What We Learned

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2021 NFL season, Week 1: What we learned from Raiders' win over Ravens on Monday night

The first Monday night of the 2021 season was one to remember, as the Baltimore Ravens and Las Vegas Raiders went down to overtime. The Lamar Jackson-led Ravens and Derek Carr's Raiders went back and forth at Allegiant Stadium, but an overtime touchdown toss from Carr to Zay Jones sent Las Vegas to a 33-27 win over Baltimore.

Las Vegas Raiders
Las Vegas Raiders
2021 · 1-0-0
Baltimore Ravens
Baltimore Ravens
2021 · 0-1-0
  1. The Ravens were not lying about their offseason efforts. Baltimore took the field and quickly demonstrated it wasn't the same old run-heavy offense we'd grown accustomed to seeing, relying less on pistol sets that often produced inverted read options and the like. Instead, the Ravens put Lamar Jackson in the pocket, where he became a drop-and-throw passer to mixed results. It still looked somewhat new to Jackson, who has made himself into a superstar with his incredible feats, often out of improvisation. He still did plenty of that, escaping and ripping a touchdown pass to Marquise Brown, but Baltimore's shift in approach wasn't without some bumps in the road, including two lost fumbles from Jackson and a handful of errant passes that bordered on ugly. I couldn't help but think early in the second half: If the Ravens at least had Gus Edwards, would they look this different schematically? It still produced 27 points, but there's a bit of a cause for concern going forward, because it just doesn't look natural -- or as explosive -- yet.
  2. Maxx Crosby might be beginning a breakout season. There was one main problem with Baltimore's attempt to become a pocket-passing team: Crosby was ready to unleash terror on Alejandro Villanueva. Crosby racked up nine quarterback pressures (pressure percentage of 29, per Next Gen Stats), eight quarterback hits and two sacks. He was a constant problem for Ravens blockers, frequently squeezing the back end of Baltimore's pocket and forcing Jackson to look for an escape route up the middle. Once Las Vegas tightened up its rush lane integrity on the interior, Jackson occasionally had nowhere to go. And an attempt to bail out resulted in a fumble that allowed the Raiders to get back into the game in the fourth quarter. Even with Yannick Ngakoue knocked out by a hamstring injury, Crosby was able to continue to make a significant difference. He's going to cause some opposing tackles to lose sleep this season.
  3. Lamar Jackson is still incredibly magical, just not enough to win a wacky season opener. Despite the shift in schematic approach Monday, Jackson still compiled a stat line typical of his greatness. The dual-threat dynamo completed 19 of 30 passes for 235 yards and a touchdown, rushed 12 times for 86 yards, and helped Baltimore quickly get in position for a go-ahead Justin Tucker field goal that most believed would win the Ravens the game. His only hang-up was one that has hurt him from time to time: ball security. Jackson lost two fumbles at critical moments in the game, once while trying to do a little too much, and the other while failing to protect the ball with a rush bearing down on him. He's incredibly dangerous, per usual -- and especially when the Ravens trust him to operate their run-first attack with misdirection and burst -- but he wasn't quite able to break the hearts of his opponent as he so often has.
  4. Derek Carr's receiving corps is still buffering. Carr targeted Darren Waller an absurd 19 times Monday night, resulting in 10 catches, 105 yards and a pivotal touchdown reception in the fourth quarter. But for almost the entire first half, it seemed as if Carr and the Raiders intended to solely target Waller. Henry Ruggs III was a non-factor through two quarters, while fullback Alec Ingold morphed into a volume pass-catcher and Hunter Renfrow filled in the gaps. Then, the second half welcomed the emergence of Bryan Edwards, whose heroics (four catches, 81 yards) nearly won the Raiders the game early in overtime. His timely grabs helped move the chains when the Raiders absolutely had to, and though Las Vegas didn't initially cash in on his long reception in the extra period, they wouldn't have gotten there without Edwards. If he can prove to be a legitimate option for Carr, the Raiders will have a much better chance through the air this season, no matter how long it takes Ruggs to figure out how to become a consistent playmaker. Oh, and shoutout to Zay Jones for hauling in the game-winning touchdown pass. Beating single coverage with zero help over the top sure is a blast.
  5. What a way to open Allegiant Stadium to fans. A game that began as a bit of a slow burn, if not a slog quickly became a frenzy, with each team awakening offensively in a wild, 27-point explosion of a fourth quarter. Instead of watching each team struggle to hit open targets, fans in attendance and at home were suddenly treated to a shootout, with Carr leading three straight scoring drives (including two touchdowns) and Jackson matching it with two of his own. The Monday night opener went from 0 to 60 faster than a supercar, blazing across the finish line with Carr's touchdown pass to Jones -- but not without a few twists and turns before flying down the final straight. Even the Raiders couldn't avoid doing a little Raider-ing via Carr's end zone interception that deflected off the hands of Raiders receiver Willie Snead and then the head of DeShon Elliott. Luckily for Raider Nation, we discovered the Autumn Wind is not a Raider, but a Gregg Williams-approved zero blitz. We couldn't have asked for a better conclusion to a crazy affair. Football is so damn fun.

NFL Research: The Ravens' 189 rushing yards extended their 100-plus rushing yards streak to an incredible 40 games, the longest active streak in the NFL. The next longest active streak belongs to the Patriots and Bears -- at seven games.

Next Gen Stat of the night: On Derek Carr's game-winning touchdown pass to Zay Jones, Baltimore sent eight rushers in what is known as a zero blitz. It's only the second time a defense has done so in overtime in the Next Gen Stats era, which dates back to the beginning of the 2016 season.

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