The evening began with a moment dedicated to the past, Carol Davis lighting the memorial torch named for her late husband. Then an NFL game kicked off and the Raiders delivered an impressive look at the present.
“Monday Night Football” might have been about introducing the wonder of Allegiant Stadium and how it aptly shines among the bright lights of Las Vegas, but the town’s new team was determined not to get overcome by all the celebration.
The Raiders walked away with a 34-24 win against the Saints. Las Vegas is now 2-0 to begin a first season in its Southern Nevada home.
Mark Davis wasn’t in attendance, the Raiders owner having pledged he won’t be at games here until COVID-19 reaches a stage where fans are allowed into the stadium.
Instead, Davis was at the team’s practice facility in Henderson, where $500,000 was raised for local charities and a select group watched the victory with him.
“It was one of the great nights in Raiders history and of my lifetime,” Davis said. “It’s hard to put into words what it meant watching (his mother) light the torch. She was the only one who could have done it … To see her up there … The only other person would have been my Dad. But he loved to win, so I’m sure he’s smiling.”
Carr over Brees
Al Davis undoubtedly would have been pleased with an offense that included 11 players on the receiving end of passes and a seventh-year starter at quarterback who appears beyond motivated to prove wrong those who doubt his ability to win big at this level.
Derek Carr doesn’t say it in so many words. Well, maybe in a few words. But it’s obvious.
He is definitely off to a good start for such a 2020 pursuit. He was terrific extending drives against the Saints, hitting one third-down completion after another. Drew Brees stood on the opposite side and this particular matchup wasn’t close. Carr outplayed the Hall of Famer at every turn.
Las Vegas isn’t great defensively. It’s really not overly good at this point. But it made a difference in the second half Monday night and held one of the league’s best offenses in terms of tempo and explosiveness to just seven points over the final 30 minutes.
Winning at Carolina was expected. This wasn’t, at least by those who set betting lines. But if you’re going to reach November in the hunt for a playoff berth, it’s imperative you win enough of these types of games.
It was another early-season game and it wasn’t. Before kickoff, Raiders fans walked the perimeter of Allegiant Stadium, accepting that they couldn’t get in and yet unbridled in their passion to show support.
“Hopefully our fans, even if they couldn’t be here, saw something that they liked,” said Raiders head coach Jon Gruden. “We can’t wait to get them in this place. There is a lot of sentimental vibes in our locker room. We have a great fan base who are out there in the streets proving it. I just hope they wear their masks.”
Bigger than one win
Davis said that folks were socially distanced while cheering in Henderson, although I’d like to see some footage for proof when it became evident the Raiders would win. Either way, the man who relocated his franchise to a town the NFL seemingly forever wouldn’t accept as a viable option saw the much bigger picture of a Week 2 victory.
“This is just the beginning, and when you think about all the hard work and number of people it took to get us here, it feels so good to start our time here with a win,” Davis said. “I’m not over-the-top or anything. I’m just really happy. I’m so proud of the team. That’s how the Raiders play. We played hard and with respect.
“I hope the town saw that and celebrated. It’s only the first chapter. But it was a great one.”
Have you heard the line about how the past illuminates the present?
Monday night, a 95-foot tall, 3D-printed torch was lit by the wife of the Raiders’ patriarch.
Then, a game began and the present shined under its own light.
For starters, it proved a winning combination all around.
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.