Defense, Carr steps up as the Raiders pull wild victory

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LAS VEGAS – As slow, clumsy and ugly as the Las Vegas Raiders’ offense was early Monday night, it was just as effectively late. And just as awful as their defense was last season, it did just enough against the Baltimore Ravens.

In front of a crazy Allegiant Stadium crowd of 61,756 – and in the first regular NFL game played in front of fans in the city’s history – the Raiders came back from an early deficit of two touchdowns to pull off a 33-27 victory in overtime on Monday Night Football.

“I felt like I was dying and waking up,” Raiders coach Jon Gruden said. “And died again. I was like a cat: I had more lives tonight. I don’t like playing like that. It was hard, but again, we did a lot of good things to win that football game tonight.

“Our defense made a signature play at the end of that game and I thought Derek Carr was great to play under some really tough circumstances today against a really good defense.”

It was a wild overtime period where the Raiders thought they had won on a 33-yard touchdown pass from Carr to Bryan Edwards, who was instead sentenced to have been down within the 1-yard line. Carr was then stuffed on a sneak. And a false starting penalty on first-round pick Alex Leatherwood at the right tackle was followed by Carr’s pass to Willie Snead IV, who jumped off him and into the final zone for an interception by Anthony Averett.

On the ensuing Ravens drive, Carl Nassib’s strip bag of Lamar Jackson and Darius Philons’ recovery at Baltimore’s 27-yard line created Carr’s game-winning 31-yard pass to Zay Jones with 3:38 left in overtime.

Carr said the game was a microcosm of his eight-year NFL career with the Raiders: “Yes! Crap! Gosh! Dang!”

After a slow start, Carr finished with 435 yards of passes and two TDs with the interception, completing 34 of 56 attempts that were equal to the third most passes in a game of his career.

“I hope this is a sign of things to come for us,” said Carr, who has now won a franchise-top five openers for the Raiders, including three straight. “Who cares how we do it; let’s just win, right?”

It was a show unlike anything glitter and glamor Las Vegas had ever seen before. Gladys Knight performed the national anthem, rappers Ice Cube and Too $ hort staged a half-time concert and, well, Monday night football delivered in Sin City. And while the crowd had their hiccups – made the wave while Raiders defensive tackle Gerald McCoy was driven off the field – it broke out on Jones’ walk-off TD.

“Las Vegas, I’ll tip the hat; you showed up,” said Carr, who said it was the noisiest environment he could remember and thanked fans for being quieter when the assault was on the field. “It got really loud. Las Vegas did their thing and they helped us pull that win.”

In fact, it produced the Raiders’ reconfigured defense as wingers Maxx Crosby had two sacks, Yannick Ngakoue tipped a pass, and Nassib – the first openly gay active player in NFL history – stopped Jackson on an important third game in regulation before his game-changing streak sack.

“Many first things today,” Nassib said. “No one blinked. It was fantastic. It was definitely a fantastic team victory.”

As Crosby added, “For me, what stood out was so many guys making great plays … everyone flying around.”

And this from Carr: “Please, someone praises the defense.”

Daniel Carlson kicked a 55-yard goal with two seconds left in regulation to force overtime.

Gruden made a sort of victory round and struck with his hands with fans in Las Vegas’ sunken Black Hole southern end zone.

With the Raiders’ victory, every team in AFC West and NFC West is 1-0. According to ESPN Stats & Information research, there has never been a week since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970 when several divisions saw all of their teams win.

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