GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The Arizona Cardinals took a fourth-quarter lead with roughly five minutes left Sunday. Then they couldn’t do anything else offensively.
That gave the Raiders three cracks at a comeback. The first two attempts went nowhere, as a bad, ailing offense continued to sputter in crunch time.
No matter. The offense took the field considering the third time a charm.
Quarterback Derek Carr tried to ease tension before that must-win series, telling center Rodney Hudson to “protect it up. We’re just going to go play catch outside.”
The Raiders played pitch and catch well into field-goal range. where Daniel Carlson secured a 23-21 victory at State Farm Stadium with a 35-yard kick at the gun.
That's what they expected before the final drive started. Despite failing to consistently perform under pressure, the Raiders believed they would get the job done.
“We believed the outcome was never in doubt,” Carr said after his 15th career fourth-quarter comeback. “There have been times where we believed but didn’t win. … Everyone had that look in their eye, though it was a little different because, ‘Hey, this is probably our last chance.’ ”
Carr made it worthwhile.
He completed two short passes to get a first down, then spiked the ball to stop the clock. Carr saw Marcell Ateman break free down the left sideline on the next snap and, with no regard for the receiver's rookie status, sent the ball deep.
Ateman came up with a huge 32-yard catch that worked the Raiders into Cardinals territory -- in his NFL debut, no less.
“He made one heck of a catch, keeping his feet in,” Carr said. “For him to do that in his first start, his first game, with everything going against him. … He did his job, got to his landmark when I wanted him to be there, and it was all him. He made an excellent play, and got a game ball for it. It was awesome.”
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An incompletion and a sack left Carr just 25 seconds to work with. He then correctly identified the defensive back covering Seth Roberts ready to blitz, and quickly got the ball out to his veteran receiver. Ateman and fellow rookie Saeed Blacknall blocked their cover guys well, allowing Roberts to zip 20 yards upfield.
Roberts didn’t get out of bounds, and the Raiders had zero timeouts, meaning Carr had to quickly spike the ball to set up Carlson’s field goal with two seconds left.
The rookie kicker nailed it, giving his team a much-needed win after five consecutive losses.
“It’s been a long time coming,” Carlson told reporters. “We kept chipping away, knowing eventually the rock was going to crack. It felt really good, really sweet to help make it happen.”