By Dave Thomas
For the 9-2 Oakland Raiders, wins come in all shapes and sizes — especially in the form of fourth-quarter comebacks.READ MORE: Smash-And-Grab Thieves Hit San Jose Eastridge Mall Jewelry Store; 5 Sought
On Sunday afternoon in the Bay Area, the Raiders outlasted the defending NFC Champion Carolina Panthers 35-32, but it wasn’t without drama. Oakland’s management and fans held their breath when starting QB Derek Carr had to leave the game with a finger injury (pinky). According to the Raiders, Carr was not seriously injured, though he did miss a series. Additionally, after leading 24-7 at one point, the Raiders had to rally after falling behind 32-24, eventually scoring the game’s final 11 points to secure the win.
Needing to score 35 points to secure the victory, the Raiders got 315 yards passing and a pair of touchdowns from Carr, one of the candidates for this season’s MVP award. Clive Walford and Seth Roberts (both not exactly household names outside of Oakland) caught touchdown passes from Carr. Wide receiver Michael Crabtree had a solid day, catching eight balls for 110 yards. On the ground, Oakland came into the game with worries over leading running back Latavius Murray. Murray was battling an ankle injury during the week, but he did play Sunday, finishing with 45 yards on 19 carries with one TD.
Giving up 32 points to a team entering the game with only four wins is not exactly something to hang your hat on. That said, the Raiders did come away with the victory when all was said and done. Malcolm Smith led the way with six total tackles, while Reggie Nelson, Khalil Mack (one sack, one INT) and Cory James added five each, respectively. What should concern Oakland fans is the defense letting a team back in the game, especially a Carolina team that is a shell of what it was a season ago when it marched all the way to the Super Bowl.READ MORE: Investigation Finds Vallejo Officer's Use of Deadly Force Not 'Reasonable'
The Panthers, who were able to tally 25 straight points after falling behind 24-7, showed that the Raiders do have some concerns, notably on the defensive side of the ball. Carolina did amass 358 total yards of offense on the day, including 246 through the air from Cam Newton. Over the final five games of the regular season, Oakland will need to fine-tune its defense if they hope for a long playoff run.
Special Teams: B
Once again, Sebastian Janikowski provided the winning points for Oakland, something he has done a number of times over his long career. The veteran kicker tallied a pair of field goals and three extra points on the day. Meanwhile, punter Marquette King punted five times for a 51.4 point average.
Oakland Head Coach Jack Del Rio continues to push the right buttons, albeit sometimes nerve-wracking for the Raiders’ fans. Del Rio must continue to stress to his squad that blowing leads will catch the team at some point, hopefully not down the stretch.
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The Raiders will host Buffalo next Sunday. As Buffalo has show this season, the Bills are no pushovers. Buffalo will come into the Oakland game with a record of 6-5, having scored 28-21 in a home win over Jacksonville in week 12.