The Raiders kicked off a new era with a 30-6 win over the New York Giants that showcased the team's talent and potential. Although the win must be kept in perspective, the positive vibes from the locker room suggest the Raiders could be on the verge of turning the corner as a competitive squad.
Given some time to review the All-22 coaches' footage and the box score, here are some thoughts and observations from a former NFL scout.
It is all about the players
Before I can sing Antonio Pierce's praises as tactician and schemer, the former NFL veteran deserves credit for making the Raiders a player-led program in less than a week. Some of the best coaches in the game understand that the NFL is about the "Jimmies and Joes" instead of the Xs and Os.
Sure, schemes and tactics matter, but the teams that routinely win have blue-chip players who perform at a high level for coaches, teammates and an organization that respects and appreciates their efforts. Pierce certainly understands that after a nine-year career that included a Super Bowl title and significant individual accomplishments despite entering the league as an undrafted free agent.
Perhaps that is why he allowed every member of the practice squad to stand with the team on the sideline instead of watching the game from a designated spot in Allegiant Stadium. The presence of a collection of young, hungry players excited to feel like they are a part of the team energized the sidelines while also recognizing their valuable contributions to the practice field throughout the week.
In addition, Pierce found a way to combine hard work and fun. He pushed the players through highly competitive, rigorous practices while mixing some fun moments throughout the week. The emphasis on fun and swagger helped the team play with an energy and electricity that Raider Nation could feel from the opening snap to the final whistle of a 30-6 beatdown of the New York Giants.
The "K.I.S.S" method produces positive results
The Raiders quickly discovered that simplicity can translate to success with the right people in prime positions to impact the game.
Against the Giants, the Raiders found a path to the winner's circle by maximizing the individual and collective talents of their stars. Moreover, they decided to "keep it simple, stupid" by putting the ball in the hands of their Pro Bowlers to set the table for their teammates.
Josh Jacobs, in particular, set the tone for the Raiders with a workmanlike effort that nearly culminated in his first 100-yard rushing game of the season. The veteran finished the day with 98 rushing yards on 26 carries with a pair of touchdowns that helped the team race out to a 24-0 halftime lead. Jacobs' punishing off-tackle runs and rugged finishes re-established the Raiders' offensive identity as an ultra-physical unit with an old-school approach.
Although Davante Adams' four-catch, 34-yard outing did not significantly impact the outcome of the game, the perennial All-Pro's presence comforted Aidan O'Connell, opening up the field for the rest of the Raiders' playmakers. Given the rookie's inexperience, the veterans' reliable routes and dependable hands made life easy for O'Connell in his second career start. With the Raiders' new QB1 comfortable with Adams and a veteran collection of pass catchers (Jakobi Meyers and Hunter Renfrow) getting open all over the field, the team's aerial attack shows promise as a complement to a dynamic running game.
Attack, attack, attack
It's clear Pierce wants the defense to play fast and fearless from the opening snap. The aggressive approach paid dividends, with the Raiders recording eight sacks and a pair of interceptions due to the relentless pressure and chaos from the frontline.
Maxx Crosby started the party with eight tackles and three sacks, utilizing an assortment of speed-to-power rushes to get to the quarterback. The Pro Bowler destroyed the Giants' blocking schemes while commanding double teams at the line of scrimmage.
Defensive coordinator Patrick Graham decided to heat up the Raiders with various blitzes and simulated pressures to keep the inexperienced Tommy DeVito on the run on critical downs. In addition, the Raiders changed the picture behind the pressures to keep the young quarterback guessing after each snap.
With the organized chaos creating energy around the unit, the Raiders beat an overmatched squad while building up their confidence as a unit. Considering how swagger can increase and enhance performance, the Raiders' decision to unleash the defense helped the team play like the bully Pierce wants in Vegas.
View team photographer Matt Aguirre's top 25 photos from Allegiant Stadium's catwalk during the Las Vegas Raiders' Week 9 victory against the New York Giants.