The autumn wind is a desert gust. For the first time, the Las Vegas Raiders hosted an NFL game in shiny new Allegiant Stadium with the New Orleans Saints looking to play homecoming spoilers. However, Derek Carr and the Raiders stood tall against the challenge of a team perceived as a Super Bowl contender and behind a three-touchdown day from the Silver and Black signal-caller, Las Vegas won its home opener, 34-24, against New Orleans.
1) A nickname already adorns the Las Vegas Raiders' span-new Allegiant Stadium confines, but for the first time, the Silver and Black christened the "Death Star" with an NFL football game. And playing under the Monday night lights in the NFL's newest city, Derek Carr and the Raiders were efficient and impressive on both sides of the ball en route to victory. Carr tossed three touchdowns and captained a pair of lengthy second-half scoring drives that led to the win. Perhaps most impressive, though, was Carr's night -- 28-for-38 for 282 yards, the three TDs, no picks and a 120.7 QB rating -- was reminiscent of an evening from the future Hall of Famer opposing him, Drew Brees. He racked up the stats, he managed drives and Carr led the Raiders to a surprising victory over the Saints and what could be a pivotal opening act in the franchise's new home.
2) This is life without Michael Thomas. Brees led the Saints offense onto the field Monday without the reigning AP Offensive Player of the Year for the first time since Thomas' rookie campaign. And it showed after a while. Early on, the Saints looked to be hitting on all cylinders as they built a 17-7 lead, but then faltered in large part due to a huge game-swinging interception of Brees by Nicholas Morrow. The Saints had surges on offense but were largely inconsistent and out of sorts. The Raiders defense played well. The Raiders offense possessed the ball for roughly 13 minutes more than the Saints. And, New Orleans was without perhaps the game's best receiver. It all added up to the Saints leaving Las Vegas a loser and needing to make some alterations.
3) A week prior, Daniel Carlson took home AFC Special Teams Player of the Week honors on the strength of a perfect day kicking in which he booted a 54-yard, career-long field goal. Carlson was perfect once more -- four PATs and two field goals -- on Monday and matched that career-high kick with another 54-yarder, this one putting the Raiders up by 10 and icing a victory. As much as it's possible in today's NFL, Carlson's cemented his spot on the roster with the Raiders.
4) Carlson's aforementioned clutch kick came to be because of one very big penalty. Raiders fans are likely still waiting for Henry Ruggs III to blast off. Las Vegas' first-round rookie had only three catches for 55 yards in his Week 1 debut and only one catch for four yards on Monday. But his speed still burned the Saints on one very crucial play that sealed the win. On third and five with a chance to run out the clock, Ruggs' fleet feet drew a pass interference call on Saints cornerback Janoris Jenkins. Las Vegas couldn't notch another first down to run out the clock, but it got close enough for Carlson.
5) Perhaps the biggest play of the game came in the second quarter. It might well have also been the most head-scratching considering the source. Trailing 17-7 with just more than five minutes left in the opening half, the Raiders mightily swung momentum with a Zay Jones TD catch coming with 1:44 go before intermission. On the Saints' ensuing drive, Brees threw a very un-Brees-like interception on an awful toss to Morrow that turned the game. A Carlson field goal sent the game to halftime tied at 17 when the Saints looked to be pulling away not long before. It was an uncharacteristic play and night for Brees and just the opposite for Morrow, who tallied a game-high seven tackles and a game-changing interception.
6) Following the game, Jon Gruden once again said he'd take tight end Darren Waller over the Chiefs' Travis Kelce or the 49ers' George Kittle. While that's surely up for argument, Waller clearly deserves to be mentioned among the best TEs in the NFL. He was a nightmare for the Saints defense. He had 12 catches for 103 yards and a touchdown, but as mighty as those stats were, how he impacted the opposing defense was perhaps more impressive.
7) For as out of sync as the Saints looked for much of the night, Alvin Kamara was still Alvin Kamara. Kamara led the Saints with nine receptions and 95 yards receiving. He also led the Saints with 13 carries for 79 yards and two touchdowns. Dazzling as Kamara is, it's likely too repetitive a game plan to find consistent success. With Thomas gone, it can't just be all Kamara.
8) Alec Ingold is the answer to a trivia question and an example of Carr's generosity on Monday. Ingold scored the Raiders' first touchdown in Las Vegas on a three-yard pass in the second quarter and was one of 11 Raiders to catch a pass on Monday. Despite the win, the Raiders receiving corps is lacking. But Carr is doing what he can with who he has, just as he's done season after season. There's Waller and there's everyone else, and Carr's using everyone.