OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — A big blown lead, a short week against a rested opponent and a banged-up pinkie for their quarterback.
Right now it seems as if nothing can derail the Oakland Raiders.
Derek Carr came back from his injury to lead another fourth-quarter comeback and the Raiders won their fifth straight game, beating the Carolina Panthers 35-32 on Sunday.
“The mood was we’ve been here before,” Carr said. “You don’t like having been here before. But there was no doubt in my mind we could move the ball and win and score. There’s never a doubt.”
Carr threw for 315 yards and two touchdowns despite missing a series after the injury, leading the Raiders (9-2) back from an eight-point deficit in the fourth quarter to clinch their first winning season since 2002.
After leading a game-tying drive earlier in the fourth quarter, Carr hit Michael Crabtree on a 49-yard pass on third-and-9 from the 14 to help set up Sebastian Janikowski’s 23-yard field goal with 1:45 left that gave Oakland the lead.
Cam Newton led the Panthers (4-7) into Oakland territory on the final drive but Greg Olsen dropped a pass on third down that would have put Carolina in field goal range.
“I just couldn’t quite get both my hands up there high enough, and it kind of went off the end of my finger,” Olsen said. “I’d like to have that one back obviously, that’s usually a play that I make.”
Khalil Mack stripped Newton on a fourth-down sack to seal the win.
“You want to end the game at that point,” Mack said. “We needed a stop, we needed a stop. That was me.”
The Panthers scored the first 25 points in the second half after Carr left the game when he hurt his right pinkie while fumbling a snap on the second play from scrimmage in the third quarter.
Jonathan Stewart scored on short runs following Carr’s fumble and his interception to Thomas Davis when he returned. Newton hit two long touchdown passes, connecting on an 88-yarder to Ted Ginn Jr. and a 44-yarder to Kelvin Benjamin that made it 32-24 early in the fourth quarter.
But Carr did what he has done best by leading his team back despite needing a glove on his injured right hand and taking snaps solely out of the shotgun — including two snaps in victory formation.
Carr led a 75-yard drive capped by a 12-yard pass to Clive Walford for his NFL-best 12th tying or go-ahead touchdown pass in the fourth quarter. A 2-point conversion to Seth Roberts tied the game.
“DC is a competitor,” Crabtree said. “He’s going to compete in everything so I knew he was going to come back in and do what he had to do. I love that dude and I love my team.”
BANGED-UP LINE: The Panthers came into the game without two injured starting linemen in center Ryan Kalil and left tackle Michael Oher. Backup center Gino Gradkowski left with a knee injury in the second half and Mack took advantage of guard Trai Turner being forced to play right tackle on the game-sealing sack.
GOING FOR 2: After Denico Autry blocked the extra point following Carolina’s first TD in the third quarter, coach Ron Rivera went for 2 unsuccessfully after the next two touchdowns. Those missed points kept Oakland down only eight after Benjamin’s touchdown and the Raiders managed to tie it when they got the 2-point conversion after Walford’s score.
“In retrospect you could say we could keep going with it and keep trying to kick ’em, but we started chasing points, we had to try to make that up,” Rivera said.
MACK’S MOMENT: Mack made a big play late in the first half when he fought off a block and leaped to intercept a short pass from Newton. He ran it in 6 yards for his first career touchdown , celebrating with a leap into the Black Hole. He ended the game by extending his sack streak to a career-best six games.
CAM THE LOBBYIST: After complaining earlier in the season about a lack of roughing the passer calls going his way, Newton was the beneficiary of a questionable one against Stacy McGee late in the first quarter. That helped jump-start Carolina’s offense as Jonathan Stewart ran 47 yards on the next play and Newton finished the drive with a 3-yard run , handing the ball to a young fan wearing a Panthers jersey .
By JOSH DUBOW