The Week 12 contest for Oakland Raiders and Carolina Panthers certainly had an eventful outcome. After the Panthers scored 25 unanswered points, Jack Del Rio and the Raiders responded with 10 consecutive points to seal the contest. Quarterback Derek Carr played through a dislocated finger, while defensive captain Khalil Mack made his presence felt.
The Raiders had a team win on Sunday, improving their record to 9-2 on the season. Del Rio’s crew remains tied for first place in the AFC, while holding a game lead in the AFC West.
While the offense has taken much credit for the success this season, the defense has slowly begun showing consistent progress. The defensive unit was headlined by the play of Mack, with his permanent stamp on the game.
After the game, Del Rio was asked about the production of Mack and had nothing but praise for his all-around player, via Raiders.com:
“He’s a really good football player. That’s what I’ve been saying. Earlier in the year there was discussion about what about his numbers and I said, you know what I said. I think you were there. He’s going to get his numbers. He’s a good football player and he brings great energy every day. He’s a wonderful teammate. He’s a talented guy that works his tail off. Those guys tend to get their numbers.”
The Panthers were given the ball back with less than two minutes remaining, trailing by three. They were completing intermediate passes, eventually reaching midfield. However, the outcome of the game would be determined on one play.
Newton took the ball, electing to remain in the pocket to find a receiver down the field. Mack, who lined up on Newton’s strong side, bull rushed the offensive lineman, got past him and swatted the ball out of Newton’s hand. The ball bounced on the ground, as Mack fell on the ball and completed the strip sack.
Mack accomplished something on Sunday that hasn’t been done since 2009. He was the first player since Charles Woodson to record a fumble recovery, an interception, a sack, a forced fumble and a touchdown in a single game.
His impact is beginning to become a problem for opposing offensive lines. While he continues drawing double teams, the other players on the defensive line begin getting opportunities to rush the quarterback.
Carr, who came into the league the same season as Mack, talked about how the players rely upon each other to lead their units to victory:
Carr: “It’s crazy. He’s so young. He’s only been playing the same amount of time I have. He’s already done things no one in the history of the league has done. He’s been an all pro at two positions. He’s making these clutch plays. Every time there’s a two-minute drill, I come up to him and say ‘Now it’s your turn, go end it.’ We’re just having fun, but I’m dead serious. And he says, ‘end the game, ok.’ We hope every time it will work out, obviously. I don’t think we can put him into a category. I think that he’s here, and he’s progressed to here. He’s in a class of his own. I’m not saying he’s better than anybody, I think he is. I think he’s the best football player I’ve ever played with and seen. I think he’s done things that no one has ever seen before and I don’t want to just put him in a box. I think the sky’s the limit for him.”
After his performance on Sunday, Mack has now collected a sack in six consecutive games, the longest active streak in the NFL.
The Raiders remain at the Oakland Coliseum for their next contest, as they have a Sunday showdown against the Buffalo Bills.