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    ‘Guys Believe in Him’ – Raiders’ Aidan O’Connell Shares Strong Praise for Antonio Pierce

    Aidan O'Connell didn't throw a touchdown pass in his first home start. Instead, he's among the Raiders throwing praise at how Antonio Pierce is guiding them.

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    The era of Las Vegas Raiders football under Antonio Pierce is off to an unbeaten start.

    The Raiders’ 30-6 pounding of the New York Giants on Sunday happened to be one of two wins for “A.P.” While it was his first official win as an NFL head coach, his first victory was winning over the locker room. According to rookie quarterback Aidan O’Connell, Pierce accomplished what he set out to.

    Aidan O’Connell Shares Strong Praise for Antonio Pierce

    Speaking with Michael Smith of NBC Sports’ Pro Football Talk, the first-year passer couldn’t help but shower the interim head coach with praise for how he handled taking over the Raiders.

    “He did a great job,” O’Connell said of Pierce. “It was a hard situation, a short week, an unfortunate situation that he took full advantage of. He’s a guy with strong convictions, and you can feel his intensity when he talks.”

    While far removed from his days as a cerebral tackling machine at linebacker, Pierce still carries a fire inside of him.

    But it’s not just O’Connell who is embracing the new leader of Las Vegas football.

    “Guys believe in him, and we just, all around, offense, defense, special teams, did a really good job executing,” O’Connell said to Smith.

    MORE: Raiders Celebrate McDaniels’ Departure

    Pierce had to navigate the Raiders out of their midseason firing of Josh McDaniels following their 26-14 loss to the Detroit Lions. The Halloween removal of McDaniels marked the second time since 2021 that the Raiders endured an in-season coaching change. Jon Gruden stepped down two seasons ago over controversial 2018 emails with racial, homophobic, and misogynistic tones.

    With McDaniels, NFL sources told PFN’s Adam Caplan that players inside the building began to feel a disconnect with the head coach. One plugged-in team source even told Caplan that there was an “ominous” feeling at the start of the season, signifying the lack of trust between the players and McDaniels.

    How Much More Efficient Was the Las Vegas Raiders Offense?

    One of the approaches Pierce wanted to establish on offense was reinstalling a physical identity.

    Did they accomplish that against Pierce’s former team? Here are some notes from the 24-point win:

    • The Raiders ended up calling 34 runs out of their 59 offensive plays, solidifying their stance of wanting a more aggressive approach.
    • With that philosophy, the Raiders racked up 125 rushing yards, making it the first time this season the team surpassed 100 yards on the ground.
    • Every Las Vegas touchdown came inside the red zone, as they found touchdowns on three of their four trips inside the Giants’ 20-yard line.

    As for O’Connell, he didn’t need to be overwhelmed with the need to carry the Raiders. He ended up with 16 completions on 25 attempts for 209 yards and averaged 8.4 yards per attempt. While he didn’t throw any touchdown passes, he wasn’t intercepted either.

    But as Pierce said on Monday to the Vegas media, he wanted Las Vegas to reclaim some lost toughness ahead of the win.

    “Every team is a reflection of their head coach. If they’re mentally tough is what I pride myself on,” Pierce explained. “That was my way as a player. To have that mindset and not to blink or worry about anything. And I just wanted to start that process with these gentlemen.”

    Right away, Pierce said they bought into those principles.

    “They responded,” Pierce said. “And that’s when I knew we were going to have a good game.”

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