The Raiders rallied to beat the Saints 35-34 behind Derek Carr's heady play and a gutsy two-point call from Jack Del Rio. Here's what we learned:
- Credit goes to Raiders coach Jack Del Rio, who opted for the winning two-point conversion with just under a minute remaining rather than playing for overtime. After watching Drew Brees torch his defense for four quarters, Del Rio surmised that his chances of converting a 2-yard opportunity were greater than his chances of stopping the Saints' aerial attack in the extra frame. Although Brees led a feverish 40-second drill to flirt with field-goal range, undrafted rookie kicker Will Lutz's bid for a 61-yard game-winner fell just shy of the crossbar. New Orleans faithful would also point out that Del Rio's squad benefited from a questionable fourth-down pass interference penalty that kept Derek Carr's game-winning drive alive.
- If Brees has lost any accuracy or arm strength at age 37, it didn't show in the season opener. Brees dialed up a series of picture-perfect downfield beauties, highlighted by a franchise-record 98-yard touchdown strike in which Brandin Cooks smoked veteran cornerback Sean Smith down the sideline. Brees' 14th career 400-yard performance ties him with Peyton Manning for the most in NFL history. It was an impressive showing for offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael, who took over play-calling duties from coach Sean Payton.
- The early returns on the Raiders' revamped secondary are not promising. Smith, signed away from the division rival Chiefs on a four-year, $40 million contract, was benched after giving up big plays to Cooks and Willie Snead. D.J. Hayden might have to take a seat next to him. There's enough blame to go around on defense, though, as Oakland failed to put pressure on Brees after the game's opening drive. While Bruce Irvin came through with three QB hits, Khalil Mack was quiet.
- Overshadowed by Snead and Cooks, hotshot rookie Michael Thomas hauled in all six of his targets and came through with a heads-up play on a Snead fumble. The three receivers combined for 373 yards and three touchdowns on 21 catches, while tight end Coby Fleener managed just one reception for six yards on three targets. Look for Brees to continue to rely on his trio of playmaking wideouts after struggling to find chemistry with Fleener throughout August.
- Good luck figuring out Oakland's backfield pecking order behind Latavius Murray. Fifth-round rookie DeAndre Washington was the most utilized backup with six touches, but was outshined by undrafted rookie Jalen Richard, who broke free for a 75-yard touchdown run. Special teams ace Taiwan Jones and fullback Jamize Olawale also figured into the equation as pass-catching specialist and goal-line back, respectively.