won a franchise-best five openers for the Raiders, including three straight. “Who cares how we do it, let’s just win, right?”
It was a show unlike anything the glitz and glamour of Las Vegas had ever seen before. Gladys Knight performed the national anthem, rappers Ice Cube and Too $hort staged a halftime concert and, well, Monday Night Football delivered in Sin City. And while the crowd had its hiccups — doing the wave while Raiders defensive tackle Gerald McCoy was carted off the field — it erupted on Jones’ walk-off TD.
“Las Vegas, I tip my hat, you showed up,” said Carr, who said it was the loudest environment he could remember and thanked the fans for being quieter when the offense was on the field. “It got really loud. Las Vegas did their thing and they helped us pull out that win.”
Indeed, it propelled the Raiders’ reconfigured defense as edge rushers Maxx Crosby had two sacks, Yannick Ngakoue tipped a pass and Nassib, the first openly gay active player in NFL history, stopped Jackson on a key third-down play in regulation before his game-altering strip-sack.
“Lot of firsts today,” Nassib said. “No one blinked. It was awesome. It was a great team win, for sure.”
Said Crosby: “For me, the thing that stood out was so many guys making big plays … everybody flying around.”
And this from Carr: “Please, someone praise the defense.”
Daniel Carlson kicked a 55-yard field goal with two seconds remaining in regulation to force overtime.
Gruden did a victory lap, of sorts, slapping hands with fans in Las Vegas’ reimagined Black Hole southern end zone.
With the Raiders’ victory, every team in the AFC and NFC West is 1-0. According to ESPN Stats & Information research, there has never been a week since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger when multiple divisions saw all of its teams win.