Derek Carr and the Las Vegas Raiders delivered a performance worthy of their fancy new home.
Too bad none of their fans were able to see it in person.
Carr threw three touchdown passes and the Raiders gave their new fans in Las Vegas plenty to celebrate even if they weren’t allowed in the stadium by beating the New Orleans Saints 34-24 on Monday night.
The new $2 billion US stadium in the desert held its first event following the Raiders’ move from Oakland without any fans because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Hopefully our fans, even though they couldn’t be here tonight, hopefully see something they like,” coach Jon Gruden said. “We can’t wait to get them back in this place. It’s such a great place to see a game.”
That was one of the few things that didn’t go right for the Raiders (2-0), who overcame an early 10-point deficit to the Saints (1-1) and opened the season with two straight wins for the fourth time in the past 25 seasons.
Carr was in complete control for most of the night, completing 28 of 38 passes for 282 yards. Darren Waller caught 12 of the passes for 103 yards as Carr’s most trusted option.
Carr engineered four straight scoring drives in the second and third quarters to turn a 10-0 deficit into a 24-17 lead.
“Derek Carr was awesome tonight,” Gruden said. “He made some some plays today that very few guys that I’ve coached could make. I tip my hat to him.”
Picking apart the New Orleans defence with short passes, the Raiders controlled the clock and kept Drew Brees and the Saints off the field. Las Vegas converted 10 of 17 third downs and also went for it successfully twice on fourth down.
The Raiders even survived a fumbled pitch by Jalen Richard by stopping the Saints and then scoring on the ensuing drive on a 20-yard run by Richard.
After being gashed on the ground early, the Raiders did a good job against Brees, who struggled without his injured No. 1 receiver Michael Thomas.
Brees went 26 for 38 for 312 yards with one touchdown and a key interception at the end of the first half that set up a field goal for the Raiders.
“If there’s one thing I wish I could take back from the game it would be that,” Brees said. “Otherwise, we had a lot of metal errors. I felt like we were not playing as fast and just as sure and confident.”
After the Saints cut the deficit to 31-24 on Alvin Kamara’s second TD run, the Raiders took advantage of a pass interference call against Janoris Jenkins and then iced the game with a 54-yard field goal by Daniel Carlson.
“We got to do a better job coaching,” coach Sean Payton said. “I don’t think it’s going to be a real pleasant film to watch — for some of our star players as well.”