Three takeaways from the Raiders’ 34-30 victory over the Carolina Panthers on Sunday in Charlotte, North Carolina.
1. Battle of the backs
There were questions about whether Raiders quarterback Derek Carr would elevate the offense with an improved set of receivers, but it was little surprise the game largely came down to the respective star running backs.
The Raiders’ Josh Jacobs and the Panthers’ Christian McCaffrey made key plays to give their team a chance.
Jacobs scored three touchdowns, including the game-winning 6-yard run with 4:08 left.
The Raiders targeted shutting down McCaffrey, and were mostly successful through three quarters. But McCaffrey loaded the Panthers’ offense on his back to cut their double-digit deficit to 27-22 early in the fourth quarter and put his team in position to eventually take the lead.
Strangely, with the game on the line, the Panthers didn’t give the ball to McCaffrey on a fourth-and-goal. The Raiders made the stop to all but clinch the victory.
2. Body-bag game
First, Raiders offensive tackle Trent Brown left with a calf injury in the first quarter, and wide receiver Henry Ruggs hurt a knee in the second period. In the second half, offensive tackle Sam Young departed with a groin injury and linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski with a pectoral injury.
Brown’s injury wasn’t a complete surprise. He missed most of training camp because of injury. The seriousness of this injury wasn’t immediately known. With Young also getting hurt, the Raiders went into the fourth quarter down to just one true tackle in Kolton Miller.
Ruggs, however, returned in the second half. The Raiders made Ruggs, a first-round draft pick this year, a major focus of their first-half gameplan. He caught a 45-yard pass to set up the Raiders’ first touchdown. Overall, he had three catches for 55 yards and two rushes for 11 yards.
The Raiders signed Kwiatkoski in the offseason after he spent the previous four seasons with the Chicago Bears.
3. Raiders had to have it
Though it’s difficult to call a Week 1 game a must win, this one was as close as an opener will come to that for the Raiders.
They were 3½-point favorites, and likely will be underdogs until Week 10.
Maybe winning a tight road game will serve them well during that difficult stretch.