Derek Carr threw for three touchdowns as the Las Vegas Raiders opened their new era in Nevada with a 34-24 win over the New Orleans Saints on Monday.
The Raiders, who relocated to the desert gambling haven from Oakland at the end of last season, made it a home debut to remember as they roughed up the Saints, tipped as possible Super Bowl contenders.
Raiders quarterback Carr finished with 282 passing yards with 28 completions from 38 attempts with no interceptions. Saints counterpart Drew Brees had 312 yards for one touchdown and one interception.
It marked the first Raiders game in their new gleaming $1.9-billion Allegiant Stadium, the black, spaceship-like stadium nicknamed “The Death Star” that sits in the heart of Las Vegas.
No fans were on hand to witness the Raiders victory, however. The Raiders, like most NFL teams this season, are not allowing fans into their stadium because of concerns over Covid-19.
Instead, the drama played out before swathes of empty seats and artificial crowd noise.
New Orleans got off to a smooth start, moving into a 10-0 lead with an early Wil Lutz field goal followed by a one-yard rushing touchdown from Alvin Kamara after a nine-play 78-yard drive.
But the Raiders narrowed the deficit early in the second quarter after a confident 63-yard drive ended with Carr flipping a short pass to an unmarked Alec Ingold for a touchdown.
New Orleans restored their 10-point cushion when Brees connected with Jared Cook from six yards for a touchdown on the next possession to make it 17-7.
The Raiders stayed in touch on the next drive, with Carr marching the hosts 75 yards before arrowing a pass to Zay Jones for the touchdown.
The Saints then buckled on their next possession, with Brees’s short pass up the middle meant for Deonte Harris picked off by Nicholas Morrow in New Orleans territory.
The Raiders were unable to take full advantage of the turnover, however, and had to settle for a field goal from Daniel Carlson to tie the score at 17-17 at the half.
Carr’s third touchdown pass of the night then put the Raiders ahead 24-17 early in the third quarter, and a 20-yard rushing touchdown from Jalen Richard helped the hosts into a 31-17 early in the fourth quarter.
A second touchdown from Kamara set up a nervous finish for the Raiders as the Saints closed to 31-24, but a 54-yard field goal from Carlson with a minute remaining put the Raiders into an unassailable 34-24 lead.