Defensive End Khalil Mack
Another Sunday, another win for the Oakland Raiders.
After jumping out to an early lead, and then surrendering said lead, the Silver and Black responded in a big way, and beat the Carolina Panthers 35-32 on a 23-yard Sebastian Janikowski field goal with 1:47 left in the fourth quarter.
With the win, Head Coach Jack Del Rio's team improves to 9-2, and remains alone atop the AFC West standings for another week.
The Silver and Black have now rattled off five wins in a row – their longest streak since 2002 – so now that the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum has emptied, and the lights have dimmed, let's take a look at five takeaways from the Week 12 victory.
1. The Raiders took the Panthers best shot, but it didn't matter
If Sunday's game was a prize fight, you'd have to give the Raiders the first round, in a big way too.
Head Coach Del Rio's group came blistering out of the gates, and at the half, they found themselves in control, with an impressive 24-7 lead in hand.
Derek Carr had thrown for an impressive 167 yards and one touchdown, and on the other sideline, Cam Newton had looked beyond pedestrian, completing just three of 11 passes for 18 total yards, and one pick six.
However, once the second half started, the Panthers went on a tear, scoring 25-consecutive points before the Raiders were able to stop the bleeding and tie the game at 32.
The Silver and Black took a body blow from the reigning NFC champs in the second half, but it wasn't enough to send them to the canvas.
"We knew we'd get their very best," said Head Coach Jack Del Rio. "Just proud of our guys for hanging in there and [finding] a way. That's been the theme for us this year."
Indeed it has been, as no matter what the scenario, somehow, someway, the Raiders have found a way to get the job done, regardless of the circumstances.
That sentiment rang true once again Sunday afternoon, as the Raiders took the Panthers best shot, right on the chin, but stayed up, and found a way to finish the fight.
2. Offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave got everyone involved
The Raiders have shown week in and week out that they have one of the most dynamic offensive attacks in the NFL, and that diversity and versatility was on full display Sunday afternoon at the OACC.
Bill Musgrave made sure everyone got involved in the Week 12 win, as Carr completed passes to nine players, en route to finishing the day with 315 passing yards, and a pair of touchdowns to boot.
Yes, Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree, get a lot of the focus out wide – as they should – but the 2016 Raiders are equipped with a plethora of offensive weapons, and Sunday's effort just further showed that.
From Clive Walford, to Seth Roberts and Andre Holmes, the Raiders roster runs deep with playmakers, and that's a luxury that most NFL teams aren't lucky enough to have at their disposal.
3. Khalil Mack is making his bid for Defensive Player of the Year
Have a day, Khalil Mack.
Not only did No. 52 end the game with a strip sack of Cam Newton, but the All-Pro defensive end also put together arguably his best performance of 2016 Sunday afternoon.
Let's take a quick look at Mack's stat line; six tackles, one sack, three quarterback hits, one interception, one pass defensed, one forced fumble, and one fumble recovery – not a bad outing from the third-year defensive end.
Not only did Mack secure his first career interception and return it for six points, the versatile edge rusher has secured a sack in six consecutive games, and now has nine for the season.
Mack was utterly dominant for stretches of Sunday's contest, and when asked about the play of his teammate, rookie defensive end Jihad Ward couldn't even verbalize what he was seeing.
"Unbelievable," Ward said about Mack. "I just think he's a great player. He's an excellent player. I'm speechless. That's all I can say on that."
After a statistically sluggish start to the regular season, Mack has quietly and consistently gone about his business, and after his performance Sunday, he has squarely vaulted himself into the Defensive Player of the Year conversation.
4. Michael Crabtree bounced back in a big way
After a less-than-stellar outing during the team's Monday Night Football showdown at Estadio Azteca, it was a safe bet that Michael Crabtree would likely bounce back in a big way Sunday afternoon.
Unfortunately for the Panthers defense, they were on the receiving end of much of the production from 'King Crab.'
In total, Crabtree finished the Week 12 win with eight receptions for 110 yards – his 2016 season high – and when the stakes were the highest, No. 15 showed up in the biggest ways, hauling in a pair of passes for 64 yards on the Raiders final drive of the afternoon.
"Michael [Crabtree[ has been really good for us," Head Coach Del Rio said. "He's done that for us really the whole time he's been here. He's been really reliable. He's been a great teammate. He's come in here, and there were questions about some of those things when he got here, and I still don't understand why because he's been great for us. We're certainly glad we have him. He's one of our playmakers. One of our guys we know we can go to in tough situations, and he's going to find a way."
The veteran wideout certainly found a way to produce Sunday, and his big plays down the stretch are a big reason why the Silver and Black were able to take down the Panthers.
5. There's still a lot of football left in front of this team
The Raiders have won now won five games in a row – their longest streak since 2002 – and boast a record of 9-2, which means, that for the first time in 14 years, the Silver and Black will finish the season with a winning record.
Running back Latavius Murray has seen firsthand some of the struggles that the Raiders have gone through in years past, and now in his fourth-season in Silver and Black, he knows that the times have indeed changed in Oakland.
"The culture has changed here, this is a different team, with a different demeanor, and we're a team on a mission right now," Murray said. "We're headed in the right way to get our goal."
Rookie linebacker Cory James called the team's 9-2 record a "great start," but both he and Carr know that that this team hasn't yet reached the goals they set out to accomplish before the season.
"Obviously, we can't celebrate anything yet, but I'm happy for my fans," added Carr. "Winning nine games, having a winning record for the first time in 14 years, I'm so happy for our fans because I know how much joy that brings to our city. I know how much life that brings to the city of Oakland. And that's what I'm about. You guys know me, I love to make other people's day, and I'm glad they get to go home happy."
The Raiders faithful at the OACC did indeed go home happy Sunday afternoon, but before all is said and done, Carr is hoping that the fans of the Silver and Black will have much more to cheer about in 2016.