While I don’t agree with some of the people who were saying the best thing that happened to the Raiders was Hayden going out with a hamstring injury, there is a reason for that kind of frustration. I would absolutely never suggest his injury is a good thing. Hayden was starting in place of the injured David Amerson and right from the start, Cam Newton was looking for Hayden.
He stopped the first pass to his receiver for a short gain, but Newton would keep trying. The Panthers’ first touchdown would actually have come sooner had Hayden not stopped a big 47-yard Jonathan Stewart run at the13-yard-line. But a few plays later, among those who couldn’t stop Newton from scoring on a keeper from three yards out was Hayden who barely laid a finger on him as he whiffed on his tackle attempt.
In that third quarter, Hayden played his part. He was called for pass interference in the end zone to set the Panthers up in first and goal at the one and they scored the touchdown a few plays later. The next drive, he was called for holding on third and 5. A few plays later is when he came up limp on a pass play and left the game not to return. The Panthers finished off that drive with their final touchdown to take a 32-24 lead.
Hard to say how much Hayden was missed in the lineup considering he was out the rest of the game – nearly the entire fourth quarter – and the Panthers were unable to score again.
Watson continues to see his snaps go up as he is back to health and is the team’s primary jumbo package tackle eligible. Unfortunately, that has meant more opportunities to expose his flaws. In the second quarter, with the team in first and goal from the 6-yard-line, he gave up a run stuff for one yard on Murray and the Raiders would end up settling for a field goal. The next series, he gave up another run stuff on Murray and the Raiders went three-and-out. The next series he gave up a sack on Carr for a five-yard loss and the Raiders would again go three-and-out, giving the Panthers the ball with another chance to score before half.
He played 25 snaps in the game (34%).
Top Baller last week and back among the Busters this week. I would be remised if I didn’t mention he did have some good plays. He led the team with 7 combined tackles (4 solo), so it wasn’t all bad. There was plenty of bad, though. He started out by giving up an 8-yard catch on third and six on the Panthers’ second drive. Their third drive ended with a touchdown run by Cam Newton in which Smith should have been the best shot at making the stop, but he couldn’t get off his block.
Smith gave up a 7-yard run on the Panthers’ fourth touchdown drive. The next drive, Mack got pressure on Newton to flush him from the pocket, but Newton was able to find his receiver for a 12-yard gain in Smith’s coverage. A few plays later they scored their final touchdown.
It was the defense that came up with the stop in the end, but not until Smith gave up a 20-yard catch to Greg Olson on first down. The Panthers would drive to the Oakland 44-yard-line where they were stopped just shy of field goal range.
Just like one play can land a player as a Baller, it can make a Busters as well. Two of the three Panthers’ touchdowns in the third quarter came off a short field off turnovers. The one that didn’t, was an 88-yard bomb to Ted Ginn Jr who completely smoked Carrie on a deep cross.