The Las Vegas Raiders welcomed its fans inside Allegiant Stadium for the first this time this season and let them go home happy with a 26-20 over the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday afternoon.
“I’ve been around a lot of preseason games over 22 years, and I don’t remember one feeling like this. I would say the reception from our fans, getting to know Raider Nation the way you see them now, is just different. I’ve competed against them a handful of times in my time in the NFL, but now to be on the same side, you understand why it is what it is.
“That is the best atmosphere in a preseason game that I’ve ever been a part of. That is easy to say that, clearly.”Las Vegas Raiders head coach Josh McDaniels after Sunday’s win
In the team’s second preseason game, the Raiders took the next step to preparing for the regular season by going from applying the new scheme to the field to now starting to build the consistency from play to play and quarter to quarter.
Here are five takeaways from the Raiders’ six-point win.
Situational football coming together on both sides of the ball
Since Aug. 4, players and coaches were able to evaluate game film for the first time and take that into preparations for this week and the rest of the preseason.
One of the situations the Raiders took advantage of was keeping the momentum on third down on both sides of the ball.
The Raiders converted on 8-of-17 on third down and defensively allowed the Vikings to only find success on one third down, which came with 3:44 left in the game.
“I thought our guys competed in the secondary,” McDaniels said. “We held them to 1-for-7 on third downs. We played some tight coverage on third downs. There was some close plays down the field. All in all, we held them to under 300 yards.”
In total, the Raiders had 321 yards while the Vikings had 273 yards.
Also, the Las Vegas Raiders defense was able to get two red-zone stops inside the five-yard line twice in the second quarter alone that led to Minnesota’s first six points.
One of the benefits of the preseason is you can see flaws or weaknesses in all three phases of the game. The beauty is that as much as you want perfection, these opportunities will help shape practice schedules and film sessions.
These small mistakes, such as not getting a touchdown on the opening drive and settling for three points instead of seven could be the difference during the season in setting the stage for the entire game and getting the early momentum, especially when you are in competitive AFC West.
Las Vegas Raiders offensive line continues with see-saw performance
The Raiders started their offensive line with rookie Thayer Munford Jr. at right tackle as well as Jermaine Eluemunor at left tackle. At the guard position, John Simpson held the left side and Lester Cotton Sr. took the right side with Andre James at center.
What that also meant was that 2021 first-round pick Alex Leatherwood, who was listed as the team’s top right tackle, did not get the start and ultimately did not play until the second half.
The first quarter went as good as someone could predict as the o-line was part of a 15-play, 67-yard drive that ended in a short field goal as well as an eight-play, 52-yard drive that went into the second quarter with a four-yard touchdown run by quarterback Jarrett Stidham.
On the touchdown play, Stidham took the snap, missed an open Kenyan Drake cutting parallel to the goal line. But because of the offensive line protection, Stidham stepped up in the pocket and made the decision to hold and run the ball in for the second time this preseason.
However, there were also times when the O-line was not as successful.
In total, Raiders quarterbacks were sacked four times for a total loss of 21 yards. There was also a bad snap for a loss of 19 yards that quarterback Nick Mullens rebounded nicely with a 23-yard pass to wide receiver Demarcus Robinson on the following play that led to a fourth down conversion.
Backup quarterback battle heightens between Stidham and Mullens
The Las Vegas Raiders began this preseason with a wide-open backup quarterback battle between Stidham and Mullens to support Derek Carr. After two games, it seemed like the battle only continues into next week.
If it seemed like Stidham was able to take down Mullens in Canton in the preseason opener, Mullens was able to get back to Stidham’s level.
Mullens took the Raiders to two touchdown drives, including finding wide receiver DJ Turner over the middle of the field and taking into the end zone from 34 yards out for the team’s first preseason passing touchdown.
When both quarterbacks felt pressured, they found ways out the pocket and stepped up to extend the play with their feet or by finding a pass catcher.
“I thought all the quarterbacks did well. I really did,” McDaniels said. “Jarrett led a couple scoring drives and then Nick came in and did the same thing. All the quarterbacks went in and generally took care of the ball. Sometimes the best decisions are the ones that nobody can tell in the stadium right away that it was a good choice but throwing the ball away or taking a sack.”
Las Vegas Raiders staying poised and disciplined
One thing that is different this preseason compared to year’s past for the Las Vegas Raiders, is the composure and paying attention to detail.
The attitude this team has presented over the last 120 minutes of football, is already a small, but big edge of momentum.
That effort and attitude has led to the theme McDaniels has preached since the beginning of training camp in accountability and discipline.
During a game, it shows up in the penalties and the turnovers.
Over the last two games, Las Vegas has not given up the ball and committed a total of 10 penalties for 75 yards. That is six flags for 46 yards against Jacksonville and four for 29 yards on Sunday in Vegas.
“One of the things that keep showing up that I’m really happy about is there are no turnovers,” McDaniels said. “Before we can win, we have to learn how to not lose.”
Special teams return work shows some good and bad moments
There were moments in Sunday’s six-point win where the special teams play was good at times and bad at points.
The two negatives were the kick return group allowing a 56-yard return and giving Minnesota the opportunity to start in Raiders’ territory as well as kicker Daniel Carlson missing a PAT, wide left.
McDaniels said practicing on the return game is hard in order to keep the players safe because of the increased number of collisions this situation brings.
In terms of the specialists and that aspect in special teams, both Carlson and punter AJ Cole are not only working on their roles but for also that of their teammates in the return game.
Cole, who mentioned earlier in training camp about his directional punting, was able to use that today. Cole had back-to-back punts where the Raiders were able to stop the Vikings from getting positive yardage and even negative yardage with stops from both Mack Hollins and Roderic Teamer.
In addition, Carlson has continued to keep kickoffs in play in order for the return game to get in the most amount of their opportunities in a non-practice situation.
Now, the Las Vegas Raiders prepare to take on the Miami Dolphins on the road on Aug. 20 for a Saturday matinee as one of the goals will be reducing the roster from 90 to 85 on Tuesday before taking the field at Hard Rock Stadium.