There's a popular phrase in Las Vegas: "The house always wins," which means that, despite a gambler's best efforts, a casino will always make money off its patrons.
The Saints sauntered into Vegas, riding high off their opening win over Tom Brady and the Buccaneers, ready to the take the house and spoil the inaugural game in Allegiant Stadium.
Most weeks, Drew Brees and his 10 offensive compatriots resemble suave thief Danny Ocean and his cadre of lovable bandits ready to cause mayhem in the desert. This week, the Saints looked more like swingers Mike Peters and Trent Walker unsuccessfully trying to double down on a Vegas blackjack table. The former is lauded, the latter are pathetic.
Instead, third year Raiders head coach Jon Gruden opened up a can of "Spider 2 Y Banana" on the Saints en route to a 34-24 victory and a second straight win.
Whether it's blackjack or roulette, everybody hopes for a comeback story in Vegas. In honor of the Raiders' six scoring drives, here are six thoughts on Las Vegas's Monday Night Football win.
1. Penalties! The neon green field at Allegiant Stadium was littered with yellow laundry Monday night as the Saints repeatedly shot themselves in the foot, racking up 10 penalties for 129 yards. The Saints are the only team in the NFL with over 200 yards of penalties through two games, and against the Raiders, it cost them dearly. Most fans will point to the costly pass interference penalty committed by Saints cornerback Janoris Jenkins that extended the Raiders final drive and led to the game clinching field goal, but New Orleans played undisciplined football for most of the game.
2. Alvin Kamara came to play. With star wide receiver Michael Thomas out with an ankle injury, Kamara shouldered a larger portion of the offensive load. The Saints running back sliced through the Raiders defense for 174 total yards and two touchdowns, showcasing the dynamic playmaking ability that New Orleans has grown accustomed to seeing. The Saints need Kamara's continued excellence to get back on the winning track.
3. The New Orleans defense disappeared. Much like a rookie blackjack player, the Saints defense started hot then fizzled down the stretch. After sacking quarterback Derek Carr three times in the first quarter, the Saints failed to deliver effective pressure for the remainder of the game. The Raiders scored on six of the final seven drives, methodically working the ball down the field and taking advantage of a bevy of Saints penalties. Las Vegas spends more on its offensive line than any other team in the NFL, and in the final three quarters, it paid off.
4. Darren Waller seemed unstoppable. The Saints defense seemingly had no answer for the Raiders tight end, who caught 12 passes for 103 yards and a touchdown. Waller feasted on nearly every defender the Saints threw at him all game and snuck behind the defense for a goal line score on fourth down to give the Raiders their first lead of the game on the opening second half drive. New Orleans won't face many tight ends better than Waller, but the next time they do, the defense has to come up with better answers in coverage.
5. Drew Brees is looking older by the game. On multiple occasions, my friends watching the game with me referred to his inability (or unwillingness) to chunk the ball downfield. Brees's greatest asset has always been his intelligence, so this isn't a total indictment on the aging star, but opposing teams recognize the same things my friends do and are game-planning accordingly. Sean Payton typically conjures up creative solutions to fix his offensive woes, and it's time to scheme better ways to consistently move the ball down the field.
6. Time of possession killed the Saints. It's easy to lose track of time in Vegas, and the New Orleans defense fell victim to the clock. The Raiders offense seemed to gain steam as the game wore on, and that's largely because they controlled the ball for over 36 minutes of the game. A gassed defense can be somewhat prevented when an offense manages the clock better, which is why it's imperative that Brees and the offense are able to sustain drives. A tired defense is more susceptible to big plays and committing costly errors. Sound familiar? The Saints have a slew of issues to correct before Green Bay rolls into New Orleans, and time of possession is near the top of the list.
Shoutouts to other players and teams that caught my eye in the rest of the football world.
- How 'bout them Cowboys? Dallas kicker Greg Zuerlein executed a spectacular onside kick, then nailed a game-winning field goal to cap a ferocious comeback against the Atlanta Falcons. This ranks right under Atlanta's 28-3 Super Bowl collapse to New England as an all-time Falcons choke job. There are plenty of despondent Dirty Birds out there following Atlanta's 0-2 start. You love to see it.
- The Ragin' Cajuns are riding a winning streak! No. 19 Louisiana-Lafayette overcame a 21-7 deficit to beat Georgia State in overtime behind running back Elijah Mitchell's 164-yard, two-touchdown performance. The Cajuns are 2-0, and that calls for an Aiyee!
- Former Tulane wide receiver Darnell Mooney nabbed his first NFL touchdown on Sunday. The rookie pass catcher reached the milestone in the Chicago Bears 17-13 victory over the New York Giants.
- Get excited, folks! It's officially Southeastern Conference football game week. The powerhouse college football league returns this weekend with an all-SEC slate of games, including the defending national champion LSU Tigers beginning their title defense against the Mississippi State Bulldogs in Death Valley. Saturday can't come soon enough!