Defense became Raiders’ only hope

jjones@charlotteobserver.comDecember 23, 2012 

Oakland defensive end Tommy Kelly heard his coach repeat multiple times during the second half that the defense needs to score.

With the starting quarterback on his way to the hospital, Dennis Allen needed his defense to take over because the offense was struggling with a backup quarterback.

“We just got to pick each other up,” Kelly said. “When (the offense doesn’t) play good, we got to pick it up. Like coach said, we got to get a score on defense. ‘Let’s get a pick, a fumble, let’s get a score to help them out.’ ”

Kelly also admitted the Raiders were aiming to get revenge by going after Panthers quarterback Cam Newton.

“You take our guy out, we’re going to go and try to take your guy out,” Kelly said. “We’re not out to hurt someone, but when that happens …”

Matt Leinart, who had not started an NFL game in more than a year, was thrust into the role under center after starter Carson Palmer was knocked out of the game by Greg Hardy. The Panthers defensive end hit Palmer as he was throwing late in the first quarter, forcing the quarterback out of the game with a rib injury.

The result: The Raiders were held without a touchdown for the second time this season, falling to 4-11 after the 17-6 loss to the Panthers.

Leinart had 16 completions in 32 throws – the most attempts he had in a game since September 2007. He finished with 115 yards and one interception. He said more than anything, footwork and adjusting to the speed of the game contributed to his lackluster play.

“I’m comfortable with all the reads, I just think I wasn’t as comfortable as I should have been in the pocket,” Leinart said.

Oakland’s offensive line held a Carolina defense that averaged more than 2.5 sacks per game to one Sunday. But despite keeping Leinart’s jersey clean, the Raiders’ linemen weren’t able to open many holes for the running backs.

“That’s his first extended action in a regular-season game in a long time, so I’m sure there was a little bit of rust there,” Allen said of Leinart. “But at the end of the day, when you lose your starting quarterback, there are a lot of other guys who have to step up. And we didn’t have enough guys that made enough plays for us offensively.”

Starting running back Darren McFadden had 17 carries for 33 yards. Oakland finished with 47 yards on the ground.

It “wasn’t good enough – not today,” Allen said of his rushing game.

The Associated Press contributed

Jones: 704-358-5223; Twitter: @jjones9

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