The Raiders and Steelers played some wild games when they were two of the best AFC teams in the 1970s and they had a throwback to those days in Oakland on Sunday.
Oakland made up a 10-point deficit in the final quarter of the game to take a 34-31 victory over the Raiders when Sebastian Janikowski hit a 43-yard field goal as time expired. The Raiders comeback was helped a great deal by an Antonio Brown fumble in the fourth quarter after the Raiders cut the Steelers lead to three points. Brown made a catch down the middle, but was stripped by Pat Lee as he tried to gain more yards. A Janikowski field goal tied the game, setting up a big drive for the Steelers.
That drive looked destined for success when Mike Tomlin made a gutsy call to go for it on fourth-and-one from the Steelers’ 29 with just under four minutes to play. Isaac Redman converted that play, but the Raiders defense held and forced a punt. Carson Palmer made a nifty throw to tight end Brandon Myers for 24 yards on a third-and-10 to move the ball to midfield and another completion to Derek Hagan got the ball in position for Janikowski to kick the Raiders to their first win of the year.
The wildness of the game also included an onside kick attempt in the third by the Raiders which would have worked if the ball didn’t bounce through Mike Goodson’s hands and 384 passing yards from Ben Roethlisberger. He got pressured on their attempt to convert after going for it on fourth down, though, and fired wide on a pass that the team really needed. There was also a lot of physical football, little of which led to flags from the officials.
We already covered the hit that led to Raiders wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey leaving the game on a cart going unpenalized. There were also a slew of unflagged plays by defensive backs on other passing plays as holding and illegal contact continually went unnoticed and unpenalized. It doesn’t seem likely that the loose atmosphere led to Ryan Mundy’s hit on Heyward-Bey as it looked like a hit without malice that nonetheless landed in an illegal spot, something we’ve seen in games with far better officiating. The clutching and grabbing, on the other hand, seemed to increase as players realized they’d be getting away with it.
That’s a sideline to a strong performance by the Raiders, though. Their offense sputtered in the first half, but they gained 216 yards in the second half, up from just 105 in the first 30 minutes, to put themselves back into the game. The Steelers, meanwhile, dropped from 235 yards to 198 in the second half despite Roethlisberger’s big numbers. Two fumbles really hurt them as did a lack of discipline that led to 10 penalties (in a switch from the 70s and every other decade, the Raiders were unpenalized into the third quarter before ending with three) despite the often lax enforcement. The game was there for the taking without the mistakes.
They didn’t take it, though, and now they’re 1-2 heading into the bye. They’ll hope to be healthier and a little more careful with the football when they return to the field in Week Five.
As for the Raiders, they could wind up in a tie for first in the AFC West after next week’s games. Not bad given the disappointing results of the first two weeks.