OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — With an efficient offense led by Carson Palmer, an opportunistic defense that stepped up in the final minutes and a clutch kick by Sebastian Janikowski, the Oakland Raiders turned a somber mood into a celebratory one.
Janikowski kicked 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 to beat the Pittsburgh Steelers 34-31 on Sunday.
"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."
There was a pall over the stadium early in the fourth quarter when Heyward-Bey was knocked unconscious by a helmet-to-helmet hit in the end zone by Steelers safety Ryan Mundy that was not called a penalty by the replacement officials. Heyward-Bey was taken to the hospital with a concussion and neck injury. But Allen said he was able to move his extremities, which was a welcome sign for the Raiders (1-2).
The team said he was in stable condition and will stay in the hospital overnight for observation.
Palmer then threw his third touchdown pass and Janikowski kicked two field goals to beat the Steelers (1-2) and get the Raiders on track after two losses to open the season.
"Any time they take one of your brothers out, you have to retaliate and get them back," safety Michael Huff said. "Obviously not in an illegal way or anything like that. We wanted to go out and get the win for him because he couldn't finish it."
The Raiders took over with the game tied at their 25 with 1:42 remaining. Palmer got the drive going with a 24-yard pass to Brandon Myers on third-and-10 and then hit Derek Hagan on a 17-yard pass down to the Pittsburgh 26 with 27 seconds left.
Oakland then ran down the clock to set up Janikowski's winning kick that send the crowd into delirium less than an hour after silence overtook the stadium when Heyward-Bey was injured.
Mundy's helmet hit Heyward-Bey in the facemask on an incomplete pass in the end zone. Heyward-Bey's neck jerked violently and his head also crashed into the ground. Players from both teams kneeled in prayer as Heyward-Bey was attended to for about 10 minutes.
"We don't play like that," Mundy said. "We don't try to injury people or anything like that. We understand this is people's livelihood. We take that serious."
He managed to raise his right hand while being taken off the field on a cart to go to the hospital with a neck injury.
Four plays later, Palmer eluded pressure and found Denarius Moore on a 6-yard touchdown pass that brought Oakland within 31-28 early in the fourth quarter.