A day after the Raiders opened the season with a 35-34 victory over the New Orleans Saints, the national buzz is still about the team’s gutsy call to go for two points at the end of the game.
Derek Carr’s two-point conversion pass to Michael Crabtree after a last-minute touchdown pass from Carr to Seth Roberts was a do-or-die play that few coaches would have called. An incomplete pass would have meant defeat. The common decision would have been to kick the almost-automatic PAT and take a shot at the win in overtime.
The Raiders were just the fourth team in NFL history to win a game they were trailing by going for two points at the end of the game. ESPN Stats & Information tweeted out after Sunday’s game that, based on its win-probability model, the Raiders had a 51 percent chance of winning by kicking the PAT and just a 44 percent chance by going for two points.
Tweeted Del Rio later: “Good thing ESPN isn’t coaching the Raiders.”
In fact, Del Rio told Carr even before the final drive started that Oakland would be going for two if it scored a touchdown.
“I was thinking that we’re here to win,” Del Rio told reporters. “Let’s win it right now.”
But with the win tucked safely away, the 1-0 Raiders – in a three-way tie atop the AFC West with the Chiefs and Broncos – have some concerns to address heading into this coming Sunday’s game against the visiting Atlanta Falcons.
One will be if high-priced starting cornerback Sean Smith can regain his confidence after being burned, and then benched, against the Saints.
The other will be how to patch together the offensive line over the next week after injuries to starting right tackle Menelik Watson (groin) and backup Matt McCants (knee).
Watson had to leave the game early, and his status for this week is uncertain. McCants' injury was far more serious, and he’s out for an indefinite period.
When McCants went down, the Raiders had to scramble. Left tackle Donald Penn moved to right tackle, left guard Keleche Osemele moved to left tackle and Jon Feliciano came in to play left guard.
The unit performed well down the stretch, but the Raiders will hope that either Watson or his primary backup, Austin Howard – who missed the opener with an ankle injury suffered in the final exhibition game – is good to go for the Falcons.
Penn, for one, did what he needed to do but said he wasn’t very effective.
“I was horrible,” he told Jimmy Durkin of the Bay Area News Group. “I’m just glad (offensive coordinator) Bill (Musgrave) did a great job of switching up the game plan and calling plays that weren’t going to put me in a bad position being over there.”
A story by the analytic website Pro Football Focus, however, noted that Penn, Osemele and center Rodney Hudson were prime reasons for the win – even with two of the three playing out of position. Each received a solid grade for the game, and Osemele – a big, free-agent pickup – was outstanding.
Pro Football Focus wrote that Osemele made a key block on Jalen Richard’s 75-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter, while also allowing just one pressure in 51 snaps at left guard and 24 at left tackle.
Penn told Durkin that he hopes Watson or Howard can get back in the lineup as soon as possible.
“Hopefully it’s not too serious and we get those guys back, because I’m not trying to play right tackle again,” said Penn. “But if I do, I’’ (do) whatever it takes to win. They know I’ll do whatever they tell me to do.”