Pro Football Hall of Fame Game: Raiders roll after storm, beat Jaguars 27-11

By Barry Wilner
Special to the Pro Football Hall of Fame

It took a while, thanks to Mother Nature, but football is back. That’s never a bad thing. 

As it does annually, the NFL’s preseason kicked off with the Pro Football Hall of Fame Game at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium. A delay of 40 minutes caused by severe storms didn’t dampen the enthusiasm, and five of the eight upcoming inductees into the Hall - TONY BOSELLI, RICHARD SEYMOUR, LEROY BUTLER, BRYANT YOUNG and Coach DICK VERMEIL – were on hand Thursday night as the Las Vegas Raiders beat the Jacksonville Jaguars 27-11. 

Las Vegas sat most of its stars, including All-Pro receiver Davante Adams, who came over in a major offseason trade with Green Bay, quarterback Derek Carr and defensive linemen Chandler Jones and Maxx Crosby. Yet the Raiders were far superior all night. 

“I generally really liked the effort,” Raiders coach Josh McDaniels said. “I liked the way they approached the game.” 

For Boselli, Jacksonville’s first-ever draft pick who led the Jaguars to the AFC Championship game in just their second season, it was the first appearance in Canton by his former team since their initial outing, a 20-14 preseason loss in 1995 to fellow expansion franchise Carolina.  

The Raiders participated in three previous Hall of Fame Games – and won each of them: 20-13 over Dallas in 1979, 19-3 over Green Bay in 1993, and 16-10 over Philadelphia in 2006. This victory was lopsided. 

In front of Seymour, who won three Super Bowls with the Patriots before playing the final four seasons of his career with the Raiders, his former team got off to quick start. And never relented.  

Jarrett Stidham, despite a high hit that drew a roughing penalty, connected with Keelan Cole for 31 yards on the opening offensive play. That led to a 32-yard field goal by Daniel Carlson for the first score of the NFL preseason. 

The Raiders dominated the rest of the way. 

“We had good tempo and rhythm in the first half,” McDaniels said. “We got off the field on third downs.”  

Boselli, a 1990s All-Decade Team tackle despite only being in the NFL for half that decade, and Seymour, who made the All-Decade Team of the 2000s, were joined by Butler, Young and Vermeil in being introduced to the crowd beforehandthe game. They received loud applause from the 17,129 fans on hand, as did Elaine Anderson, the sister of another Raiders standout, the late wide receiver Cliff Branch; and Melanie Mills, the wife of the late Sam Mills, a superb linebacker for the Saints and Panthers. Art McNally, age 93 and the first official elected to the Hall, did not attend the game. He will have a pre-recorded speech presented on Saturday, and grandchildren Shannon and Connor O’Hara represented him Thursday. 

Before kickoff, Anderson lit a cauldron in honor of the late Raiders owner Al Davis, with the Branch family around her wearing his No. 21 jersey.  

The game, televised by NBC and broadcast on Westwood One Radio, always is an opportunity for unproven players to shine. It also provides an extra preseason contest in which coaches can evaluate their roster, which should be particularly beneficial to the rebuilding Jaguars and the contending Raiders. 

“I am really happy we have four opportunities to do this,” McDaniels said about playing an extra preseason game, noting with a smile that some other teams might not be so happy. 

One thing new Jaguars Coach Doug Pederson saw Thursday night was top overall draft choice Travon Walker playing the edge early on. Walker got a sack on Las Vegas’ second drive. 

“I thought he did some really good things, very disruptive, showed length, athleticism and power. He’s going to be fun to watch all season,” Pederson said.  

Arden Key followed that sack with another on the next play. Carlson wasn’t bothered, showing midseason form with a 55-yard field goal to make it 6-0.  

His counterpart, Ryan Santoso, tried a 60-yarder late in the first quarter but came up short. 

The Raiders didn’t on their next possession, with Ameer Abdullah sweeping right for an 8-yard touchdown. When Stidham ran in for a 12-yard TD, it was 20-0 at halftime. 

Jacksonville, which had the NFL’s worst record in 2021, didn’t fare much better in the second half. Pederson sat many starters, including quarterback Trevor Lawrence. Plagued by penalties, turnovers, dropped balls and general sloppiness, the Jags got little production on either side of the ball – with the exception of five sacks of Raiders QBs and, finally, a 46-yard field goal late in the third period by Elliott Fry. 

The Jaguars even had an 88-yard punt return touchdown by Willie Johnson negated by a holding penalty. 

Pederson was encouraged by the enthusiasm his young team displayed despite the loss. 

“We want a place where everybody enjoys coming to work and enjoys the environment,” said the man who led the Eagles to the 2017 NFL title. “These guys have bought in … are eager and want to win. The energy and effort was great and something we can build on.” 

Austin Walter’s 8-yard run stretched the lead to 27-3 midway through the final quarter. 

Jacksonville did find the end zone with 3:26 remaining in the game. Nathan Cottrell caught a 5-yard TD pass from fourth-string quarterback Kyle Sloter, then Cottrell ran in for the 2-point conversion. 

For McDaniels, the Hall of Fame Game was a chance to return to his roots. McDaniels played at McKinley High School, located near Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium. His father, Thom, is a member of the Ohio high school coaches Hall of Fame. 

“It was a unique opportunity,” he said. “I am very grateful I had it. It’s the first time in 22 years to be in the Hall of Fame Game, with him here and my family here, a special night for them that I really savored.” 

McDaniels, who left New England to become the Las Vegas coach, taking over a 2021 playoff team, should have only good memories from this trip back home.