The Oakland Raiders returned home after their thrilling win over the Houston Texans on Monday Night Football in Mexico City, this time hosting the reigning NFC Champion Carolina Panthers.
Operating on a short week of practice, the Raiders looked crisp in all facets of the game to start.
After forcing a couple of punts by the Carolina Panthers, it was the Raiders that got on the scoreboard first with a five-play, 62-yard drive. Offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave designed a beautiful screen play to running back Latavius Murray that went 38 yards. A couple of plays later, Carr found wide receiver Seth Roberts in the back of the end zone for the touchdown to give the Raiders the early lead.
But Cam Newton and the Panthers weren't going to go down easily. Raiders defensive tackle Stacy McGee hit Newton hard but was called for roughing the passer to give the Panthers added life. On the very next play, running back Jonathan Stewart scampered 47 yards into the Raiders red zone. Facing a first and goal, Newton walked it in on a quarterback sweep to tie the game.
Despite the run game sputtering, the Raiders offense continued to find room for yards against the once-stout Panther defense. Musgrave used a couple of unlikely threats to get the offense going on the next drive with Carr hitting running back Taiwan Jones for a gain of 15, followed up by a nice seam route to wide receiver Johnny Holton for 30 yards to give the Raiders first and goal from the Panthers 6. The very next play Murray would punch it in, giving him his ninth touchdown on the season and the Raiders a 14-7 lead.
Following a three and out featuring linebacker Bruce Irvin's fourth sack of the season, the Raiders capitalized on good field position by adding a field goal to their lead.
With the Panthers seemingly looking to run the clock out to head into the locker room down 17-7 at half, Raiders defensive end Khalil Mack made an incredibly athletic play when he intercepted an attempted screen pass for a pick-six from six yards out that gave the Raiders the 24-to-7 lead heading into the half.
But everything would change in the third quarter when Carr jammed his finger on a second down snap, fumbling the ball and giving the Panthers short field position. Not only did the Panthers capitalize by scoring a quick touchdown, but Carr would run into the locker room with a hurt finger on his throwing hand.
Carr would miss the next series before returning to the field with a glove on his throwing hand. Backup quarterback Matt McGloin went 0-for-1 on his one series before Carr came back out of the locker room donning a glove on his right hand.
But the Panthers had already taken advantage by gaining all of their momentum, scoring 25-straight points to take a 32-to-24 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
Carr entered the game with nine career fourth-quarter comeback or game-winning drives, and was ready to make it 10. Carr seemingly got more comfortable with his glove as he drove the team down the field 75 yards on 10 plays. Facing a 3rd and long, Carr threw a dime to his tight end Clive Walford for a first down in the Panthers red zone. He connected with him again on the very next play when Walford leaped up high for the big touchdown. Needing a two-point conversion to tie the game, Carr found Roberts to convert.
The Raiders defense fed off the success of the Raiders, forcing the Panthers to punt on the ensuing drive.
With five minutes on the clock, Carr and the offense had one more chance to score and win the game. Facing a 3rd and 9 deep in their own territory, the Raiders third-year quarterback looked for his veteran wide receiver Michael Crabtree as he has done many times this season already. Crabtree found himself being defended by a linebacker and made a nice adjustment to haul in the 49-yard reception to extend the drive.
Carr would use a couple of more plays to get the offense on to the Panthers six-yard line with a first down. Unfortunately, the Raiders were unable to punch the ball in for a first down and instead had to settle for a 23-yard field goal to take the 35-to-32 lead. But due to calling passing plays, Newton and the Panthers still had 1:45 left to drive down the field with one timeout.
Newton wasted no time starting his drive, finding his tight end Olsen for 20 yards on the first play. He then found Ginn for another first down, but then the Raiders defense clamped down by bringing the heat on Newton. After three straight incompletions, it was Pro Bowler Khalil Mack who took over by getting by three offensive lineman to strip-sack Newton, and recover the fumble on fourth down to secure the Raiders win.
The Raiders then took a knee, out of the shotgun formation, to move to 9-2 on the season and stay tied atop the AFC.
The Raiders will remain at home next week as they host the Buffalo Bills.