OAKLAND – It has been a long time since the crowd at Oakland Alameda-County Coliseum has erupted in anticipation of a close victory. But after this Sunday’s game, the Oakland Raiders have nine victories and just two losses in a hard fought victory against the visiting Carolina Panthers.
With a 32-32 tie late in the fourth quarter, the Raiders survived two turnovers – in the third quarter – one fumble and one interception, both by Raider quarterback Derek Carr.
The 25 unanswered points scored by the Panthers was also a problem, but Oakland eked out a final field goal by Sebastian Janikowski with just under two minutes to go ahead sealed the Raiders 35-32 victory.
“I thought we had that (confidence) late,” said Raiders coach Jack Del Rio. “I thought there was a stretch there where things were kind of unraveling a little bit….I thought we snapped out of that and got our energy back and continued to fight and then found a way.”
Derek Carr, who left the game in the third quarter due a dislocated finger, completed 26-of-38 passes for 315 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception and receiver Michael Crabtree caught eight passes for 110 yards for the Raiders.
Defensive end Khalil Mack was ultimate star for the Raiders, and did he, as Del Rio said, find a way. Mack had six tackles and one interception returned six yards for a TD. He also sacked Panthers quarterback Cam Newton on 4th-and-10 late in the fourth quarter, forced a fumble and recovered the football to ensure Oakland’s win.
Newton completed 14-of-passes for 246 yards, two TDs and one interception for Carolina (4-7). In the first half Newton scored on a 3-yard touchdown run but completed three passes out of 12 attempts for 18 yards in the first half.
“The first half wasn’t great, we battled back, took the lead—we just have to do better as a whole,” Newton said “Oakland is a great team. Hostile environment. You just have to find a way to win close games.”
Jonathon Stewart ran for 96 yards and two TDS for the Panthers while Ted Ginn Jr. caught 10 passes for 115 yards, one catch for an 88-yard score in the second half.
Newton hooked up with receivers Ted Ginn, Jr., Kelvin Benjamin and Greg Olsen ten times for a total of 213 passing yards in the second half. The aerial attack worked to put fear in the minds of the Raiders players.
Carr’s interception to Panther linebacker to Thomas Davis, returned for a 31-yard score, made it where it was nothing but the sound of crickets in one of the NFL’s oldest coliseums.
The Raiders had a scare when Carr ran to the locker room to get a quick medical evaluation on his right throwing hand. It turned out to be a dislocated finger that occurred during a snap early in the third quarter. Carr actually let the snap turn into a fumble.
“He jammed it on the snap,” Del Rio said of Carr’s injury.
Matt McGloin played one series while Carr was in the locker room getting x-rays. Carr returned a few plays later he had a glove on and threw for enough yards to get them down the field close enough to kick the game-winning field goal.
“Something happened with the snap,” Carr said, “I’ll have to see a replay of it. Something was different than normal. Probably some of the most pain I’ve ever felt in my life.”
The biggest difference is the Oakland Raiders are leaders of the AFC West with a 9-2 record. It’s been 14 years since the Raiders had a winning record that will stand.
“I really feel like that’s more for the fans,” Carr said. “Obviously, we can’t celebrate anything yet. But I’m happy for my fans. I know the heartache that they’ve had. Trust me, I’ve been part of that heartache.”
The Carolina Panthers fall to the cellar of the NFC South at 4-7 and next play the Seattle Seahawks in Washington.
The Oakland Raiders host the play the Buffalo Bills in Oakland, Sunday, Dec. 4 at 1:30 Pacific Standard Time. The Raiders must keep forging ahead because the Kansa City Chiefs (8-3) beat the Denver Broncos (7-4) 30-27 in overtime in Denver.
OBSERVER Story by Simeon Gant