Well Here we go again folks: another Oakland Raiders NFL season. As I write this, the afternoon games are kicking off and half the league has already completed their games. Fans from all over are making sweeping predictions, lamenting injuries, and scanning their teams’ schedule to find out who’s next. But most importantly, at this moment, the team adorned in Silver and Black are tuned in to Jack Del “Riverboat Gambler” Rio’s locker room victory speech.
Coming in as underdogs for yet another road opener, the Oakland Raiders had a lot to prove after their storybook 2016 season ended tragically, and suddenly. Picking up where he left off, Derek Carr led a much-hyped Raiders’ offense up and down the field on their way to their first victory of the season. He’s back, he’s focused, and he’s looking for redemption…
Speculation surrounded this team all off-season. The already dominant offense seemingly improved in free agency and the defense remained riddled with question marks. Having only addressed the latter through the draft, many feared that Oakland would, once again, have to rely on their quarterback to out-duel opposing teams. The Raiders showed up to the Music City to prove those assumptions to be right and wrong, respectively.
Capitalizing on a head-scratching onside kickoff to open the season, Derek Carr led his offense straight down the field for a quick 7 points. Old toys and new toys got in on the action right away. The obligatory opening quick pass to Cooper gave way to Lynch’s Raider debut. Bulldozing his way to a 14-yard gain, Lynch sent shockwaves throughout the league with a play that screamed “Beast Mode is Back!” Carr followed up with another quick strike to newcomer Jared Cook for 22-yards. Cooper would punctuate this drive with a beastly play of his own as he rumbled his way into the end zone with a little help from his friends.
After a booming Tavecchio kickoff, which would prove to be a prelude of things to come, the Titans would even the score. Mariota and Co. marched straight down the field while gaining yards in chunks. 12 plays and 6 minutes later, the groans through the Nation were audible in living rooms, man caves, and bars around the country world. The traditional “Here we go again” murmurs were already in effect. Haunted by last season’s anemic performance which saw the Raiders’ defense routinely give up leads, it was beginning to look like more of the same for the men in the silver hats.
Oakland would do their part to fire back by responding with a 7-minute 15-play drive that brought out long-time preseason leg Georgio Tavecchio for his regular-season Raider debut. While the drive that set up Janikowski’s protégé showed new offensive wrinkles, dynamic play calling, and Crabtree doing his best impersonation of Tim Brown, it all sputtered out with 3 straight passes to Amari Cooper in the red zone (where’d Lynch go?).
This may have been the only highly questionable coaching moment of the game. On an offense loaded with weapons at every position, this series lacked the creativity we were promised with the advent of Todd Downing.
I’ll give Todd a pass here as the offense looked to be in hurry-up mode and it’s likely that these plays were called by Carr himself. Given that Cooper was matched up with a weaker rookie defender I can understand the logic. However, on a team that is built to be anything but predictable…don’t be predictable.
With 13:00 left in the half, Raider Nation would see a glimmer of defensive hope. The Raiders defense made short work of Mariota and crew. The first of two Titan 3-and-outs started with Demarco Murray getting stuffed by Cory James and ended with Nelson and Joseph smacking rookie Corey Davis short of the first down marker. Mack would make his presence felt in the second 3-and-out, stuffing DeMarco Murray 1 yard behind the line of scrimmage.
The offense would fail to score on the next possession. After giving up two sacks in a row (who else was nervous?) a signature Marquette King punt would see the Flaming Thumbtacks pinned on their own 2-yard line.
Enter, the old defense. With all due respect, after giving up a 15-play 92-yard drive, the much maligned Oakland defense held Tennessee to just 3-points. Still, too close for comfort.
With 43-seconds to go, #4 took the field to do what he does best—get downfield, fast. Just four plays later, we’d see the Italian Stallion put to the test.
…and the “Polish Cannon” approves:
HALFTIME: OAK 13 TEN 10
Going into the second half, the Oakland defense knew they’d have to tighten up and adjust to keep a would be potent Titan offense out of the end zone—and they did just that. For the rest of the afternoon, the defense would bend but never broke. Mariota wouldn’t see the end zone again and the Raiders would only allow 35-yards rushing in the time remaining.
Marshawn Lynch returned in the 3rd after sitting out the entire 2nd quarter. With a rested Lynch running down the Titans’ defense and the play clock, Carr continued his passing clinic. A 4th quarter touchdown strike to the Dread Pirate Seth Roberts all but snuffed out any hopes for the home team.
In the second half, a combination of impeccable play calling, defense, and Lynch’s gritty running style allowed the Swarthy Swashbucklers to close out week one with a well-deserved victory.
FINAL: OAK 26 TEN 16
Carr finished the day with 2 TD’s, 0 INT’s and 262-yards passing (22/32). Not a hall of fame performance by any means but clutch, efficient, and timely as usual. Lynch delivered in his NFL return by punishing the Titans with a well earned and brutal 76 yards on 18 attempts—(4.2 yard avg.). While coach gave the game ball to Tavecchio, Lynch definitely earned praise and showed his value coming off a very physical performance.
(Jurrell Casey: 6’1″ vs. 305 Marshawn Lynch: 5’11”, 215)
The Boys in Black will take this well-rounded victory into the Coliseum next week where they face off against the NY Jets in their very own home opener. NY is coming off a loss to the Buffalo bills and must now travel cross-country as they open the season with back-to-back away games. The Raiders will no doubt be favored in week 2 and are poised to open the season with a clean 2-0 record.
The NFL is back and so is the Silver and Black. Avast Ye Mateys! Pillaging season is upon us!
Written By: Kenny Stapler