The Las Vegas Raiders earned themselves a massive victory in Week 12 by defeating the Dallas Cowboys in a highly entertaining Thanksgiving contest at AT&T Stadium. The two teams combined for an astounding 69 points and the Raiders escaped with a 36-33 win in overtime. The victory placed Vegas just half a game back from the seventh and final playoff spot in the AFC, which is currently being occupied by their division rival Los Angeles Chargers. Starting quarterback Derek Carr was in rare form, completing 24-of-39 passing attempts for 373 yards and a touchdown. All in all, Vegas' offense rarely put a wrong foot forward and gained more than 500 yards of total offense.
Carr wasn't the only Vegas signal-caller that had a profound impact on the Raiders' overall performance and victory. Backup quarterback Marcus Mariota surprisingly found himself on the field for a pair of offensive snaps, both of which occurred near the goal line. Mariota made the most of his second opportunity, rushing into the end zone on a zone-read for a three-yard touchdown that extended the Raiders' lead to 24-13 midway through the third quarter.
It was a well-designed play by offensive coordinator Greg Olson. Head coach Rich Bisaccia envisions Mariota potentially playing a larger role down the stretch.
“We had him [Mariota] in there multiple times and he ended up scoring a touchdown for us because of his athletic ability and what he can do in certain situations,” Bisaccia said in Monday’s press conference. “Without giving too much away, he will hopefully be a part of the packages going forward.”
The success of the play should lead to Mariota being utilized in a similar fashion on several occasions going forward. Vegas' offense has suffered several blows in recent weeks. The unfortunate Henry Ruggs III situation left the team thinner in the pass-catching department, and an ongoing injury to Darren Waller, who is clearly their best skill player, risks further damage to a unit that already lacks juice in the play-making department. DeSean Jackson, Hunter Renfrow, and Zay Jones have done a decent job stepping up in recent weeks, but Vegas' offense is going to need all the help it can get in the games ahead given that Waller has earned the dreaded week-to-week injury designation.
That's where utilizing Mariota in a creative manner that places an unwavering amount of stress on opposing defenses could pay dividends, particularly in the red zone where coverage gets tighter and the margin for error gets smaller. A supremely talented athlete, Mariota has always possessed the ability to impact the game with his legs dating all the way back to his historic showings at The University of Oregon. The former second overall selection in the 2015 NFL Draft, Mariota often electrified crowds as a Tennessee Titan and has rushed for an astounding 1,532 yards and 13 touchdowns throughout his professional career.
Carr is playing excellent football and removing him from under center in favor of Mariota under any circumstances should be approached with caution, and Bisaccia himself admitted as much. Mariota possesses a dual-threat skill set that can be employed in special packages and certain looks. Mariota's ability to pick up chunks of yardage with his legs could add another wrinkle to a Vegas offense that's currently firing on all cylinders, but must now overcome an injury to their star playmaker. Bisaccia and Olson would be wise to devise an offensive game plan that sets aside a handful of snaps for Mariota in the red zone on a weekly basis.