Hard to believe sometimes that Derek Carr is in just his third season with the Raiders. He is the leader of this team and the straw that stirs the drink. So when his finger was bent in a way it was not supposed to bend and he left the field, all the color left the faces of the fans who were watching him well on his way to leading this team to a 9-2 record and on a playoff run.
For all the worry the fans and his teammates had when their captain headed to the locker room, it was only matched by the elation when he trotted back out onto the field and began warming up on the sideline.
Del Rio obviously didn’t know what was to come of Carr and his injured pinky finger. But he knew the moment his quarterback came back out.
“When the crowd started to roar,” Del Rio said. “It was a roar too, so I knew it was good. It’s only No. 4. It’s either [Charles] Woodson and he’s in the booth now or it’s Derek Carr [laughing]. Maybe Khalil Mack, but I saw Khalil.”
Having his quarterback, and the glue that holds this high-powered offense together, return to the game was a considerable relief for Del Rio and Carr’s Raider teammates.
“Oh, for sure. For sure there was,” Jack Del Rio said of the sense of relief on the sideline. “Obviously, he’s our leader, one of them, and he’s a heck of a football player. For him to come back, it certainly gave us a lift and then he played well and made plays to help us come back and win.”
His return to the field is compared to the iconic moment when New York Knicks center Willis Reed limped out of the locker room to lift his team to a dramatic win over the Lakers in game seven of the 1970 NBA Finals.
“You know what’s hilarious, my coach said Willis Reid to me on the sideline- just to make me laugh and get me in the mood,” said Carr. “I looked at him and was like ‘who?’ What’s crazy is that I know who Willis Reid is, I mean, he came in and dropped like 40. Who knows. I was like can you tell me that story? Then I realized and said never mind I got it…”
It wasn’t all smooth. The fumble on the injury led to a Panthers touchdown, and Carr later threw an interception that led to another touchdown as part of a 25-0 run by the Panthers. But he pulled it together and brought the Raiders back in the fourth quarter as he has now done five times this season to pull out the 35-32 win.
In so doing, he set a few marks.
His first pass of the fourth quarter went for nine yards to Michael Crabtree and put him over 3,000 passing yards for the season. He is the first quarterback in franchise history to begin his career with three consecutive 3,000-yard seasons.
That pass started a crucial 10-play, 75-yard drive lasting 4:49 and concluded with Carr connecting with Clive Walford on a 12-yard touchdown. Still down by two, Carr completed the 2-point conversion in traffic to Seth Roberts to tie the game at 32.
Carr finished with 315 yards for his fourth 300-plus-yard performance of the season and 11th of his career; tying him for second most in franchise history with Daryle Lamonica.
- The Raiders are now 9-2 for the first time since the 2000 season when the team recorded a 12-4 record and advanced to the AFC Championship game.
- They’ve won their fifth game in a row which is the franchise's longest winning streak since 2002.
- Entering today’s game, the Raiders’ defense ranked first in the NFL since Week 14 of 2015 in third-down percentage (34.2) and they held the Panthers to 3-of-10 (30%) on third down.
- The Panthers two sacks keep the Raiders with the fewest sacks given up (13) on the season.
- On third-and-9 from Oakland’s 14-yard line, WR Michael Crabtree hauled in a 49-yard pass to put the Raiders at the Carolina 37-yard line. Crabtree had recorded two receptions for 64 yards during the Raiders’ game-winning drive, more than half of his total for the entire game giving him eight receptions for 110 yards (13.8 avg.). It marks the third time this season he has gone over 100 yards this season.
- Latavius Murray scored his ninth touchdown of the season is the most by a running back since Lamont Jordan’s nine in 2005, and is tied for fourth in the NFL this season.
- With 4:54 left in the first quarter, WR Seth Roberts hauled in a 2-yard touchdown pass from QB Derek Carr to give the Raiders a 7-0 lead over the Panthers making him the fourth undrafted Raider with at least 10 career touchdown receptions.
- Roberts tied the game at 32 midway through the fourth quarter when he caught a ball in traffic to complete the Raiders’ fifth two-point conversion of the season.
- The Raiders have moved to 9-0 when Roberts scores a touchdown reception in a game, and 5-0 in 2016.
- Khalil Mack recorded an interception, sack, forced fumble, fumble recovery and touchdown in today’s game, the first player in the NFL to accomplish such a feat since Charles Woodson in 2009. Mack also added six tackles on the day.
- With the team up 17-7 late in the second quarter, DE Khalil Mack recorded his first career interception and first career touchdown, a 6-yard score that gave the Raiders a 24-7 lead heading into intermission.
- On the Panthers’ final offensive play of the game, Mack recorded a sack for the sixth consecutive game this season, forcing and recovering a fumble and sealing the game for the Raiders.
- No player in the NFL has more than Mack’s seven sacks since Week 7.
- Denico Autry blocked the PAT following the Panthers second touchdown of the game. The blocked kick marks the Raiders’ first of the season and the fourth of Autry’s career. And it had the Panthers chasing points on three touchdowns, missing both two-point conversion attempts, and saving at least three points which allowed the Raiders to tie it at 32-32 early in the fourth quarter.
- Marquette King entered Week 12 with an NFL-leading 23 punts of 50-yards-or-more. He added punts of 56 yard and 51 yard to his stat sheet in the third quarter.