Published December 18, 2011
OAKLAND, Calif. – Aaron Curry scooped up the ball from Matthew Stafford and returned it 6 yards for a score, punching the goal post and encouraging a frantic Coliseum crowd so much that officials flagged him for excessive celebration.
Call it premature, too.
"Demoralizing?" Curry said, searching for an explanation to describe his emotions. "There's no morals out there."
The Raiders (7-7) appeared in control after Curry's score gave Oakland a 27-14 lead with 7:47 remaining. Instead, they collapsed in crushing fashion to damage their playoff aspirations.
Stafford engineered two long scoring drives in the final minutes to give Detroit (9-5) its first lead of the game, and Ndamukong Suh ended it when he got his right thumb on Sebastian Janikowski's 65-yard field goal attempt on the game's final play.
Suh threw his helmet and ran down the field in celebration, providing a loud finish to an otherwise quiet day for the defensive tackle in his first game back since serving a suspension for stepping on the right arm of Green Bay Packers offensive lineman Evan Dietrich-Smith during a loss on Thanksgiving.
The Raiders could only stand in stunned silence.
"It's probably one of the worst things that happened since I've been here," said safety Mike Mitchell, in his third season with the Raiders.
Detroit's dynamic duo simply shattered Oakland's secondary.
Stafford completed 29 of 52 passes for four touchdowns. He completed nine for 214 yards to Johnson, including a 21-yarder and a 48-yarder on the winning drive that started at the Detroit 2 with 2:14 to play and the Lions out of timeouts.
They also connected on a 51-yard scoring play in the first quarter but they had to sweat out the closing seconds as Carson Palmer got the Raiders to the Detroit 47 with 4 seconds to play.
Johnson's 214 yards receiving were the second most ever against the Raiders, trailing only Don Maynard's 228 for the Jets in the famous Heidi Game in 1968, when Oakland defeated the New York Jets 43-32.
"The disappointing part is their best player, he won the game for them," Raiders coach Hue Jackson said.
The Raiders took over and gave their all-world kicker a faint chance at a record-setting field goal.
Janikowski, who tied the NFL marl with a 63-yarder in the season opener at Denver, couldn't get the ball past the line as Suh blocked it to end the game.
Carson Palmer finished 32 for 40 for 367 yards and a touchdown to Darrius Heyward-Bey, who had eight catches for a career-high 155 yards for the Raiders. But Palmer also slightly overthrew Chaz Schilens on a third-down pass just before the two-minute warning after Stafford's TD pass to Titus Young cut Oakland's lead to 27-21.
That gave Detroit another chance and Stafford and Johnson delivered.
Stafford started the drive with an 8-yard completion to Nate Burleson on third-and-2 and then Johnson made an acrobatic 21-yard catch on the sideline. Johnson then beat the Raiders deep for the 48-yarder and drew a pass interference penalty from Stanford Routt at the 6 to set up the touchdown.
"It's terrible. It's terrible. I don't have any kids, my parents are still living. I don't really have anything that's much more important than football," Mitchell said. "This is one of the worst things that could happen to me personally and that's how it feels."
The game was tight for most of the second half until the Raiders scored 10 points in a 25-second span in the fourth quarter to take a 27-14 lead. Janikowski kicked his second field goal of the game, a 51-yarder, for the first points of the second half to make it 20-14.
Three plays later, Stafford dropped back to pass deep in his territory and was stripped by Tommy Kelly on a sack. Curry scooped up the ball at the 6 and rambled his way into the end zone for the score.
But the Raiders couldn't hold it and missed a chance to tie Denver for the AFC West lead and the New York Jets and Cincinnati for the lead for the final AFC wild-card spot.
The Raiders, who came into the game as the most penalized team in the NFL, were the beneficiary of undisciplined play. The Lions committed two horse collar penalties and an illegal contact foul, setting up Louis Murphy's 12-yard reverse for a score.
Then both teams took advantage of big pass plays and poor defense for three long scores in the half, with Johnson beating safeties Tyvon Branch and Mike Mitchell for a 51-yard TD catch for the Lions late in the first quarter.
Heyward-Bey then scored on a 43-yard pass play for Oakland, breaking a tackle by Chris Houston. Nate Burleson answered with his 39-yard catch from Stafford with help from a missed tackle by Lito Sheppard.
The Raiders took a 17-14 lead into the break when Janikowski kicked a 46-yard field goal on the final play of the half.
Notes: The Raiders held a moment silence for former defensive tackle Chester McGlockton, who died Nov. 30. McGlockton had been a Stanford assistant coach when he passed away. ... Heyward-Bey's 155 yards receiving were the most by for Oakland since Jerry Rice had 159 on Dec. 22, 2003, in a 41-7 loss Green Bay.
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