Greetings, Raider Nation! The Great Raiderdamus is here for you, after my blood pressure has returned to levels normally reserved for humans rather than mice. This was an exciting game full of twists and turns, and is a perfect microcosm of the last decade of Raider football. We were good, then we weren't, and now we are. But who are the big winners and laughable losers for today?
1) Derek Carr
Carr was cruising early in this game. Nobody was touching him, and he was a surgeon out there dissecting the Panthers defense with a scalpel. And then the second half happened.
On the second snap of the half, Derek Carr took a snap from Rodney Hudson which jammed his finger so badly that it dislocated. There was weeping and gnashing of teeth. I personally donned sackcloth and covered myself in ashes. I lit a candle to the Raiders' 2016 season. You did too. Don't lie. Carr lost the fumble on that play, giving the Panthers a short field which they promptly used to score a touchdown. Matt McGloin came into the game, but against a fierce Panthers pass rush he didn't fare well.
But what's this? Bah gawd King, that's Derek Carr's music! Derek Carr came out with a black glove on his hand. He promptly threw an interception. But Carrmania began to run wild and Carr would not allow this team to lose.
Derek Carr threw a touchdown pass in the back of the end zone. The 24 inch pythons were dominating the Panthers. He threw a two-point conversion to Seth Roberts. He threw a long bomb to Michael Crabtree to set up the game-winning field goal by Sebastian Janikowski. His comeback complete, he dropped the Atomic Legdrop on the hapless Panthers.
2) Khalil Mack
This was yet another example of the brilliance of Khalil Mack. He used a variety of pass-rushing moves against the Panthers' offensive line today from all different positions on the line. He was in Cam Newton's grill all day long. He baited Newton into throwing a bad screen pass near the end of the first half which he intercepted and returned for a touchdown. He caused a strip-sack on the last Panthers play of the game. He was a damn hero today. Whatever contract he gets next, double its value and that's what Mack is worth.
3) Cam Newton
Sure, he lost the game in the end, but a lesser quarterback wouldn't have even been in a position to win. The Raiders gave him short fields in the third quarter, but it was on Cam to take advantage of that and he did it. He also threw two great deep touchdown passes to Ted Ginn Jr. and Kelvin Benjamin. He probably should have gone to Greg Olson more often, but Cam made plays when they were available to him. He showed a lot of toughness and heart today in the loss. He came back from an abysmal first half to have a good overall game line.
4) Jonathan Stewart
J-Stew looked like he was 25 years old again, running with power, speed and determination. He had a massive rush in the first quarter and he finished with 96 yards and two touchdowns. He was a huge part of the Panthers' success today, when the team has had a tough time rushing the football this year. Great game for the former Oregon Duck.
1) Raiders secondary
The loss of David Amerson really affected the Raiders' pass defense today. The unit played well for the most part, but people are really going to remember the blown coverage on Ted Ginn and the inability of Sean Smith to knock away the touchdown pass to Kelvin Benjamin, as well as Smith dropping an easy interception in the first quarter. Hopefully Amerson can come back against Buffalo, who will likely have Sammy Watkins for that game.
2) Panthers offensive line
This is a MASH unit at this point, but there's no excuse for the performance they had today even against Oakland's elite edge rushers. Cam almost never had a clean pocket to work with and ran for his life all day. They really need to upgrade this group.
3) Graham Gano
Gano had an extra point blocked in this game which caused the Panthers to attempt a couple two-point conversions, neither of which they converted. His short range also forced the Panthers to go for it on fourth down with under a minute remaining, and the Mack sack/fumble on Newton sealed the game.
4) The Patriots
Sure, they beat the Jets, but they're still #2 and we're still #1 in the AFC. They had a whale of a time with the Jets today. The Jets! Who don't have a real quarterback! They had better hope they don't meet the Raiders anywhere except Gillette Stadium in the snow, or they're going to have a bad time.