Top 3 games of the 2021 season
To call the Las Vegas Raiders’ last season an emotional roller coaster would be an understatement. Almost every week involved a level of stress causing a heart attack. Despite that, it was great fun. Here are the highlights of this edition of Raiders rewind.
Raiders Rewind: #3 – Week 1 vs. Ravens
Result: WIN 33-27 OT
What a way to start the season. An overtime win against a playoff team on Monday Night Football. It was a barn burner, with Derek Carr and Lamar Jackson combining for 670 passing yards. The Raiders offense, in particular, was firing on all cylinders. We have witnessed several huge workouts in critical situations. The Raiders managed three draws in the fourth quarter alone.
In a way, the drama of the fourth quarter was just a taste of what we would experience in overtime. Just when it looked like the Raiders had won it on a touchdown from Bryan Edwards, he was waived to the one after review. Still, it was the first down and a few feet to go for the win. What could go wrong? Well, apparently a lot. Then Carr got into a QB sneak in the first game. Alex Leatherwood then jumped offside, relegating Vegas to the Baltimore five-yard line. Now in pass mode, the penalty was followed by an incomplete pitch to Hunter Renfrow. The next pass would be even worse, bouncing off Willie Snead’s hands to be intercepted. Now Jackson and the Ravens would have the ball and would only need a field goal from Justin Tucker to win.
A few plays later, Carl Nassib sack-fumbled Jackson, returning the ball to the Raiders deep in Baltimore territory. At this point, fans were ready to sweat through three-pointers and a field goal attempt from Daniel Carlson. Two plays later, Carr and Jon Gruden shocked everyone by composing a pass to Zay Jones for a game-winning 31-yard touchdown.
This game was a huge spark for the Raiders as they would win their next two games en route to a five-and-two start to the season. It was a preview of a whole lot more endgame (and especially overtime) drama to come.
Raiders Rewind: #2 – Week 18 vs. Chargers
Result: WIN 35-32 OT
This, of course, makes the cut. The Raiders make the playoffs for the first time since 2016 and knock the Chargers out of the competition. Then you add the regular season finale to prime time. Plus, more overtime drama. It was spectacular.
What was interesting about this game is that unlike most close games the Raiders have played in 2021, Vegas was actually in control for most of this game. a. The Chargers’ only lead came late in the second quarter and lasted less than two minutes.
I might have some heat for this, but the guy who made this game great was none other than Justin Herbert. After a Carlson field goal with just over eight minutes left in the game the Raiders were leading 15, Herbert took over. The Los Angeles quarterback converted five fourth downs, threw two touchdown passes and added a two-point conversion in the final six minutes of the fourth quarter. Then, after a Carlson field goal in overtime made it look like the Chargers were going to lose again, Herbert led the Bolts into field goal range to tie the game. Along the way, he converted another down fourth.
Fittingly, the Raiders were able to get back on the field and win the game on another clutch kick from Carlson. Another crazy thing about this game is that at one point in the drive, the Raiders seemed to be content to equalize. A Chargers timeout gave the Raiders a chance to play another play. A ten-yard carry by Josh Jacobs put Vegas in a much safer range. The equality factor adds intrigue, but it also allows everyone to play a little safer. This prevents this game from getting the top spot.
Raiders Rewind: No. 1 – Week 12 at the Cowboys
Result: WIN 36-33 OT
Thanksgiving is the NFL’s premier holiday. College football has New Years, the NBA has Christmas, but Thanksgiving belongs to the NFL. Unfortunately, these games, like most Thursday games in general, aren’t usually very good. It was one of the greatest Thanksgiving games played in recent memory, and arguably the league’s game of the year. It was also the NFL’s most-watched regular season game of 2021.
Fans were not disappointed. They were treated to a back and forth thriller that went all the way. The game was marked by an epic quarterback duel between Carr and Dak Prescott. The two are frequently compared, but this game has clearly shown that they are top 10 contemporaries. They certainly put on a show, combining just under 750 yards passing.
The Raiders held an eight-point lead heading into the fourth quarter. Despite two more field goals from Carlson, the Cowboys managed to send the game to overtime (see a pattern already?). After a difficult first quarter, the defense prevailed in overtime, forcing a three-and-out. Then the Raiders started driving, but things seemed to stall after a negative report from Jacobs and a sack from Carr. On the third and 18, Vegas was bailed out when Zay Jones drew a crucial defensive pass interference penalty, returning the ball to the Dallas 24. A few plays later, Carlson scored his fifth field goal of the game to save Thanksgiving from the Raiders.
This game was a huge spark for the Raiders, who were reeling from a three-game losing streak. Although they failed to win their next two games, this victory gave hope that the season was not over. I’m not sure the Raiders could pull off that four-game winning streak if they lost their fourth straight game to Dallas.
*Top photo: CNN Sports