Josh Jacobs picked up where he left off last season, when many saw him as being robbed of the NFL offensive Rookie of the Year award, and outperformed (barely) Carolina’s all-everything back Christian McCaffrey in the Las Vegas Raiders‘ 34-30 victory.
Jacobs, who missed three of the Raiders’ final four games last season with a shoulder fracture, rushed for a career-best three touchdowns (he had seven TDs all of last season) while running for 93 yards on 25 carries and catching four passes for 46 yards. McCaffrey, meanwhile, ran for 96 yards and two TDs on 23 attempts and added three catches for 38 yards.
Jacobs became the second player since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger to rush for at least two TDs in a season opener in his first two seasons, joining Lawrence Phillips, who did it for the Rams in 1996 and 1997. There were seven lead changes in the game.
Describe the game in two words: Football’s back. And the Raiders looked sharp on offense, did just enough on defense and won a season opener in the Eastern Time Zone for the first time since 1983, the last time the Raiders (gulp) won a Super Bowl.
Troubling trend: You had to wonder how players would react to real-game hitting after an offseason devoid of exhibition games and, well, a true offseason program. The Raiders lost a pair of right tackles in starter Trent Brown (right calf) and his replacement Sam Young (groin), as well as starting middle linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski (pectoral). Rookie receiver Henry Ruggs III, meanwhile, tweaked his left knee late in the second quarter but returned, mostly as a decoy, for the second half.
QB breakdown: Derek Carr was the epitome of efficient, completing 22 of 30 passes for 239 yards and a touchdown pass to Nelson Agholor en route to his 19th career, fourth-quarter comeback victory. And Carr did it with a pair of rookies starting at receiver in Ruggs and Bryan Edwards. Carr got Ruggs involved early and often, hitting him on a 45-yard bomb to the 1-yard line, though had he hit him in stride, it would have been a score. Carr did place Agholor’s touchdown perfectly into his arms with the over-the-shoulder throw into the end zone.
Pivotal play: The Raiders’ defense in general, defensive end Clelin Ferrell in particular, holding on fourth-and-inches from their own 46-yard line with 1:23 to play, with the Raiders nursing that four-point lead. Why the Panthers gave the ball to fullback Alex Armah rather than McCaffrey is a mystery. But the Raiders will gladly take it.