In another overtime thriller, the Las Vegas Raiders beat the Miami Dolphins 31-28 on a last-second field goal by Daniel Carlson. The Raiders are 3-0 for the first time since 2002, the last time they went to the Super Bowl. In a breath-holding, heartrate-raising game, these players stood out the most.
RB Peyton Barber
The Raiders signed Peyton Barber off The Washington Football Team practice squad on September 4th. In three short weeks, Barber has made his mark on the Raiders season.
The Raiders run game started rough in Week 3. The interior offensive line struggled to allow the running backs to do their jobs. The second half, however, was a different story.
Barber came out of halftime with a fire that hadn’t been seen yet this season. He was physical, resilient, and a force to be reckoned with.
After a big second half, Barber never batted an eye when he was called upon repeatedly in overtime. Barber willed the Raiders down the field on their final drive, eventually leading to the game-winning field goal.
Barber, the third running back on the Raiders depth chart, rushed for 111 yards on 23 carries a TD. With Jacobs injured, Barber has been Gruden’s go-to guy.
“We really like Barber. We think he’s a heck of a back,” Gruden said earlier this week. Barber received a game ball for his tremendous effort.
QB Derek Carr
Let’s be honest – Carr has been the Raiders’ standout player since Week 1. After a pick six in the first quarter Sunday and a 14-0 deficit, Carr fired his team up and kept rolling.
Carr led the offense to an impressive 25 unanswered points before the beginning of the fourth quarter, making the Dolphins forget they ever had the lead.
Carr’s connection with WRs Hunter Renfrow, Bryan Edwards, and Henry Ruggs III were crucial to the Raiders’ offensive success in Week 3, but Carr completed passes to an impressive nine different receivers. At the post-game press conference, Renfrow told reporters that after the game, Carr was stressing the importance of practice.
“You can’t tell me practice doesn’t matter,” Carr told Renfrow, referring to the plays they ran during the game that had been perfected during practice.
Carr threw for 386 yards, 2 TDs, and 1 INT. The Raiders QB1 has a mind-blowing 1,203 passing yards through three weeks and is among the front-runners in many MVP conversations. Carr has thrown for at least 300 passing yards in five consecutive games. He is only one game short of tying the franchise record for most consecutive 300 yard games. If he throws for at least 300 yards next Monday night, he will share the record with QB Rich Gannon.
WR Henry Ruggs III
When you look at the Raiders receiving corps now, it’s hard to remember a time when receivers were their most significant need. The Raiders depth at wide receiver this season is impressive, but even more impressive than that was the Week 3 performance of Henry Ruggs III.
The Raiders drafted Ruggs 12th overall in the 2020 NFL Draft for his impressive speed, but that’s not all he has brought to the table. Ruggs had a tough rookie year with 452 yards. So far this season, Ruggs has 237 yards, more than half of his rookie season total. The speedster had some remarkable catches in Weeks 1 and 2, but Week 3 was different.
“The biggest thing is we’re just comfortable now,” Ruggs said post-game. “A lot more confident in our assignment, in our jobs, and just knowing who we are to help the team. I had a little fire behind me for this game. I’m just ready to go.”
Ruggs said the “extra fire” came from things he heard said. He didn’t say who or what they said, but whatever it was, was incredibly motivating for the Raiders receiver. Ruggs was a powerhouse on the field today. He had 78 receiving yards, but his impact was felt much more than that.
Gruden and the offensive coaches love to use Ruggs as a decoy. Sending a man running down the sideline at the speed that he runs is sure to trip up the defense and give his fellow receivers the chance to get open and make a play. He also is not afraid to line up against Pro Bowl defensive backs. Ruggs was matched up with the 2020 interception leader CB Xavien Howard, and it never phased him.
Ruggs’ most impressive catch of the day was a 23-yard reception over the head of Howard in the second quarter. One catch like that, and the defense was on their toes the rest of the game.
Week 3 and the entire 2021 season has been breakout game after breakout game for Ruggs. He is much improved since the 2020 season and seems to only be getting better. With another strong defensive matchup next week, Ruggs will be tested, but all signs point to his continued success.
The Raiders head back to prime time next week to take on the Chargers for Monday Night Football. For now, they are tied atop the AFC West with the Denver Broncos at 3-0, partially due to the tremendous performance of Barber, Carr, and Ruggs.
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