The Raiders would come out with much better energy as they came away with a thrilling come-from-behind 37-33 victory over the Ravens.
Starting quarterback Derek Carr (hand) and safety Charles Woodson (shoulder) returned to the field after both suffering injuries last week. Carr and the Raiders offense would quickly be put to the test after the Ravens won the coin flip and decided to defer.
After two straight pass plays, Carr and the Raiders faced a 3rd and four where the second-year quarterback found tight end Mychal Rivera for the first down to extend the drive.
Just two plays later, Carr faced another third down when rookie wide receiver Amari Cooper broke free from cornerback Jimmy Smith for a 68-yard touchdown reception deep down the left sideline.
The Raiders defense would follow suit, getting off to a quick start of their own. Former Super Bowl MVP Joe Flacco found wide receiver Kamar Aiken out on the right side, but was stripped before middle linebacker Curtis Lofton recovered the ball to give the Raiders the ball back in scoring position. Unfortunately, the Raiders would be forced to settle for a field goal, giving them the 10-0 lead early in the game.
Flacco would establish a connection with veteran wide receiver Steve Smith, Sr. who torched the Raiders defense all game en route to 10 receptions for 150 yards. Smith’s longest reception came on the ensuing drive, when the Raiders got caught with linebacker Malcolm Smith in coverage who got beat by Smith, giving the Ravens the ball in the redzone.
But Ken Norton Jr.’s defense would not break, holding the Ravens to a field goal. But the Ravens weren’t done.
The Ravens clearly watched some tape on the Raiders’ game last week where they saw the Bengals tight end Tyler Eifert beat them for two touchdowns. The Ravens offense got their tight end Crockett Gilmore going early, including a first quarter touchdown that tied the game at 10-10.
The Raiders would build another 10 point lead in the third quarter when Carr led the offense down the field for his second touchdown of the game. Offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave set up the touchdown nicely with a great playcall, sending Carr out on a bootleg to the left where he kept the ball and ran for 29 yards. Instead of going for a stiffarm, Carr wisely ran out of bounds.
On the very next play, the young quarterback sold a great play action before throwing the ball back across the field to veteran wide receiver Michael Crabtree who scored the 29-yard touchdown. Crabtree finished with nine receptions for 111 yards and one touchdown.
Punter Marquette King chose the best time to boom a career-long punt. After another Ravens field goal that brought them to within a touchdown, King booted a 70-yard kick that downed Flacco and the offense at the seven-yard line.
The kick wasn’t enough though as the Raiders defense continued to struggle. Flacco and company marched 93 yards down the field on 12 yards for the game-tying touchdown with just 7:03 to play in the game.
On the ensuing drive, Carr would face a 3rd and 3 and dial up another play-action throw but this time his ball hung up and was intercepted and returned 25 yards, giving the Ravens a great opportunity to steal the game.
The Raiders defense would once again hold the Ravens to a field goal, after Flacco missed a wide open Smith in the corner of the end zone. This would be a key play, especially since it kept the clock stopped.
Now down 33-30, it was Carr’s turn to see if he could lead his team to a comeback with just 2:10 remaining.
The former Fresno State star showed great poise on the final drive, making the correct throws and not trying to bite off too much. He continuously took what the defense gave him by dumping it off to his receivers underneath and running the hurry-up offense.
The Raiders offense would benefit from a 15-yard roughing the passer penalty, putting the ball close enough for a Janikowski field goal that would tie the game. But Musgrave didn’t take his foot off the pedal, dialing up some pass plays looking to give the Raiders the win.
It looked as if the Raiders hopes would die when Carr’s pass to Rivera was picked off, but the defender was called for holding to give them the ball on the 12-yard line with a first down. On the very next play, rookie wide receiver Seth Roberts would get open on a slant route and Carr would find him for the go-ahead touchdown, putting them up 37-33 with just :26 seconds left.
Flacco would lead one more desperation hope, but cornerback Neiko Thorpe would come away with a diving interception to secure the Raiders first victory of 2015.