The Las Vegas Raiders look like a completely different team in 2020. That has nothing to do with them now taking up residence in the desert metropolis. Las Vegas had almost had its way with Drew Brees and the Saints after dropping 10-0 in the first half by virtue of an Alvin Kamara touchdown. That included the home team coming up big time for both Darren Waller and Derek Carr.
Drew Brees put up his second consecutive questionable performance to open the 2020 NFL season. These are among the biggest winners and losers from Las Vegas’ shocking 34-24 victory over the Saints on “Monday Night Football.”
Drew Brees looked his age, and when the New Orleans Saints went bust on Monday night in Las Vegas, the rest of the band followed suit. In the Saints’ 34-24 loss to the Las Vegas Raiders, Brees, 41, had his second straight mediocre outing, completing 26 of 38 attempts for 312 yards, one touchdown pass and his first interception of the season.
“I don’t think it’s gonna be a real pleasant film to watch for some of our star players as well,” said Saints coach Sean Payton, who pointed to the struggles from the offense, defense and coaches included. Brees has averaged 4.82 air yards on his passes so far this season, according to ESPN Stats & Information research. That’s his lowest through two games as a member of the Saints, and it’s the lowest by any QB through two games since Brett Favre in 2009.
But he was hardly the only culprit in an ugly loss that put a serious damper on the Saints’ role as a top Super Bowl contender. Their offense couldn’t generate much while star receiver Michael Thomas was sidelined with an ankle injury. Their defense couldn’t stop Raiders tight end Darren Waller (12 receptions, 103 yards) all night. And the team had 10 penalties for 129 yards Monday night, including two costly pass interference penalties and three personal fouls by the defense.
Obviously missing the impact of Michael Thomas, Brees completed 26-of-38 passes for 312 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Statistically speaking, those aren’t horrible numbers. That’s until we realize he was dinking and dunking the ball all over Allegiant Stadium. Currently, in a short week before hosting the sizzling-hot Green Bay Packers (2-0) next week on Sunday Night Football, the 1-1 Saints will have to try to get their groove back.
The jury is still out on that despite such a limited sample size. Remember, Brees wasn’t tossing the ball downfield often the past two years either, and he somehow found a way to post the two highest passer ratings of his career and the two highest completion percentages in NFL history.
Brees, however, hardly takes any shots down the field. And what’s more troubling is that he is exhibiting uncharacteristic inaccuracy on short and intermediate passes, as well.
Brees looks perfect during training camp after focusing on adding zip to his deep throws this summer with long-time throwing coach Tom Home. But in-game conditions, he will be under the microscope with defenders narrowing the ground on him until he proves it.
Huge drawback in the game plan:
For most of Monday night, newly signed Saints safety Malcolm Jenkins looked a step back against Waller. And while we’re picking on older players, the recently recruited Saints receiver, Emmanuel Sanders, hasn’t yet found his rhythm with his new team either. On three goals, with a drop and a penalty, he caught only one pass for 18 yards.
Jordan tallied a total of zero quarterback hits and zero sacks of Derek Carr in the game. This is one of the primary reasons Las Vegas was able to put up 34 points in the final three quarters and 375 yards of total offense. It was an ugly performance from the Saints’ pass rush, led by Mr. Jordan himself.
The Bright Side:
A lot of the Raiders’ success in the passing game against a good Saints defense Monday night had to do with receivers picking up yards after the catch. It’s an important part of their offense under head coach Jon Gruden.
Alvin Kamara looked healthy, at least. With 13 runs for 79 yards, nine catches for 95 yards and two TDs, the Saints running back created the team’s only real spark. In the first two weeks after signing a five-year contract extension the day before the season opener, he had already paid major dividends with four TDs.