The first Monday night of the 2021 NFL season brought the drama.
In a back-and-forth duel between the Baltimore Ravens and the Las Vegas Raiders, the season premiere of Monday Night Football was one to remember. Daniel Carlson's clutch 55-yard field goal sent the game into overtime, and Derek Carr's 31-yard touchdown pass to Zay Jones ended it to give the Raiders a wild 33-27 victory at Allegiant Stadium.
From Drake curating music for the game (and games to come) to the Raiders welcoming fans in their new $2 billion stadium for the first time to Eli and Peyton Manning debuting their own telecast, there was a lot to take in during the first MNF game. Let's review what you might have missed.
Nassib makes NFL history
When Raiders defensive end Carl Nassib took the field Monday night, he became the first openly gay player in NFL history on an active roster. In June, Nassib posted an Instagram video, stating that he hopes one day such personal news won’t require an announcement.
“I just want to take a quick moment to say that I’m gay,” Nassib said in the video. “I’m a pretty private person, so I hope you guys know I’m not doing this for attention.”
Against the Ravens, Nassib helped secure the victory for the Raiders. His timely sack of quarterback Lamar Jackson forced a fumble that Las Vegas recovered with 4:39 remaining in overtime. Two players later, Carr threw the winning touchdown to a wide-open Jones.
Fans' first game at Allegiant Stadium
The Raiders welcomed a home crowd for the first time at Allegiant Stadium. As one of the biggest sporting events in Las Vegas history, it was everything that Vegas is — extravagant, loud and memorable.
The game was even kicked off by UFC announcer Bruce Buffer and his iconic “It’s time!” introduction.
Not only did Buffer get the crowd pumped up for the game, but he also was accompanied by DJ Steve Aoki, who recently broke over 500 million global streams for his remix of "Pursuit of Happiness" by Kid Cudi.
The long-awaited party (or Raiders home game) had packed stands not too far from the Las Vegas Strip with COVID-19 restrictions. The stadium requires all home-game attendees who are 12 years old or older to provide proof of vaccination in order to enter. Those who provide proof are not required to wear face masks while inside the stadium.
There was another first on Monday night: Lamar Jackson playing against his cousin, Raiders cornerback Trayvon Mullen Jr., in the NFL. The South Florida natives grew up playing with and against one another since they began playing football.
The last time the two faced each other was in college in 2017, when Mullen and the defending champion Clemson Tigers defeated the 2016 Heisman winner’s Louisville Cardinals 47-21.
"We've played against each other since we were five years old," Mullen said about his cousin in 2019. “He was always a freakish athlete, always made a lot of big plays. Everything he's doing now, he's done all of his life."
Mannings behind the mic
ESPN is calling the debut of Eli Manning and Peyton Manning’s MNF show a success. The brothers' broadcast features the two watching and reacting to the game, accompanied by a few antics that made it quite entertaining.
A twist that some may not have known about prior to the show’s debut was the various guest appearances.
- Retired NBA star Charles Barkley joined wearing a Nassib jersey and joked about his poor eating habits.
- Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce provided a few entertaining moments, including his admission that he didn’t realize his squad would be taking on the Ravens this Sunday.
- Former Ravens great Ray Lewis shared a few experiences he had during his time as a Hall of Fame player and how much film he started watching after learning how much film the top NFL quarterbacks watched at that time.
The last to catch up with the Manning brothers was Super Bowl XLVIII champion Russell Wilson. The Seattle Seahawks quarterback probably had the most intriguing guest slot, as he entered the chat in the fourth quarter and in overtime when the Ravens-Raiders rollercoaster had just begun.
Next week, Monday Night Football may not include as many “firsts,” but it figures to bring more intrigue as the Green Bay Packers look to bounce back against the Detroit Lions from a shocking 38-3 loss to Jameis Winston and the New Orleans Saints.