Too many mistakes in crucial moments led to a disastrous outcome for the Las Vegas Raiders in the team’s home opener, falling to a familiar foe.
Las Vegas was beaten, 23-18, by Pittsburgh Sunday, Sept. 24 from Allegiant Stadium in the team’s first home game of the new season. Despite being at home, the Raiders played in front of a healthy amount of Steeler fans waving Terrible Towels.
“We have great fans,” head coach Josh McDaniels said. “Pittsburgh travels well. You deal with what you’ve got to deal with. That is what it is, we’ve handled that before and we need to handle it again if it comes up.”
After playing the first two weeks on the road prior to the home opener, Las Vegas will now return back to the road for an AFC West date with the Los Angeles Chargers from SoFi Stadium. That game is slated to take place Sunday, Oct. 1 with kickoff scheduled for 1:05 p.m.
In his first home showing, quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo made one too many mistakes including a game-sealing interception on the team’s final offensive drive of the game. Pittsburgh defensive back Levi Wallace was responsible for the game-ending interception, his second pick of Garoppolo in the game.
“[We] had a couple of plays where we have to make a smarter choice,” McDaniels said. “Just go ahead and go to the next play, whether it's second and long or whatever it may be but turning it over – this team is a team historically that wins when it gets turnovers, they have a harder time when [it doesn’t].”
Prior to that final drive, McDaniels and company opted to kick a field goal from the Pittsburgh 8-yard line facing a 4th and 4 while down eight points. According to OptaStats on ‘X’, since the two-point conversion was adopted in 1994, Las Vegas became the first team to ever attempt a field goal in the last three minutes of regulation, down exactly eight points with less than five yards to go for the first down in league history.
“You’re going to need another possession anyway,” McDaniels said. “It’s not a lack of confidence, we went for it multiple times.”
In total, Garoppolo threw three interceptions in primetime that led to 10 points. Though spaced out, all three turnovers appeared to come at very inopportune times for the driving Raiders.
In the second quarter, a Garoppolo interception stalled a drive that saw him connect with No. 1 receiving option Davante Adams on two different occasions for first downs. That mishap turned into three points for the Steelers, resulting in the first lead of the game for the road team.
Pittsburgh would never relinquish the lead after that moment.
Garoppolo’s second interception came about midway through the third quarter two plays after connecting with Adams for 18 yards on a 3rd and 1. The Steelers would add insult to injury with a touchdown on the backend of that error to push the lead to 23-7, the team’s longest lead of the night.
At the end of the night, Garoppolo had gone 28-for-44, throwing for 324 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions.
“Those are plays we obviously don’t want to make,” McDaniels said of the interceptions. “I think Jimmy makes a lot of good plays but obviously when the quarterback holds the ball he holds the fortune of our team also in his hands. He knows.”
Garoppolo slowly transitioned into a gunslinger on the night after having much success with the aforementioned Adams. In the game’s opening quarter, the 10-year pro found Adams for a 32-yard touchdown on a 4th and 1.
Adams hauled in 13 passes for 172 yards and both of Garoppolo’s touchdowns. Moreover, he was targeted on seven of the first 10 passes from Jimmy G..
Fellow receiver Hunter Renfrow reeled in two catches for 17 total yards as he continues to work toward a breakout game this season. Through three games this season, he has 40 yards on three catches while only being targeted three times.
“He had a couple of catches tonight,” McDaniels said. “But I mean, it’s important [to get him involved]. We’ve got a couple of guys that can do something with the football.”
While Adams was the major bright spot for the Las Vegas offense, the running game proceeded to sputter. Last year’s leading rusher for the league, Josh Jacobs, was held to 62 yards on 17 carries.
Through the first three games of the season, he has been limited to 108 yards on 40 ground touches while still searching for his first touchdown of the new campaign.
“We haven’t played complimentary football really yet,” McDaniels said. “Until we start doing that and we’re able to run the ball offensively. We got ahead again but, you know, it didn’t manifest itself in control of the game.”