LOUISVILLE, Ky., Aug. 23, 2015 — The Oakland Raiders and Minnesota Vikings played their second preseason game. Last week the Raiders won at home, and this was their first road test.
The Raiders led for most of the first half before a defensive meltdown after the two-minute warning. The offense did nothing in the second half.
The takeaways from the game seem to be very simple. The Raiders have three offensive stars who are clearly ready for the regular season. Quarterback Derek Carr, wide receiver Amari Cooper and running back Latavius Murray could become the new triplets. All played well in limited action. Carr had Al Davis smiling in heaven when he completed a 40-yard bomb to Cooper that led to a touchdown. The shackles have been taken off of Carr. He and Cooper clearly have a rapport and Murray is keeping defenses honest.
The main cause for concern with the Raiders is depth. If Carr goes down, the season is over. If Murray goes down, Carr will take a beating. If Cooper goes down, Carr will be forced to become Captain Checkdown, dinking and dunking.
Backup quarterback Christian Ponder is not as awful as he is made out to be. He can be serviceable, but he will never be a star. Matt McGloin is still raw. He may never become polished enough to match his talent. McGloin’s first pass was intercepted to set up a Minnesota touchdown.
Running back Trent Richardson is playing like a guy who should just declare himself a bust and get over it. After Taiwan Jones gained 10 yards on one run, Richardson lost five of it on the next play. Richardson just looks terrible.
Minnesota, on the other hand, has more depth. Bridgewater is clearly ready for the regular season, but backup Shawn Hill looked superb in leading a 13-play, 80-yard drive in the final two minutes of the first half. There was no excuse for the backups on the Oakland defense to just give away the lead, but it was the Vikings taking the 13-9 advantage into the locker rooms.
Head coaches Jack Del Rio and Mike Zimmer are both known for their excellent work as defensive coordinators. However, with the thoroughbreds they have in Carr and Bridgewater, both coaches are being smart enough to take the shackles off. Last year these rookies were given little control. This year both quarterbacks are being asked to help carry their teams, and neither quarterback seems fazed by this.
Despite the Vikings’ winning the game, the real goat was Vikings kicker Blair Walsh. The former Pro Bowl kicker had a nightmarish game, missing field goal tries from 35, 38 and 49 yards. He also missed a 33-yard extra point try. Those lost 10 points made the score seem much closer than it appeared.
The Raiders looked shaky on both offense and defense once the starters came out. Minnesota took a 20-12 lead in the third quarter, and the Raiders got nowhere near the end zone the entire second half. The fourth quarter was scoreless.
The Silver and Black have optimism for the first time in a long time, but one bone-jarring hit to their offensive stars will send this team into a tailspin. Injuries are part of football. The key to the Raiders is their offensive line. They need to keep their starters healthy, because relying on the Oakland backups will make the Raiders wish that every game were a preseason game.