Las Vegas Raiders Stop Carolina Panthers 34-30
The Las Vegas Raiders, in their first game since moving from Oakland, didn’t beat the Carolina Panthers as much as they stopped them, finally.
Defensive end Clelin Ferrell, who added 20 pounds this season so he could also play inside, halted fullback Alex Armah on fourth down near midfield with 1:11 left in the game and the Raiders held off of the Panthers, 34-30, at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, N.C.
On fourth and less than a yard, the Panthers tried to fool the Raiders by not giving the ball to superstar Christian McCaffrey, but Ferrell stopped Armah short with help from linebacker Corey Littleton, one of the Silver and Black’s key free-agent signees.
"Carolina took a timeout, they changed personnel groupings," Raiders Coach Jon Gruden said. "(Defensive coordinator Paul Geunther) got us in the right call, and the guys that were one-on-one won (by stopping Armah), and that’s what Raiders’ football has got to be about. When you’re one-on-one, you got to win.”
Said McCaffrey, noting the play had worked for a Panthers first down earlier: “It's a play we were all on board with.”
The Raiders couldn’t hold a 27-15 lead in the fourth quarter when McCaffrey finally got rolling, but quarterback Derek Carr drove the Raiders 75 yards in nine plays to the winning touchdown—the third of the game for Josh Jacobs on a six-yard run with 4:08 left in the game.
It was the 20th game-winning drive led by Carr in his seven-year career with the Raiders, providing the seventh and final lead change of the game.
"Derek Carr was great today," Gruden said. "That’s what we asked of him. In a game like this, we didn’t know much about our opponent, he made a lot of plays at the line of scrimmage and in the pocket, and really a gut-check drive in the fourth quarter.
"To take the ball, we used some up-tempo plays. Derek was great at the line of scrimmage and like I said, with your third-string right tackle in there, I’m really proud of our team. Great win for us.”
The Raiders went three-and-out on their first possession of the game but scored the next five times they had the ball to take the 27-15 lead with 5:27 left in the third quarter on Jacobs’ 7-yard scoring run.
That’s when McCaffrey, who became the third player in NFL history last season to have more than 1,000 yards rushing and 1,000 yards rushing in one year while also scoring 19 touchdowns, finally got going after having only 31 yards rushing until then.
Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater led the Panthers on a 75-yard touchdown drive capped by McCaffrey’s second touchdown run of the game from three yards with 12:32 left in the game.
After the Raiders went three-and-out, Bridgewater hit wide receiver Robby Anderson on a 75-yard touchdown pass play to give Carolina a 30-27 lead with 8:29 left.
Then Carr led the Raiders on the winning 75-yard scoring drive in nine plays. Jacobs started the drive with an 18-yard gain on a pass from Carr and capped it with his final touchdown with a six-yard run around right end.
Jacobs, who rushed for a Raiders rookie record of 1,150 yards last season, finished with 93 yards on 25 carries and also scored on a 1-yard touchdown to give the Raiders a 7-3 lead in the first quarter.
“That was a little bit like Walter Payton used to play,” Gruden said of Jacobs. “It was hot as hell. He got beat up early. He insisted on coming back and he insisted on getting the ball as a runner and receiver. He is special. He deserves some national attention — and I hope you give it to him.”
Carr completed 22-of-30 passes for 239 yards and a 23-yard touchdown pass to Nelson Agholor in the second quarter and didn’t throw an interception, while tight end Darren Waller caught six passes for 45 yards and Jacobs made four receptions for 46 yards.
No. 1 draft choice Henry Ruggs III got one hand on a bomb from Carr but couldn’t hold on the second play of the game, but later caught a 45-yarder from Carr to set up Jacobs’ first touchdown. Ruggs finished with three receptions for 55 yards and ran twice for 11 yards.
“My mindset isn't that we have two rookie receivers," Carr said. "My mindset is we are equipped to accomplish what we want to accomplish. I am proud of our guys for coming back and winning that game.”
Safety Johnathan Abram, who started the opener for the Raiders last year but missed the rest of the season because of a shoulder injury, led the Silver and Black with 13 tackles, including nine unassisted, while linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski had six tackles, four unassisted, before going out because of a pectoral injury.
However, Abram wasn't satisfied.
“Today was a very sloppy performance on the defense’s part,” Abram said. “We’ve got to go out and execute (better) than what we did. We gave up a few big plays.”
McCaffrey’s late surge gave him a total of 96 yards in 23 carries and the two TDs, and he also caught three passes for 38 yards.
Bridgewater completed 22 of 34 passes for 270 yards and the touchdown with no interceptions, while Anderson caught six passes for 115 yards.
The Raiders face another challenge next week against Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints in the first-ever game at brand-new Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas on Monday Night Football.
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