Linebacker Marquel Lee
Heading into the Oakland Raiders Week 1 matchup against the Tennessee Titans, we highlighted three matchups that would be critical in determining the final outcome of the regular season opener.
Well, the Silver and Black marched into Music City, toppled the Titans 26-16, and then flew back home 1-0, putting a very sweet bow on a successful first road trip.
Quarterback Derek Carr and the offense looked as advertised, and the defense certainly held up its end of the bargain too. With Head Coach Jack Del Rio's team enjoying the final moments of victory before shifting its attention to the New York Jets, let's look back at our three matchups, and see how they played out.
Quarterback Derek Carr vs. Quarterback Marcus Mariota
At day's end, Carr and Mariota finished the season opener with similar statistical outputs, but since the Silver and Black returned home with a win, you have to give the edge to Carr on this one.
In total, Carr connected on 22 of 32 passes for 262 yards, and two touchdowns, while Mariota completed 25 passes for 256 yards, and one score.
"The Titans, ever since I've come into the NFL, are one of the top five defenses I've played – it's not even close," said Carr postgame. "The way Coach [Dick] LeBeau schemes things and schemes free runners, plays coverage and all those things, he always tests our rules, he's good at that. Let alone with him as the coach, the players are unbelievable as you guys have seen. You have to be so careful not to throw a random pass to a defender just sitting there. You have to be so careful not to turn the ball over against these guys while still staying aggressive to move the ball and get explosive plays. It's a fine line, but Tennessee always has one the best defenses that I've ever played."
Carr certainly walked that fine line successfully Sunday, not turning the ball over, en route to finishing the day with an impressive 114.3 quarterback rating.
Carr and Mariota are two of the best, young quarterbacks in not just the AFC, but the league as a whole, and while "DC" may have gotten the best of the former Oregon Duck Sunday afternoon, I think we'll see a lot of good battles between that duo before their careers come to an end.
Linebacker Marquel Lee vs. Running Back DeMarco Murray
Advantage Lee, as well as the entirety of Defensive Coordinator Ken Norton, Jr.'s group.
Coming into the Week 1 clash against the Titans, it was no secret that the Raiders were going to have to limit the Titans on the ground, and that's exactly what they did, particularly in the first half, holding Murray to just 14 yards on six carries.
At the end of 60 minutes, Murray had totaled just 44 yards, and outside of a single 21-yard scamper, he was rendered largely ineffective all afternoon.
Getting the run game rolling is a big part of what the Titans want to do offensively, and the fact that the Raiders were able to make life very difficult in that regard is a big reason why the Silver and Black now own a 1-0 record.
Safety Karl Joseph vs. Tight End Delanie Walker
The Raiders defense knew that it had a big task in front of them Sunday afternoon in trying to limit Delanie Walker.
Not only is Walker one of the league's top tight ends, but with 235 targets over the past two seasons, he's also one of Mariota's favorite targets to boot.
While Walker did get free a few times Sunday – he finished the game with seven catches for 76 yards – he didn't find the end zone which was a win for the Raiders defense as a whole.
On the other side of the ball, Joseph also enjoyed a strong start to Week 1, recording a team-high nine tackles as well as a pass defensed.
The second-year safety is playing faster in 2017, and I think his performance against the Titans is just a taste of what's to come.