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Las Vegas is the entertainment capital of the world, and apparently that applies to NFL games as well.
The Las Vegas Raiders played their first regular-season game in front of Las Vegas fans on Monday night, and it was a crazy, memorable one. They took the Baltimore Ravens to overtime, tying it up on a field goal with two seconds left. Then the Raiders thought they had won in overtime, but a touchdown was reversed on a replay review and somehow the Raiders threw an interception into the end zone right after that. But the defense forced a Lamar Jackson fumble, setting up Derek Carr lofting a walk-off touchdown pass to wide-open Zay Jones. The Raiders won 33-27. Whew.
It was an absolutely wild game that finally got the happy ending for the home fans, who couldn't watch a home game in person last year due to COVID-19. Even a Vegas crowd used to Cirque du Soleil shows and nightlong parties had to be thrilled by that season opener.
Raiders rallied after slow start
The Ravens started fast. Ty'Son Williams, playing because the Ravens had three running backs on injured reserve already, busted loose for a 35-yard touchdown. Marquise Brown caught a touchdown on a great scramble play by Lamar Jackson. It was 14-0 and it looked like the rout was on.
The Raiders stayed in it. A pass interference call set up a 2-yard touchdown run by Josh Jacobs. The Raiders got a field goal before halftime. The defense started tightening up and did a better job containing Jackson. The Raiders were stopped on a key fourth-and-1 deep in Ravens territory late in the third quarter, and the Ravens held onto a 17-10 lead into the fourth quarter.
The fourth quarter was an entertaining one. A Jackson fumble set up a nice 15-yard touchdown by Jacobs and a tie game. A long catch by Sammy Watkins set up a Ravens TD and a long catch by Henry Ruggs III set up a Raiders touchdown.
It was tied again with a little less than four minutes to go in the fourth quarter. The drama continued well after that.
Raiders tie it late
Jackson had a great play that looked like it would be the highlight of a regulation win. Jackson went back to pass on a play that started at Baltimore's 35-yard line just inside the two-minute warning. He scrambled and got free into the open field. Two Raiders had a shot at him about 10 yards downfield and both missed. Jackson kept going for 28 yards and Baltimore was in field-goal territory. Tucker hit a 47-yard field goal with 37 seconds to go.
But the Raiders weren't done. Derek Carr completed a couple nice passes to Bryan Edwards to give Daniel Carlson a chance at a 55-yard field goal with seven seconds to go. Carlson nailed it with two seconds left to send the game to overtime.
Hunter Renfrow made a great play to start overtime, barely staying in bounds to get a first down into Ravens territory. That gained 27 yards. On third-and-4, Carr lofted one up to Edwards and he grabbed it, getting close to the goal line. He was clearly short of the end zone, but the call was a touchdown on the field and that send the fans into a celebration. It was premature.
After a failed quarterback sneak and a false start, a pass went through Raiders receiver Willie Snead's hands, bounced off Ravens safety DeShon Elliott's head and was intercepted by Anthony Averett in the end zone. It was an absolutely unbelievable turn of events after the crowd thought Edwards had won the game.
But the game still ended up going the Raiders' way. The Jackson fumble came in Raiders territory. Carl Nassib forced a fumble on a sack. Then Carr won it on the pass to Jones, who somehow was wide open downfield.
The Las Vegas fans might get spoiled by that opener. It won't get much better than that.