Oakland, CA – It’s only the first game of the preseason and the Raiders looked better than they have in the past three years. Nick Foles led the Rams offense to a field goal on opening drive. That was the last time St. Louis scored, Oakland’s defense stifled the Rams for the remainder of the game.
The Raiders 18-3 victory over the Rams was almost flawless for a preseason opener. Oakland played clean football in the first half, committing one penalty for 10 yards. The team finished the game with two penalties for 22 yards, marking the Raiders first preseason game with fewer than five penalties since August 9, 2013 vs Dallas (four penalties, 35 yards).
“Last year we struggled with false starts, off-sides, this is a great start to the season, something to build on,” said DE Shelby Harris. “It’s cool having a coach whose played in the league. Ninety percent of our coaches have played in the NFL, that’s something special, you can really go and talk to somebody and get a game like situation conversation with someone who actually did the same thing you did.”
New head coach Jack Del Rio was the first coach to win his exhibition debut since Lane Kiffin in 2007. Pleased with the outcome of penalties being down, defensive efforts and the way the backup quarterbacks played. Del Rio knows there’s more work to come. First-round pick Amari Cooper had four touches on the first possession, catching back-to-back passes from Derek Carr.
Cooper, the fourth pick in the draft, finished with three catches for 22 yards and added a 3-yard run. Hoping to become the “go-to” wide-receiver that the team has lacked over the years, Cooper is off to a great start. Carr was looking for Cooper but found Trumanine Johnson in the end zone for the interception. Oakland tied the game 3-3 with a 44-yard field goal from Sebastian Janikowski.
“I knew I wanted to give him some touches,” Carr said. “I want to get him as many as we can in the preseason, that way he just gets the feel for it. That was my mistake on the interception, we’ll get that cleaned up. I’ve got to do my part to fix that.”
The Raiders defense didn’t allow St. Louis another opportunity to score. They held them scoreless for the remainder of the game, including three straight punts in the first half. Rookie linebacker Ben Heeney had a sack and a game-high eight tackles (six solo). Oakland extended their lead when Christian Ponder connected on a 3-yard touchdown pass to Andre Holmes making it a 9-3 game in the second. Ponder was perfect going 4-for-4 for 47 yards on the drive.
Matt McGloin took over the third and was the leading passer for the night. He went 10-for-11 for 104 yards with one touchdown to Brice Butler in the fourth. While there might be a battle for backup quarterback both Ponder and McGloin’s performance was impressive. However, two failed 2-point conversions were alarming to say the least. Both attempts to add two points on two separate touchdowns were disappointing.
“Yeah, we’re trying to learn about that,” said Del Rio. “The 2-point play, the percentages might be, and determine the probabilities and rally have some data to look at. At this point it’s a little bit of the unknown with the 2-point. I think even the officials are trying to figure out how it’s going to be officiated and the nuances of the rule.”