By Ryan Leong
At long last, the Raiders are in the win column. Despite another ominous start to the game, this time the Raiders stayed with the game plan, executed when they had to, and as a result, they beat the mighty Steelers 34-31.
Sebastian Janikowski kicked the game winning 43-yard field goal as time expired to give rookie head coach Dennis Allen his first career victory in the NFL.
“It’s a great feeling but I tell you what, I’m so proud of those guys in that locker room the way that they fought for 60 minutes,” Allen said. “We knew it was going to be a 60-minute fight against a very good football team that we played out there and they fought all the way to the very end and we were fortunate to come out on top.”
But it was a bittersweet victory because of the injury to wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey.
Early in the fourth quarter, Heyward-Bey tried to catch a pass from Carson Palmer over the middle in the end zone for a touchdown. Instead, he was crunched between two Steelers defenders and on the wrong end of a helmet to helmet hit with Pittsburgh safety Ryan Mundy.
Heyward-Bey lay motionless for over 10 minutes while nearly a dozen EMT’s gingerly moved him onto a stretcher where he was mobilized before being driven away in a cart. As the cart began moving from the south end zone off the field, Heyward-Bey raised his right arm and gave the thumbs up sign, which was a positive sign.
After the game, reporters were all concerned about DHB and asked for reaction from the coaches and players.
“I knew it was going to be a collision play,” Quarterback Carson Palmer said. “It’s a tough play that we’d worked on a lot. Our hearts and prayers are out to him and I know it’s tough with his Mom back in home in (Washington) D.C. watching that. That’s a tough position to be in but the word out of the hospital, he’s doing well, he’s moving so we’re going to keep praying for him.”
The Raiders lost the coin toss but the Steelers elected to defer to the second half. On the first play from scrimmage, Palmer through a pass over the middle intended for receiver Denarius Moore. But seeing how it’s still baseball season, the infield dirt is occupies a good protion of the field. Moore slipped and the ball ended up being intercepted by Pittsburgh safety Ryan Clark. This turnover would result in a Steelers touchdown on a 4-yard pass to tight end Heath Miller.
But the Raiders answered back as Darren McFadden ran for 64 yards for a score. Through two games, DMac had a combined 54 yards rushing. This week, he had 18 carries for 113 yards — that’s more like it for the explosive running back.
Nine different receivers caught the ball which is testament to everyone is getting involved in the offense. As the old saying goes, often times in football a good running game will also allow for the quarterback to throw the ball, and the Raiders were successful in both aspects. Grade: A
Given that the opponent was the mighty Pittsburgh Steelers and their Pro Bowl roster of stars led by their quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, it seems almost a lock that they’d amass more than 400 yards of total offense (433 to be exact). Even though they had the ball for 36:15 compared to 23:45, the Raiders stayed toe-to-toe with the Steelers like a heavyweight boxing match. The bottom line, Oakland outscored Pittsburgh 13-0 in the second half for their first win of 2012. Grade: B
The Raiders, as is usually the case, got a rock solid performance from kicker Sebastian Janikowski and punter Shane Lechler. “Seabass” made both his field goal attempts, none bigger than the game winner from 43 yards as time expired. Mike Goodson and Marcel Reece each had a kick return. Oakland did not fumble the ball and the team only had three penalties for 25 yards. Conversely, the Steelers had 10 penalties for 81 yards — ironically very Raider-like. Grade: A+
Despite the interception on the first play of the Raiders’ opening drive, Palmer was efficient and accurate. In addition to nine receivers who caught passes from him, the Raiders were 7-of-12 on third down conversions.
Even though Palmer began the game with a QB rating of 2.0, he would finish with rating of 103.7. He was 24-of 34 passing for 209 yards and three touchdowns. Grade: A+
The 1-2 Raiders now prepare for a road game at Denver to face Payton Manning and the Broncos. Then, Oakland gets a bye before playing at Atlanta. Their next home game isn’t until Sunday, October 21 vs. the Jacksonville Jaguars.
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Ryan Leong has reported on over 2,800 games in the Bay Area since 1998, covering the Sharks, Giants, A’s, Warriors, 49ers, Raiders and the local college teams for radio networks and wire services. Having the best seat in the house to watch sports has been a thrill and Ryan still enjoys going to the games giving fans some insight and perspective on the players and coaches. His work can be found on Examiner.com.