After a defensive outing to forget, the Raiders rallied around QB Carson Palmer and kicker Sebastian Janikowski, doing just enough to top the Steelers at home Sunday 34-31.
Janikowski nailed a 43-yard field goal on the last play as the Raiders scored the final 13 points after wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey was knocked out and hospitalized by a scary hit.
”You put a lot of hard work, blood sweat and tears into trying to build a championship team, and one of your guys goes down, especially in a situation like that, it’s hard to keep your focus,” coach Dennis Allen said. ”But I thought our guys did an outstanding job in getting their focus back, coming back and executing, and winning a game in the fourth quarter.”
Palmer went 24-for-34 through the air for 209 yards, three touchdowns and an interception, while Darren McFadden had 113 yards and a score on 18 carries for the Raiders (1-2).
Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger picked apart the beat up Raiders secondary, going 36-for-49 passes for 384 yards and four scores. Mike Wallace paced all receivers with 123 yards and a touchdown on eight receptions in the loss.
Pittsburgh held a 17-14 advantage at the half and quickly added to its lead on the first possession of the third quarter with a 9-play, 80-yard drive, which Roethlisberger capped by buying some time in the pocket before finding a wide open Wallace in the back of the end zone.
But Mike Goodson’s 51-yard return on the ensuing kickoff gave the Raiders the ball at the Pittsburgh 48 and Oakland converted three third downs on a 10-play scoring drive, including Richard Gordon’s 1-yard touchdown catch to get back within 24-21.
The Raiders failed to grab a surprise onside kick on the kickoff, and Pittsburgh took advantage of Oakland’s gamble with Antonio Brown’s 11-yard touchdown on a wide receiver screen.
Brown fumbled the ball at the 1-yard line on the play, but it bounced off a scrum of players and right back into his arms inside the end zone to give the Steelers back a two-score advantage.
Oakland kept the back-and-forth affair going on its next touch as Palmer found Denarius Moore, Darrius Heyward-Bey, Brandon Myers and Rod Streater for double-digit gains before Moore made a diving grab on the left side of the end zone for a 6-yard score less than three minutes into the fourth quarter.
Brown again had the ball punched out of his hands during a 20-yard catch-and- run on Pittsburgh’s ensuing drive, but he was unable to regain possession this time and Oakland’s Philip Wheeler recovered at the Raiders’ 36-yard line, resulting in Janikowski’s 32-yard field goal to tie the game at 31-31 with 6:30 left in the game.
Pittsburgh then got the ball and converted a 4th-and-1 at their own 29 with an Isaac Redman 6-yard rush up the middle to keep their drive alive, but Roethlisberger was sacked on the next play to derail the Steelers’ momentum and they were forced to punt.
Oakland took possession at its own 25 with 1:43 remaining and quickly marched down the field. Palmer found Myers for a 15-yard strike on a 3rd-and-10 to move the ball to midfield before Derek Hagan reeled off a 17-yard gain on a short pass over the middle to get in field-goal range.
After a couple of runs up the middle ran the clock down, Janikowski connected on the game-winner for Oakland, which avoided its first 0-3 start since starting 0-5 in 2006.