MINNEAPOLIS -– The Raiders spent a strange Saturday night in Minnesota. Their exhibition game against the Vikings was interrupted over an hour by a nearby lightning storm. Heavy rain started and stopped several times, with segments of the crowd leaving at each interval.
The Vikings left the soggy, three-hour and 58-minute affair with a 20-12 victory at TCF Bank Stadium. The Raiders were as inconsistent as the rain.
Head coach Jack Del Rio’s team wasn’t as crisp as a week ago, with an uneven performance before and after the unscheduled weather break. It wasn’t due to the conditions.
They played good football and bad, with the type of fluctuation Del Rio has been trying to coach out of them the past few weeks.
The first-unit offense exemplified such contrast. It went three-and-out on its first and third series, sandwiching a six-play, 75-yard touchdown drive showing this upgraded starting unit’s true potential when operating well.
Quarterback Derek Carr completed a 40-yard bomb to speedy first-rounder Amari Cooper. Running back Latavius Murray carved through the defense and scored from two yards out.
Carr was 4-for-8 for 78 yards in four series, three of which ended in a punt.
The starting defense was stout against the run, but the secondary struggled as DJ Hayden got picked on by Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. Charles Woodson barely played. Khalil Mack wasn’t around long, but was dominant in his cameo.
The second-unit defense continues to perform well. Second-round draft pick Mario Edwards Jr. played a much better at defensive end than he did last week against St. Louis, and had a forced fumble to show for it. Fellow lineman Shelby Harris recovered that ball, and was in the backfield on several occasions.
Rookie middle linebacker Ben Heeney continued to impress with solid play leading the second-string defense.
Michael Dyer and Trent Richardson are locked in a battle to be Murray’s backup, and Dyer seems to be gaining some momentum.
The coverage teams allowed a few big returns and Marquette King let loose a short punt. The Raiders were penalized a whopping 14 times after generating two flags in the preseason opener.
There will be plenty to applaud on this game tape, with plenty to critique and work on in coming weeks.
Work stoppage: Lightning forced players off the field with 6 minutes, 45 seconds left in the first half. Play was officially suspended at 8:09 p.m., CDT with roughly an hour weather delay while rain dumped on the stadium and lightning struck nearby.
Fans were herded to the concourse and shelter locations near the stadium for nearly an hour, but were allowed to re-enter the stadium bowl at 9:05 p.m. CDT. Players took the field at the same time.
Officials resumed the game where it left off at 9:15 p.m., after a 10-minute warm-up period. There was no halftime break. They had a four-minute break before starting the third quarter.
Most starters did not return to the game, getting roughly a quarter-and-a-half’s worth of work.
Murray efficient, explosive yet again: Raiders top running back Latavius Murray played the first quarter of Saturday’s game, flashed his potential and then was removed from the game no worse for the wear.
He played three series, including two three-and-outs. He showed excellent burst and decision making on the second drive, which ended with his two-yard touchdown run, facilitated by an excellent block by tackle Menelik Watson.
He finished with 20 yards and a touchdown on four carries. Murray has 10 carries for 55 yards in two preseason games, for a 5.5-yard average.
Ponder gets booed: As he predicted, backup quarterback Christian Ponder got booed upon taking the field in his return to Minnesota. The Vikings’ No. 12 overall pick in 2011 started his career well, but lost his job after two seasons and was allowed to leave in free agency. The crowd’s displeasure was short-lived, and Ponder responded well with a nine-play drive that ended in a field goal.
He nearly through a couple interceptions to defensive linemen, but made it out of Minnesota without turning the ball over.
Hayden struggles: DJ Hayden started a cornerback for the second time in as many preseason games, but was picked on early by Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater.
He prevented a three-and-out on the opening drive with an illegal contact penalty. He kept the next drive going again by allowing an 11-yard pass on fourth-and-six. He gave up a 13-yard pass on the third Vikings series, which ended on a touchdown pass to Charles Johnson with Hayden covering.
Injury update: Safety Larry Asante got hurt at the end of the first quarter on a collision with Minnesota tight end Rhett Ellison.
He lay on the turf for an extended period, but eventually left under his own power. Asante returned on the next defensive series.
No other Raiders were tended to on the field of play, though there could be lingering injuries from Saturday’s effort that will be uncovered in coming days.
Head coach Jack Del Rio doesn’t discuss injuries during the preseason.
Sitting it out: Previously injured Raiders did not suit up for Saturday night’s game. That list includes receiver Andre Holmes, running back Roy Helu Jr., fullback Jamize Olawale, linebacker Sio Moore and tight end Clive Walford. Cornerback Keith McGill, out the two previous practice days, was not on the list but did not play.
What's next: The Raider head home in the wee hours of Sunday morning. They’ll conduct a walk thru on Sunday, have Monday off and continue preseason work from their Alameda training facility.