How the team performed in a 34-30 victory against the Panthers.
The offseason chatter, for good reason, was about finishing drives with touchdowns. And in the most important of moments, the Raiders did. Derek Carr led a nine-play, 75-yard game-winning drive that culminated with Josh Jacobs’ third scoring run of the day and 4:08 on the clock. Carr completed 22-of-30 for 239 yards and a touchdown. He also wasn’t sacked, which says a ton for an offensive line that lost both right tackles (Trent Brown and Sam Young) to injury during the game. Rookie wide receiver Henry Ruggs had three catches for a team-best 55 yards, and Jacobs ran for 93 yards and added four catches for 46 yards. Another first-year wideout, Bryan Edwards, was held to just one catch but made some significant blocks on multiple scoring drives.
Long day until one of the game’s biggest plays. The Raiders couldn’t get much push to disrupt Carolina quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, totaling one sack against one of the league’s more suspect offensive lines. But as shaky as things were, Las Vegas made its most important stop by holding the Panthers on fourth-and-1 with 1:23 left from the Raiders’ 46. It also helped that Carolina had a brain freeze on the play and didn’t hand the ball to running back Christian McCaffrey (96 yards rushing, 38 receiving, 2 TDs). It wasn’t the smoothest of starts for first-round draft pick Damon Arnette at cornerback, who in the fourth quarter was beaten off the line by Robby Anderson, held the Carolina wide receiver, fell down and watched as Bridgewater hit him with a 75-yard TD pass to give the Panthers a lead.
SPECIAL TEAMS: B-plus
Daniel Carlson missed both field-goal attempt from beyond 50 yards last season, but his 54-yard strike gave the Raiders a 20-15 advantage Sunday. Carlson also hit from 20, and Hunter Renfrow averaged 18.5 yards on two punt returns, including one for 37. But the Panthers also averaged 27.3 yards on kick returns.
The defense must get better, especially with the schedule as it is over the next several weeks. That starts with producing some form of consistent pass rush. But scoring 34 points on the road after a COVID-19 offseason that didn’t allow for both free agent and rookies to acclimate into the system is more than a positive beginning. Remember: The Raiders haven’t averaged more than 19 points in each of the last three seasons. Next up for Jon Gruden and staff: A visit to Allegiant Stadium from New Orleans and Drew Brees on Monday Night Football.
Ed Graney is a Sigma Delta Chi Award winner for sports column writing and can be reached at email@example.com or 702-383-4618. He can be heard on “The Press Box,” ESPN Radio 100.9 FM and 1100 AM, from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. Monday through Friday. Follow @edgraney on Twitter.