The 2020 NFL season was the Las Vegas Raiders’ 51st in the National Football League and their first in the Las Vegas metropolitan area. There were plenty of highlights to the Raiders’ campaign, but equally as many disappointments. Let’s take a look at the good, the bad, and the ugly of the Las Vegas Raiders’ first season in “Sin City”.
Raiders got off to a flying start in 2020, racing to a 6-3 record from their opening nine games. Ambitious gamblers around the United States began tipping Raiders for Super Bowl glory. Las Vegas residents backed their new team in abundance, and with sports betting in Michigan legalized, wagers on the Raiders came from all over the U.S.
The Raiders’ 2020 campaign started with a 34-30 victory at the Carolina Panthers. Raiders’ first game in the brand new Allegiant Stadium was against much-fancied New Orleans Saints. COVID-19 restrictions meant none of the 53,000 fans who bought season tickets were in attendance. It’s a shame because Raiders ran out 34-24 winners.
That victory made NFL fans sit up and take notice of the Raiders as experts predicted the Saints were bound for another Super Bowl title.
Back-to-back defeats at the New England Patriots (20-36) and home to a resurgent Buffalo Bills (23-30) left the Raiders 2-2 after four games.
- Impressive Victory Over The Reigning Champions
Week 5 was the highlight of the Raiders’ season. They headed to the Arrowhead Stadium to take on reigning Super Bowl champions Kansas City Chiefs. Nobody gave Raiders a snowball in hell’s chance of coming away with anything from this game, especially as the Chiefs were 4-0 at the time. Raiders came out on top of a high-scoring game, emerging victorious 40 points to 32.
Raiders had the better stats across the board in that game. Quarterback Derek Carr threw for 347 yards and three touchdowns in that fixture.
A heavy 20-45 defeat at home to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers followed Raiders’ Week 5 bye. They had no answer for future Hall of Famer Tom Brady, who threw for 369 yards and four touchdowns; Brady tore the Raiders apart. The Buccs scored 21 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to leave the Raiders with plenty to think about.
Whatever Head Coach Jon Gruden said to his players and did on the training field following that heavy defeat worked because Raiders won their next three fixtures.
A hard-fought 16-6 victory at Cleveland Browns in freezing conditions showed the Raiders’ character. Home wins against the Los Angeles Chargers (31-26), and Denver Broncos (37-12) left the Raiders with a 6-3 record and every chance of reaching the playoffs.
- Everything Starts Going Wrong
This is the point where the wheels fell off the Raiders’ season. They went 2-5 over the next seven games to finish with an 8-8 record. Although this improved on the previous campaign’s 7-9 record, it left the Raiders watching the postseason games from the sidelines.
The fall from grace was nothing short of spectacular. The 6-43 defeat at Atlanta Falcons was demoralizing. Raiders simply didn’t turn up and the Falcons restricted them to only two field goals.
Equally as bad was the 26-25 defeat at the hands of the Miami Dolphins. Gruden instructed his offense to avoid scoring a touchdown to run time off the clock. Raiders opted for a field goal instead and took a 25-19 lead. Amazingly, the Dolphins got the ball with only 19 seconds remaining and somehow managed to clinch victory in the dying second despite having no timeouts remaining.
That Dolphins defeat ended Raiders’ playoff hopes. They made amends, slightly, with a 32-31 victory at home to Denver Broncos in Week 17 but it was too little, too late.
- Defensive Woes Prove Costly
The end-of-season capitulation leaves a big question mark over the Raiders’ Super Bowl credentials. Derek Carr threw for 4,000 yards while Josh Jacobs rushed for 1,000 yards and Darren Waller received 1,000 yards in consecutive seasons, a first in Raiders’ history.
Defensively, however, the Raiders were poor. Cory Littleton and Maliek Collins seriously underperformed, while rookie cornerback Damon Arnette struggled.
Raiders sacked their defensive coordinator less than three hours after the 44-27 loss at the Indianapolis Colts on Week 14. They have to get this new appointment correct if they are to mount a playoff charge in 2021.