By Terrance Turner
Sept. 13, 2021
The Las Vegas Raiders began their season at home tonight versus the Baltimore Ravens. On the premiere of “Monday Night Football”, the Ravens worked to overcome a slew of injuries and open their season with a win. The Raiders fought back from a 14-point deficit to force overtime. But the Ravens foiled their offense and forced them to regroup after a disastrous goal-line stand. 61,000 fans inside Allegiant stadium in Vegas watched as the action unfolded.
The Ravens scored first. On 4th and 1, running back Ty’Son Williams ran 35 yards up the middle for the touchdown. Justin Tucker’s extra point was good. It was 7-0 with 1:53 left in the first quarter. The Ravens padded that lead midway through the second quarter, when receiver Marquise Brown caught a 10-yard pass from Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson to score. That touchdown made it 14-0.
With four minutes left in the second quarter, the Raiders reached the end zone courtesy of running back Josh Jacobs. After his 2-yard rushing TD, the extra-point kick by Daniel Carlson made it 14-7, with 4:38 left in the half. Just 1:12 before halftime, the Ravens added a field goal courtesy of kicker Daniel Carlson.
In the third quarter, Justin Tucker gave Baltimore a three-point advantage with a 40-yard field goal. But the action on the field took backseat to the off-the-field lives of three Raiders players.
Waller & Crosby: Sobriety
During the game, ESPN announcers Steve Levy and Louis Riddick shone a spotlight on Las Vegas defensive end Maxx Crosby, who celebrated 18 months of sobriety over the weekend. He checked into a rehab facility last March, just a day before the world as we knew it shut down.
“Alcoholism runs in my family and I’m an alcoholic,” he told ESPN. ”So, for me, I knew it was something that was always a crutch. I always knew I had a problem. I knew I couldn’t just drink like everybody else.”
Crosby checked into rehab on March 11, 2020 — a date he now has tattooed on his hand.
After spending a month in rehab, Crosby went to a sober living facility in Venice Beach. He told ESPN: “I was just trying to get my s–t together and just trying to stay above water. I know if I can make it through that s–t and get sober, I can do anything. It was special and I met some awesome people along the way.” Levy and Riddick praised Crosby for his candor in speaking out about his addiction. “We need to tell more of these stories,” said one of them during tonight’s broadcast.
Crosby now attends weekly recovery meetings via Zoom. According to Levy and Riddick, that recovery group involves just eight people — and one of them is Crosby’s teammate, Raiders tight end Darren Waller. Crosby said he was inspired to get treatment after seeing Waller’s sobriety — which was a long time coming.
Waller (the great-grandson of legendary jazz pianist Fats Waller) had struggled with addiction since he was a teenager. In a candid interview with Fox Sports, Waller recalled how his drug use began in high school. “I’m walkin’ in the hallway; if I see you with a cast on, a sling on, be like, ‘Hey, I’ll give you some money [for pain pills]”’, he said. “Frat houses on campus during college. I’ll go to the hood. I’ll go anywhere to get it, ’cause what I want is what I need. So I’ll do anything to get it.”
Waller admitted that his drug use was extensive and widespread. “Percocet was always No. 1, like painkillers. Smoke weed. Xanax. Coke. Adderall. Codeine syrup. You name it,” he told Fox Sports.
Waller got suspended four games in 2016 and then the entire 2017 season because of drug use. He overdosed in his Jeep on August 11, 2017. He later realized that he had ingested a batch of opioids laced with fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid that could’ve killed him. “Overdosing scared the hell out of me,” he said. That prompted him to get help.
Waller checked in to McLean Borden Cottage in Camden, Maine, in September 2017. There, he discovered meditation and began journaling. He started attended weekly meetings. In 2018, he was signed by the Raiders Now he’s considered one of the best tight ends in the league — his 107 receptions last season were the most among tight ends.
The ESPN/ABC crew also took note of Carl Nassib, who made history Monday night as the first openly gay player in a regular-season NFL game. Nassib drew national attention in June when he came out in an Instagram video. Yet he had scarcely been heard from since, apart from talking to reporters in August during training camp. But Nassib would soon make his presence felt in a very big way.
With just 42 seconds left in the third quarter, Crosby and Nassib combined to foil the Ravens offense again. On 3rd and 7, Nassib and cornerback Nate Hobbs blitzed Lamar Jackson before he could throw. Maxx Crosby pounced on Jackson, dragging him to the ground for what was Crosby’s second sack of the night. Crosby would go on to be named AFC Defensive Player Of The Week.
A scoring volley broke out in the fourth quarter. The Ravens led 17-10 early in the fourth. But the Raiders tied the game at 17 after Jacobs ran in 15 yards for the touchdown. The Ravens pulled ahead again after running back Latavius Murray rushed for an 8-yard TD. Murray (who was just signed on Friday!) gave Baltimore a 24-17 lead. But Las Vegas tied the game again when tight end Darren Waller caught a touchdown — on his 29th birthday.
With 3:50 left, the Ravens regained possession. They cashed in on their drive with a 47yard go-ahead field goal from Justin Tucker. But Raiders quarterback Derek Carr willed his team into field goal range. Daniel Carlson helped Las Vegas to a tying 55-yard field goal in the final 37 seconds.
In overtime, the Raiders advanced down to the end zone on a dramatic drive. With 7:15 to go in overtime, Carr threw to Bryan Edwards, who ran down to the end zone and extended his arm to slam the football down on the goal line.
That touchdown caused a wild on-field Vegas celebration. But the score was overturned after review by the refs. Edwards was ruled short at the half-yard line. The Raiders got flagged for a false start by Alex Leatherwood and then Carr was intercepted in the end zone.
Baltimore took over. The Ravens narrowly avoided a delay of game penalty; a fumble by tight end Mark Andrews was instead ruled an incomplete pass. But the Ravens’ luck ran out when Jackson fumbled. Jackson lost the ball after being strip-sacked by Carl Nassib. Nassib’s game-changing forced fumble gave Las Vegas the ball back — and a chance to turn it all around.
On second down, Raiders wide receiver Zay Jones ran away from defenders, streaking into the end zone for the game-sealing touchdown. The Raiders won, 33-27.
“I’ve played in a lot of games,” Nassib told reporters after the game. ”I try to make sure I really remember every single game. I won’t forget this one.”