Carl Nassib forced a fumble in overtime which Derek Carr converted into a game-winning 31-yard touchdown pass to Zay Jones two plays later, giving the Las Vegas Raiders a thrilling 33-27 overtime victory against the Baltimore Ravens in the season opener of Monday Night Football last night at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas.
"Lot of firsts today," Nassib said at the post-game press conference. "No one blinked. It was awesome. It was a great team win, for sure."
The Raiders were tied in overtime and looked to be headed towards a loss after Carr threw a demoralizing interception on 3rd and goal from the Ravens' six-yard line. Five plays later, though, with the Ravens facing 3rd and 7 on their own 33-yard line, Nassib exploded off the edge and strip-sacked Jackson as the pocket collapsed under pressure. A strip sack occurs when a defender forces a fumble in the process of sacking the opposing quarterback. The fumble was recovered by fellow Raider Darius Philon.
Two plays later, Carr ended the game when the Ravens came with an all-out blitz, sending eight players at Carr and leaving only three players to defend against the pass. The Raiders were ready, though, and Carr quickly lofted a pass high in the air to a wide-open Jones who easily trotted across the goal line for the game-winning score.
"We knew they were going to all-out blitz," Raiders head coach Jon Gruden said after the game. "That's what they do."
Nassib ended with three tackles and one all-important strip sack as part of a Raiders defense which held explosive Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson to 19 completions on 30 attempts for 235 yards. Jackson was also the game's leading rusher with 86 yards on 12 carries. The Raiders defense was especially effective on 3rd down, holding the Ravens to only 3 conversions out of 12 attempts.
"Please, someone praise the defense," Carr said after the game.
The game was the first in the history of the league to feature an out gay player. NBA Hall of Famer Charles Barkley wore Nassib's jersey during ESPN2's Monday Night Football broadcast. The round mound of rebound has a long history as an ally of the LGBTQ+ community, saying previously he had played alongside gay teammates in his illustrious career.
Nassib came out as gay via a post to Instagram in June. While there have been other gay players in the league such as Dave Kopay and Ryan O'Callaghan, Nassib is the first to come out while an active player signed to a regular-season roster, and the first to play in a regular-season game.
"What's up, people?" Nassib said in the video post. "I'm at my house in West Chester, Pa. I just wanted to take a quick moment to say that I'm gay. I've been meaning to do this for a while now but finally feel comfortable getting it off my chest."
With the win, the Raiders are now 1-0 on the season and in a four-way tie atop the AFC West Division.
While he might not have scored the game-winning touchdown, the Raiders can honestly say they couldn't have won their season-opener without him. For Nassib, his debut as the league's first out gay player in a regular-season game is one he will long remember.
"I won't forget this one," Nassib said.
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