OAKLAND – The Raiders absolutely dominated Carolina on Sunday afternoon. For two quarters, anyway.
After that, Raiders unraveled. And then recovered. And somehow managed to beat the Carolina Panthers 35-32 at the Oakland Coliseum. As usual, the Raiders found a way to win. They’re now 9-2, tied with New England for the AFC’s best record.
An outcome that seemed certain early hung in the air late.
That tends to happen when an MVP candidate goes down. Quarterback Derek Carr suffered a finger injury early in the third quarter on a botched exchange with center Rodney Hudson. Carr appeared to dislocate the pinky finger on his throwing hand receiving the snap, and immediately rushed to the sideline after losing a fumble.
He went into the locker room for further examination but ended up missing just one series. He wore a glove on his throwing hand after that, but the offense wasn’t the same.
He threw an interception that helped Carolina surge. The Panthers controlled a crazy third quarter where they erased a huge halftime lead thanks to Carr’s injury, Raiders turnovers and a few big plays.
Panthers quarterback Cam Newtown converted two long touchdown strikes as part of a 25-point surge that put them ahead 32-24 early in the fourth quarter. Jonathan Stewart also scored two touchdowns in that third quarter stretch.
Playing so well in the first half – they finished two quarters up 24-7 – meant a comeback was needed quick. Derek Carr tied it with a touchdown pass to Clive Walford and a 2-point conversion to Seth Roberts.
The Raiders took a late lead with a 23-yard field goal from Sebastian Janikowski and the defense held it.
Khalil Mack ended a Panthers comeback attempt with a strip sack of Cam Newtown on fourth down, with less than a minute left. That was the first of two huge plays for Mack, who also had an interception returned for a touchdown.
The Raiders dominated at the outset. They opened the scoring with a touchdown pass from Carr to Roberts. They conceded a Newtown touchdown, but dominated from then on.
Latavius Murray cashed in from four yards out, Janikowski hit a 23-yard field goal and then Mack’s pick-six created a big lead erased in the third quarter.
Carr struggled immediately after returning to the field, but ended up with a decent stat line. He was 26-of-38 passing for 315 yards, two touchdowns and an interception
Harassing Cam: The Raiders defense made life difficult on Newton, who couldn’t do much during a first half dominated by the Raiders. He had just 18 yards passing and a 4.9 quarterback rating in the first two periods.
Newtown finished strong, and ended up with with 246 yards passing and two touchdowns after four quarters.
Sitting it out: The Raiders operated without a few defensive starters, yet still played well against Carolina. Cornerback David Amerson (knee) and middle linebacker Perry Riley (hamstring) sat tout this game with injury, as the Raiders prefer to make sure their players are totally healthy before bringing them back. It’s a luxury they can afford with their record as it stands.
What’s next: The Raiders complete a two-game home stand against the Buffalo Bills. It is the last string of consecutive home games this season, and they get a Buffalo team entering the week fresh off a victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars.