For the third straight season, the Oakland Raiders faced the Tennessee Titans and for the third straight season the Raiders left Nashville with a victory. It may not have been the cleanest win for Oakland, but opening the year with a 26-16 victory had to be a good feeling for the team and fans.
With question marks around the Raiders’ defense, it was reassuring that the team only allowed two field goals to the Titans in the second half and forced three punts over that same span.It wasn’t flawless by any means, but it also wasn’t much of a nail biter. The Raiders never trailed during the game and Derek Carr led the offensive production. Carr had two touchdown passes and threw for 262 yards while completing 22 of 32 passes. Wide receiver Amari Cooper caught his first touchdown of the season after forcing his way into the end zone in the first quarter.
After one possession for both teams, the score was 7-7 and many expected an old-fashioned shootout. That changed however, as the Raiders defense clamped down. The team did allow seven third down conversions to the Titans, but Oakland was able to limit damage, forcing Tennessee into kicking three field goals. And that ultimately was the deciding factor. Another key play maker for the Raiders was Giorgio Tavecchio. The 27-year-old took over place kicking duties when Sebastian Janikowski was placed on injured reserve due to a back injury and went 4 for 4 in field goals and 2 for 2 in extra points.
But, the Raiders special teams didn’t start and end with Tavecchio. Rookie Shalom Luani started the game with a heads up play when he recovered a surprise onside kick from the Titans and gave the Raiders great field position to start the game.
Punter Marquette King picked up where he left off last year as well as he had three punts for an average of over 52 yards. Second-year safety Karl Joseph led the Raiders with nine tackles and Pro Bowler from a season ago, Reggie Nelson, had eight of his own. On the line, Raiders interior looked pretty well as they were able to pressure Marcus Mariota. Defensive tackles Justin Ellis and Mario Edwards Jr. shared Oakland’s only sack of the game.
One other significant question that was answered for at least a week was the offensive handling of OC Todd Downing. The Oakland used a steady dose of Marshawn Lynch, who ran for 76 yards, and kept the Titans defense off balance.
While the Raiders line gave up two sacks, they were mostly able to keep Carr in a comfortable blanket. Up next for Oakland is their home opener against the New York Jets next Sunday. They’ll look to start the season 2-0 for the first time since 2002.