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Three Matchups We Watched Sunday Against The New Orleans Saints


Quarterback Derek Carr

As the Oakland Raiders prepared to open the 2016 regular season on the road against the New Orleans Saints, we highlighted three matchups that would be critical in determining the end result of the game.

The Silver and Black beat Drew Brees and the Saints in thrilling fashion 35-34, so let's take some time and see how those matchups played out.

Quarterback Derek Carr vs. Quarterback Drew Brees

Sunday's showdown at the Superdome turned into a heavyweight fight between the team's starting quarterbacks.

When the dust settled, there were no more touchdowns to score, and the Raiders had officially tallied their first win of the regular season, both Drew Brees and Derek Carr had delivered impressive Week 1 performances.

Brees finished the day 28 of 42 for 423 yards and four touchdowns, and Carr went 24 of 38 for 319 yards and one touchdown himself.

Heading into the game, there was a thought that the matchup would turn into an offensive shootout, and that's exactly what happened Sunday afternoon.

Brees is a future Hall of Famer, and Carr went toe-to-toe with him at the Superdome.

While a quick glance at the numbers would suggest that Brees bested the Silver and Black signal-caller, the Raiders were the team that returned home with a win.

Offensive Coordinator Bill Musgrave vs. Defensive Coordinator Dennis Allen

Plus one for Bill Musgrave.

After managing just two yards on their first possession, Musgrave and the Raiders offense came alive, finishing the day with 35 points, and 486 yards of total offense, en route to their first win of 2016.

"I was really pleased with [offensive coordinator] Bill Musgrave," said Head Coach Jack Del Rio. "I thought he called a phenomenal game yesterday. He stuck with the run, we had balance, we protected well, we adjusted well. I told the whole staff, I said, 'I think that was the best game you called.' It was pretty darn good."

The game Musgrave called was indeed impressive, as the Saints offense looked off balance all day, and didn't have an answer for the Raiders, especially in the fourth quarter.

The offense looked like a well-oiled machine Sunday, and Musgrave's scheme was a big reason why.

Cornerback Sean Smith vs. Wide Receiver Brandin Cooks

I've had bad days at work, I'm sure you've had bad days at work, and for cornerback Sean Smith, that's exactly what what happened to him Sunday.

Smith was pulled during the third quarter of the matchup against the Saints after being beat by wide receiver Brandin Cooks for a 98-year touchdown, and in total played just 43 snaps (62%) in the Week 1 contest.

"I was getting killed, I'm not going to lie to you," Smith said. "It was bad out there. I was costing our team points. Coach did what he had to do. Obviously, I would have loved to stay in, fight that thing out, but coach made a decision about what's best for the team, so I ride with it. It's over. It's football. It's just like any other job. I had a bad day at work. I'll come back the next day and get ready to roll for Week 2."

Over the course of his career, Smith has shown that he has the ability to be a top-flight cornerback in the NFL, and while Del Rio acknowledged that Smith's game wasn't up to par Sunday, the head coach acknowledged that his starting position would not be in jeopardy either.

"He's a big boy," said Del Rio. "He'll bounce back. He's going to be a good player for us, I said that yesterday. It was not what we need and he knows that."

In total, Cooks hauled in six passes for 143 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

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