You can call it a Sunday stunner. A Raider rally. A colossal comeback. No matter how you say it, the Oakland Raiders finally won their first game of the season, and they did it in dramatic fashion. Sebastian Janikowski nailed a 43-yard field goal on the final play to beat the Pittsburgh Steelers 34-31.
The Raiders trailed most of the second half before the offense just exploded. The silver and black scored the final 13 points of the game, and the defense stepped up as the game came down to the wire. While it was a big team win, allowing the Steelers to score 31 points shows there is room for improvement. But for now, let’s focus on what they did right.
The first key to this big victory was Darren McFadden. He ran for 113 yards, including a 64-yard touchdown on his first carry of the game. That’s more rushing yards than his first two games combined. It’s also McFadden’s tenth career 100-yard rushing game. As I said in my last post, McFadden is the best player on this team and if he’s successful, the offense will be successful.
In that same post I wrote about how the Raiders need to limit the penalties. Now you may not believe this, but the Raiders had just three penalties for 25 yards in the entire game. Let me repeat that, three penalties in one game. And get this, all three came in the second half. The Raiders were able to play the entire first half penalty free. That is a huge feat for a team that broke two NFL records for penalties last year. Let’s just hope the Raiders can continue this more controlled approach.
And finally, there’s Carson Palmer. Many had been wondering if the Raiders should give up on him. I don’t think they should, and he proved me right. Palmer’s numbers were good against the Steelers. He went 24 for 34 for 209 yards and three touchdowns. He had plenty of throwing options, hitting nine different receivers. But what was most impressive was the way he controlled the offense in the second half. Palmer led the Raiders to scores during their final five possessions, including Janikowski’s game-winning kick. He needs to keep making smarter throwing decisions if he wants to prove he’s still got what it takes to win.
There was one scary moment during the fourth quarter when a collision in the end zone knocked wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey out of the game. He was taken to the hospital where he was kept for observation. The Raiders play the Denver Broncos next week at Mile High Stadium. It’s unclear if Heyward-Bey will be available.