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Top 20 Games of 2015: No. 15 -- Raiders at Steelers

Final score: Steelers 38, Raiders 35

If football is a team sport, then it could be said it is still ruled by a handful of immensely talented individuals. Consider Raiders at Steelers, Week 9 ... one of those rare dogfights in which three guys did their best to outdo each other.

Two of them were on the same team.

Antonio Brown was the first to put his three rivers stamp on this classic AFC matchup, posting 10 catches for 180 yards in the first half. His why-am-I-never-a-league-MVP-candidate play staked the home team to a 21-14 halftime lead.

Two of those Pittsburgh touchdowns came courtesy of DeAngelo Williams. However, it was the second half where Williams dominated, rushing for over 100 yards on his way to 225 total yards on the day.

So much for 32-year-old legs and small-time free agent signings.

When you add it all up, this had the makings of a tail whipping of the sad sack Raiders ... right? You know, that franchise that hasn't had a winning season since Rich Gannon launched three pick-sixes in Super Bowl XXXVII (we just watched Super Bowl 50, by the way)?

Nope. That wasn't the case on this Sunday, because these aren't your big brother's Raiders. They wouldn't leave Heinz Field with a whimper, or play like a pair of 4-12 Dennis Allen outfits from recent memory.

You can blame Derek Carr for this new fighting spirit, who at 24 didn't know any better. When Gannon was throwing those interceptions, Carr was playing Super Mario Brothers. He couldn't care less about Oakland's substandard Y2K era, or what Williams and Brown were doing his defense, for that matter. The second-year pro was flat out dealing when the outcome was in the balance, making the final minutes of our 15th top game of 2015 wildly entertaining.

Carr put his team on his back, throwing three second half touchdowns, including lofting a gorgeous ball to Michael Crabtree over the middle to tie this barnburner at 35 with a minute and change to go (watch it in the video above). Carr had led his offense on marches of 90, 60, and 69 yards to hang with the Steelers. All of this made for a really fun watch.

Yet, when all was on the line, Brown rose to the challenge. If you weren't going to put him with the Tom Bradys and J.J. Watts of the world, then at least he could be the MVP of this Week 9 game. Brown took a short pass from Landry Jones (subbing for an injured Roethlisberger), made a quick cut, then proceeded to haul youknowwhat down the field 57 yards to set up a Chris Boswell field goal to win it. When this baby concluded, the top wideout in the game had accumulated 17 catches for 284 yards (and another 22 rushing), the most by any wide receiver all season.

Carr, ultimately faling just short of a victory, might have made a final, if inaccurate, argument for pro football could be seen as an individual sport. Alas, it was the Steelers who had the better collective team effort on this day, and walked away with the win.

Play of the Game

On a day where Williams and Brown stole the show for the Steelers offense, Martavis Bryant produced the sweetest play. The second-year wideout with seemingly more talent than he knows what to do with put on a cadre of moves on his 14-yard catch-and-run on a bubble screen. It was the first of five total scores in the fourth quarter alone, including four touchdowns by both teams.

Watch the play again. Bryant okie-dokes three Raiders, including Khalil Mack and Charles Woodson. An All-Pro and a Hall of Famer to be ... not bad, man.


While the star power(s) in this game were central figures in its outcome, doesn't it figure that two guys named Jesse James and Jamize Olawale scored key touchdowns? The namesake for one of history's most famous criminals held up the Oakland secondary long enough to catch a four-yard scoring strike from Roethlisberger to put the Steelers up 35-21 in the fourth quarter. Olawale's touchdown run two minutes later closed the gap, turning this matchup into a nail-biter with 9:32 to go.

Historical Symmetry

Williams' and Brown's big days were not merely prolific by today's standards, they were lights out by any era's standards. They combined for 531 yards from scrimmage, the most in the NFL since 1960.

The second most? A little-known Raiders tandem from the early days of the AFL. Glenn Daniels and Art Powell posted 481 yards for Oakland. Powell could play. That season he caught 73 balls for 1,304 yards and 16 touchdowns in 14 games. And he did that in 1963! Powell posted five 1,000-yard campaigns during his career.

Head Scratcher

Coming into Week 10, the Steelers defense had performed much better than any of us expected, particularly at home, where they were allowing a scant 17.5 points per game and opposing quarterbacks were middling. Thus, with Carr competing at Heinz Field, I thought there were 10 better quarterbacks to start in fantasy that week. Of course, it's worth mentioning that his brother, David, didn't take too kindly to my advice. Take a look.

The Carrs had the last laugh. Carr: 26.34 fantasy points, fifth overall among QBs. That's, uh, a nice day in fantasy.

Why This Game is No. 15

Raiders at Steelers was one of the most entertaining shootouts of the 2015 season, without being completely devoid of defense in the manner of the Giants-Saints game that churned out over 100 points. No, this game was not Arena ball, rather two high-powered offenses exchanging body blows with timely plays made by both defensive units (just not many!).

Besides having a fun quarterback matchup in the kid (Carr) versus the wily vet (Roethlisberger), our 15th top game harkened back to a time when these two franchises represented the fiercest rivalry in the NFL. In fact, Oakland and Pittsburgh faced each other in the postseason five straight years in the 1970s. If this young Raiders nucleus continues to develop, we may soon be seeing this vintage matchup restored.

Visit NFL Game Center for more highlights and analysis from Raiders at Steelers, Week 9.

-- by Elliot Harrison. Follow Elliot on Twitter @HarrisonNFL.

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