Emotions aside, things are going so wrong for the Panthers that
even their castoffs are making them look bad.
Collins led the game-winning scoring drive and Cooper notched
the first sack of his career to lead the Oakland Raiders to a 27-24
victory over Carolina on Sunday.
Collins, the first-ever draft pick in Carolina history, was
vilified when he left -- quitting the team midway through the 1998
Even though he was just average in his first game against the
Panthers, the win snapped a five-game losing streak for the Raiders
(3-6) and was sweet satisfaction for Collins.
"It was a little redemption," said Collins, who passed for 231
yards but threw his 12th interception of the season. "Obviously, I
didn't leave here under the best circumstances. But one of the
things I learned is to keep plugging away."
Cooper is learning that now.
A popular special-teamer for four years in Carolina, he was
waived by the Panthers (1-7) two weeks ago for "football
reasons." The move came after the team learned he had been
arrested for driving without a license and giving police false
The return was emotional for Cooper and many of his former
"It was weird seeing Coop, I didn't like it at all," Panthers
captain Mike Minter said. "He was down. We all were. This is his
Cooper struggled with his emotions throughout the game, even
after his 17-yard sack of Jake Delhomme.
"I didn't know if I was going to laugh or cry," Cooper said.
"So I just ran away from him to deal with it. I love those guys,
every one of them. I hate to be gone, so it was pretty rough for
The Oakland win was the sixth consecutive loss for the slumping
NFC champions, who feel strongly that they aren't as bad as their
"If we cut out critical mistakes, we'll win one game," Minter
said. "That's all we need. One win will make us feel a little
better about ourselves."
In a game of errors, the most critical came late in the game.
After Carolina tied the game at 24 with 2:25 to play, Collins
threw completions of 19 and 12 yards to move the Raiders into
His next pass was incomplete to Doug Gabriel near the end zone,
but Dante Wesley was flagged for pass interference. The 38-yard
penalty gave Oakland the ball at the 4, and Janikowski kicked the
game-winner three plays later.
"I think it was a bad call," Wesley said. "One official said
it was pass interference, and the other said it wasn't. I hate it
had to come down to a pass interference."
But the Panthers were done in by their own mistakes most of the
day. Todd Sauerbrun's blocked punt set up the first of Wheatley's
two 1-yard TD plunges and a myriad of other errors cost Carolina.
Colin Branch's interception of Collins was negated when Julius
Peppers was called for offsides. Collins then threw a 20-yard
completion to Ronald Curry on the very next play. It set up
Zereoue's 7-yard TD run that gave the Raiders a 24-14 lead with
9:14 to play.
Delhomme was off most of the game despite passing for 299 yards
and three touchdowns. His passes sailed over receivers heads or out
of bounds, ruining several opportunities.
He was at times, overcoming an offensive holding and a fumble
under pressure, to set up John Kasay's 38-yard field goal that cut
Oakland's lead to 24-17 with 3:57 to play.
After a defensive stop, Delhomme needed just 51 seconds to tie
the game on a 3-yard TD pass to Nick Goings.
Then Collins moved the Raiders into position to win.
The Panthers had just 37 total rushing yards. .... Carolina
is 0-4 at home this season. ... Panthers rookie cornerback Chris
Gamble left the game with a sprained knee. ... Wheatley, who got
the start, ran for 54 yards on 19 carries. Zereoue had seven yards
on seven carries. ... Ronald Curry, who starred at North Carolina,
had four receptions for 63 yards.