How did we get to 0-1?
A sunny morning consumed by moisture-filled clouds made L.A. feel like Oakland on a Sunday Morning. It set the table for a Raiders homecoming win over their rival Chargers. However, Justin Herbert and the Chargers had other plans.
The last time these teams played in SoFi, the game was delayed and the Bolts came out to a big lead over the Silver and Black. They held on for a home win but it felt like Raiders home loss. Raiders Nation turned out to welcome their team back to the market they once called home. This game was no different as the tailgate lots filled with Silver and Black trucks, flags, popups, grills. and every other tailgate essential.
Vegas got revenge by eliminating the Chargers from postseason play in the final week last year. L.A. remembered that and came out sharp and relentless. Not only were they healthy, but they also featured new offseason acquisition Khalil Mack. Mack was draft by the Raiders in the same class. as Derek Carr. You could argue No. 52 was one of the Raiders best draft picks ever.
Mack had his way with the Raiders, similar to last season when the Bears upset Vegas in Jon Gruden’s final game. The Chargers new pass rusher finished with three sacks, including a game winning one in the fourth quarter.
Herbert continued to show he did not fear battling Carr and the Raiders. Herbert evaded consistent pressure and threw strikes down field. L.A. looked like the better coached team. They also had more urgency than the Raiders under new head coach Josh McDaniels. However, the loss wasn’t that bad.
The Raiders made a few crucial mistakes that cost them the game. Carr took a few bad sacks and failed to convert on a few opportunities. The running game never caught consistent rhythm.
Upfront, the Raiders offensive line struggled versus the Chargers front as a whole. The defensive line found ways to get pressure but never got home. Both groups flashed but neither dominated at any point.
Collectively, the defense did enough to keep them in the game. They made a four-down stand and forced four punts. Although a turnover or sack would have helped their performance.
What was the atmosphere like?
Again, the Raiders dominated attendance in Los Angeles. You saw the fights and the antics, despite SoFi cutting people off at halftime.
We met Raiders fans from all over California. There were folks from L.A., Vegas, Fresno and elsewhere. After the loss, I walked around the stadium trolling Chargers fans.
“Buy my season tickets, please!” I chanted in my Raiders jersey.
It was reminder that I’d be there the next 50 years. It was also a reminder that the team was still having trouble building a fanbase, even with a super competitive roster.
Overall, Chargers fans were fine. The ones next to us teased in good fun. They put up with our drunk shenanigans and my section was relatively peaceful.
Pushing onto the Cardinals
Moving forward, the Raider go back home with a chance to earn their first win in the McDaniels’ era. The Cardinals are off a more than three-score loss to the Chiefs. Kansas City did the Raiders a favor by beating the Chargers in Week Two, a few nights ago. Vegas can win this game and move to 1-1, tied with the Chargers. Kansas City will still be in the driver’s seat of the AFC West but a loss will push the Raiders down further, especially if the Broncos beat the Houston Texans.
Arizona is expected to play without some speed at receiver as Rondale Moore and Andy Isabella will both miss the game. Key defensive players safety Jalen Thompson, end JJ Watt and corner Trayvon Mullen are all listed as questionable. Mullen could miss his return to Vegas, a few weeks after the Silver and Black shipped him out for a late draft pick.
Vegas will miss center Andre James if he misses this game. He had one of his best games as a Raider and held that line together best he could. Safety Tre’von Moehrig and linebacker Denzel Perryman could also miss some time which leaves big vacancies in the secondary. Cardinals TE Zach Ertz could have a big game. The Raiders will also be without one of their bigger corners, Anthony Averett, which could make A.J. Green a big red zone threat.
The McDaniels Era began
Don’t blame last week’s loss on preseason rust. The Raiders did not play a lot of key players in the preseason and there was an extended break between Week One and the final week of the preseason. Still, that’s not an excuse for getting outplayed by the Chargers.
Still, we can’t jump down McDaniels just yet. The real test for any coach is how his team responds after a loss or a bad half. This will be the real test. Can McDaniels steady the ship and keep the Raiders moving forward?
At the very least, the Raiders looked a bit more competitive with their play calling. The defense and offense both mixed things up in ways that past regimes did not. It’s on the players to execute now. This team holds veteran leadership at key positions with Carr, left tackle Kolton Miller and receiver Davante Adams. They must prove they can bounce back from a Week One let down.
How can the Raiders beat the Cardinals?
Arizona got away from the run game because they were down to the Chiefs fast. Expect them to stick with that longer, especially if the Raiders come out slow at home. Vegas ends also got upfield a lot last week, so expect some misdirection with backs and lots of action from Kyle Murray.
The Cardinals offensive line is a mix of veteran players you might recognize from years on other teams. It is up to the Las Vegas’ defensive line to take advantage of winnable matchups versus experienced washouts. They can’t go another week with no sacks.
All eyes should be on Chandler Jones going against the team he played for the last six seasons. Maxx Crosby led the league in pressures and hurries last week but he needs some help from Jones and the rest of the d-line. If the defensive line can make some plays on Murray, the Raiders should walkaway with a nice home win.
Offensively, the Raiders will need to do well in blitz pickup. That’s especially true if James misses this game. The Cardinals will try and mixup their blitzes and packages, not unlike what the Raiders will do with their defense.
Of course, Vegas features one of the best receivers and tight ends in the game. It’s up to Derek Carr to get the ball to Darren Waller and Adams early and often. That should open up plays for Hunter Renfrow in the intermediate and Josh Jacobs on check-downs. The Raider high-powered offense should come out swinging and put up points early like the Chiefs did versus Arizona.
Jacobs also needs to get going in the run game. This offensive line needs confidence. Helping Jacobs gain some yards should help the entire offense control the clock and gain some momentum. Jacobs will be crucial to protecting a lead as well as opening up the play action.
They must establish their identity by running the ball, pushing the ball down field, stopping the run and getting home to the quarterback. If the Raiders execute how they are supposed to, there’s no reason they can’t beat the Cardinals decisively.