There was a lot for Las Vegas to like about their Raiders in the regular-season opener.
Oh, and the Black Holers in Oakland, too.
For one, the Silver and Black beat a pretty good Tennessee Titans team that entered the season with inflated expectations. And they did it on the road.
Would you believe the defense didn’t allow a touchdown in the final three quarters after it couldn’t get off the field in the first one?
Yet the Raiders left Music City with more than a well-earned 26-16 victory. They also got their bad-ass identity back.
Welcome to Beast Mode time, Marshawn Lynch style.
Elite teams can close out games even when opponents know what to expect. That’s what made the Raiders’ final nine-play, 34-yard, three-minute, 40-second drive a thing of beauty even if it wasn’t an artistic masterpiece.
Truth is, the Raiders wouldn’t have made that kind of bold statement a year ago. But they no longer have Latavius (Twinkletoes) Murray, either. Now they have a real running back to do the job.
After the Titans had kicked a field goal to move within seven points, Lynch gained four yards on first down. Then he picked up three. Jalen Richard ran for seven and a first down. Then Lynch absolutely destroyed Pro Bowl defensive lineman Jurrell Casey on a 9-yard blast from the past.
By this time, the Raiders had every tight end on their roster on the field. Heck, even Dave Casper was tempted to come out of retirement. The Titans countered with every person in Nashville in the so-called box.
Go ahead, pal, bring it.
Lynch rumbled for five yards to move the chains again. He gained two yards then six more. Finally, no doubt a bit gassed, he was dropped for a 2-yard loss. On fourth down, Giorgio Tavecchio booted a 43-yard field goal. Ballgame.
“We’re one for one with that,” coach Jack Del Rio said afterward. “That’s the idea to be able to close these things, and we did that very well.”
That’s how championship-caliber teams do it, girls and boys.
JUST ASKIN’: In his first real game action in 19 months, Lynch gained 76 on 18 carries. Richard was the next with five attempts.
Lynch looks refreshed after the layoff, but he’s 31 years old. Consider the thousands of violent yards that the guy has gained over the years, and he’s closer to 33 in football years.
How much will Lynch have left in December? January? Or will Beast Mode be Least Mode by then?
GORGEOUS GEORGIO: No sooner was Tavecchio brought up for a cup of cappuccino after Sebastian Janikowski pulled up lame than he kicked four field goals in as many tries, a pair of 52-yarders included.
Tavecchio is Italian for Sebastian Ultra Lite. Like his teammate, the former Cal Bear kicks with his left foot, except that he’s about 76 pounds lighter and $3 million cheaper.
Kinda makes you wonder if the 39-year-old Janikowski should have been offered a pink slip instead of a $1 million pay cut earlier in the week, doesn’t it?
ALL IT NEEDS IS LOVE: As predicted here, Stanford flunked its first big test of the season. No shocker there. No. 5 Southern Cal is the more advanced team at this early stage.
Yet the way the 42-24 ambush went down should have the attention of coach David Shaw and his staff.
The Trojans made a point to beat the Cardinal at their own game. They marched 80 yards for a touchdown on their first possession. To prove it was no fluke, they scored on their next two tries as well. Overall, the winners had a crazy 623-342 edge in yardage.
Shaw has to keep his defense off the field, and here’s how to do it — Bryce Love to the left, Bryce Love to the right, fullback up the middle.
Love did his part and then some — 160 yards and one 75-yard bolt of a touchdown on 17 carries. But with the Cardinal behind by double figures for most of the game, the junior didn’t touch the ball nearly enough.
The Cardinal have time to regroup, but if they give up on the run game, they may as well call it a season while they’re at it.
YOUR TURN: “Can’t stop laughing from your 9-2-17 column. I’m a looong-time 49ers fan, and thank God I still like watching football despite my NCAA team. We are not gonna feel embarrassed by the team as it happened last year. We are gonna win few games, but we will feel proud of being 49ers fans again.” Alex Maluquer, Barcelona, Spain
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