The Ravens’ night opened in the most Las Vegas way possible, all glitz and bright lights: a Gladys Knight national anthem inside a $2 billion stadium; a Steve Aoki soundtrack, the bass pumping; a season-opening introduction from none other than Bruce Buffer.
Their night ended in the most crushing way imaginable: with a go-ahead, Lamar Jackson-led rally spoiled by a diced-up defense; a sure-thing Raiders touchdown turning into a glimmer of overtime hope; then a second costly Jackson fumble all but handing the win over. Quarterback Derek Carr’s 31-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Zay Jones secured the 33-27 upset Monday night inside a vibrating Allegiant Stadium and sent the Ravens headlong into a daunting Week 2 matchup in Baltimore.
Minutes before the end, the Ravens had been given a second life. After losing the coin toss in overtime, they were down to their last yard. Then they stopped Carr on a quarterback sneak from the 1-yard line. Then there was a false-start penalty. Then there was something not even Cirque du Soleil could have dreamed up: Carr whizzing a fastball past a wide-open Willie Snead IV and watching it ricochet off safety DeShon Elliott’s helmet and into the waiting hands of cornerback Anthony Averett, his first career interception a timely one.
But the Ravens’ hopes of meeting the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday night, their own dramatic win behind them, were not for long. Jackson was strip-sacked on the offense’s fifth play of overtime, the Raiders recovered, and pretty soon, it was over, a promising start wasted. On Vegas’ first overtime drive, Carr’s 33-yard pass to wide receiver Bryan Edwards had gotten the Raiders feet from victory. On the Ravens’ first, they got only as far as their 33 before Jackson lost the ball.
“We just didn’t close the game out when we had the opportunity to do it, three or four times,” coach John Harbaugh said after the team’s first Week 1 loss since 2015. “That’s what you need to do. When you have an opportunity to win, you’ve got to go win it. And we just didn’t do that tonight.”
It was a painful finish, with the Ravens having already lost starting left guard Tyre Phillips to a knee injury. It was also a fittingly madcap finish, coming after a frantic fourth quarter. With the game tied at 24 and less than four minutes remaining in regulation, the Ravens burned off nearly three minutes before kicker Justin Tucker knocked in a go-ahead 47-yard field goal. All they needed was one final stand to quiet the announced 61,000-plus in attendance.
But the 37 seconds they left the Raiders were enough. Las Vegas covered 38 yards in five plays, setting up kicker Daniel Carlson for a 55-yard field goal with just two seconds remaining. Jackson took a knee and headed for one more period. A 17-year streak of converting 14-point Ravens leads into Ravens wins was about to end at 98 regular-season games.
In overtime, their weaknesses did them in. Jackson finished 19-for-30 for 235 yards and a touchdown, and added 12 carries for a game-high 86 yards, but he rarely had time to think on drop-backs, much less go through his progressions. He was sacked three times and, according to the NFL’s Next Gen Stats, pressured on 18 of his 33 drop-backs.
“If you’re a quarterback, you’re trying to go through your progressions, and guys [are] in your face, they’re trying to get them a sack, it’s going to be like that,” Jackson said. “Sometimes you can’t go through your reads. You’ve got to make something happen.”
Defensively, there was a David Blaine-esque disappearing act. In the first half, the Ravens limited the Raiders to 164 total yards and 4.4 yards per play. A different Ravens defense showed up in the second half — Las Vegas rolled to 221 yards and 6.9 yards per play — and it bottomed out in the fourth quarter, allowing two touchdowns and the game-tying field goal on its final three drives of regulation.
Carr finished 34-for-56 for 435 yards, two touchdowns and an interception, the most yards the Ravens’ pass defense has surrendered since a 2017 shootout loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers. (In that one, Ben Roethlisberger passed for 486 yards in just four quarters.) Darren Waller, a former Raven and one of the NFL’s top receivers, outshined fellow tight end Mark Andrews (three catches for 20 yards), finishing with 10 catches on 19 targets for 105 yards and a touchdown.
What happened in Vegas’ first three quarters Monday didn’t happen in the fourth quarter. After a combined three touchdowns and 27 points, the Ravens and Raiders traded scores over the final 15 minutes of regulation, turning a 17-10 Ravens lead into a 27-27 tie.
There was a lot for offensive coordinator Greg Roman to like. A perfectly lofted 49-yard pass to wide receiver Sammy Watkins (four catches for 96 yards) set up an 8-yard touchdown by new running back Latavius Murray. A winding 28-yard scramble by Jackson inside the two-minute warning, his gold cleats flashing under the bright lights of “Monday Night Football,” brought the Ravens into Las Vegas territory for Tucker’s eventual go-ahead kick.
But Las Vegas had an answer for both. First, Carr found Waller for a 10-yard touchdown catch in which he eluded both starting Ravens safeties, Chuck Clark and DeShon Elliott. Then, with no timeouts handy and 37 seconds left, Carr completed two passes for a combined 38 yards to get the Raiders to the Ravens’ 37 with seven seconds remaining. Carlson took care of business from there.
“They made their plays. We made our plays,” Averett said after the Ravens allowed 491 yards. “We’ve just go to back to the drawing board and get ready for the next game.”
While Carr rarely found himself bothered behind a lowly rated offensive line — he was pressured 12 times and sacked three times on 59 drop-backs — Jackson at times ran himself into trouble. In the third quarter, with the Ravens leading 17-10, he dropped back from his 36 and felt pressure. He scrambled up the middle, left his feet and had the ball punched out cleanly by defensive end Quinton Jefferson (Maryland). Inside linebacker Denzel Perryman recovered the fumble, and the Raiders took over at the Ravens’ 41.
Five plays later, the Raiders were celebrating. A 15-yard run by Josh Jacobs (10 carries for 34 yards), who slalomed past a gassed Ravens defense, evened the score at 17 with less than 10 minutes remaining. Jackson took over with the stadium rocking and the momentum swinging.
“That ticked me off,” Jackson said of his fumbles. “I hate any type of turnovers.” But, he added, “it happens in football.”
The aftershocks of the Ravens’ injury epidemic rippled throughout the game. Without the team’s top three running backs, all stuck on the season-ending injured reserve, Roman seemed more eager to pass — or at least less inclined to run the zone reads that have made his rushing attack the NFL’s best the past two years. Jackson dropped back 33 times, or nearly half of the Ravens’ 67 offensive plays. Starting running back Ty’Son Williams rushed just nine times for 65 yards, and Murray added 10 carries for 28 yards.
Without left tackle Ronnie Stanley fully healthy, still regaining his flexibility after a season-ending ankle injury 10 months ago, and right tackle Alejandro Villanueva still adjusting to his new post, Jackson rarely had a clean pocket to throw from. The second-quarter exit of Phillips, carted off the field after he seemed to howl in pain, destabilized the line even further.
And without cornerback Marcus Peters, the fifth Raven lost to a season-ending injury in a torturous 19-day span in the preseason, the defense shuttled cornerback Marlon Humphrey between coverage on Waller and the Raiders’ less dangerous wide receivers. By the time Jones ran by him in overtime for the game-winning score, it seemed he’d covered half of Las Vegas’ offense.
“It’s a weird feeling to give up a TD for a game winner,” Humphrey tweeted afterward.
Pass protection was an issue all night, but there were glimpses of the Ravens passing attack that looked so explosive during offseason workouts and for stretches of training camp. Watkins had his most yards in a regular-season game since the 2019 season opener. Brown, who dominated the first day of training camp in late July before hurting his hamstring on the second, had six catches on six targets for 69 yards and a touchdown.
Jackson didn’t have first-round pick Rashod Bateman (groin) or fellow wide receiver Miles Boykin (hamstring) available. But he was so confident someone would uncover during a second-quarter scramble that, rather than run for a first down, he waited until Brown separated in the back of the end zone. His 10-yard catch doubled the Ravens’ lead to 14-0.
By then, the Ravens’ ground game had seemingly found a new workhorse. Their first running score didn’t come courtesy of J.K. Dobbins or Gus Edwards; the two running backs, who combined for 1,588 receiving yards and 16 touchdowns last season, had long since been ruled out with season-ending knee injuries. It was Williams, who entered training camp with no NFL carries and little chance of making the roster in his second season, running for a 35-yard touchdown on fourth-and-1 on the Ravens’ second drive.
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But as their offense slowed, the Raiders’ revved up. A nine-play, 66-yard touchdown drive, capped off with a 2-yard run by Jacobs, halved the Ravens’ lead late in the quarter. A 34-yard field goal by Carlson cut Las Vegas’ halftime deficit to 14-10. By then, it was clear the Ravens were in for a long night in Las Vegas.
“We have a lot of fight and a lot of heart, but we have a lot of room for improvement,” defensive end Calais Campbell said. “Where we’re at right now, I just feel like this was a tough one. The biggest thing is that we have to learn from it and have a strong week. We have another tough opponent coming into our house, opening up our home game, so we have to be at our best. This is one of those things, but our team is a tough team. We know we have a lot of heart, but we have to find a way to win ballgames like this.”
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