Janikowski misses final FG; Arizona escapes 24-23 | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Janikowski misses final FG; Arizona escapes 24-23

Bob Baum, The Associated Press

GLENDALE, Ariz. – Sebastian Janikowski had not missed a field goal this short in four years.

He had made 19 in a row from 30 to 39 yards, so when he lined up for a 32-yarder to win the game, the outcome seemed a foregone conclusion. Oakland would knock off the Arizona Cardinals in their home opener and go 2-1 for the first time since 2004. Arizona fans already were filing out of the building.

“I was going to be sick to my stomach,” Cardinals quarterback Derek Anderson said.

Then the kick, which came after a 39-yard pass interference call against Arizona’s Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, sailed left of the upright. No good. The Cardinals escaped with a 24-23 victory.

“It’s very shocking,” Oakland running back Darren McFadden said. “I call him Automatic Seabass, so it’s just one of those things. If he kicked that ball 100 times, he’s going to make 99 of them. It just so happened that he missed that one.”

Janikowski, who left without talking to reporters, missed two other field goals: a 41-yarder and a 58-yarder. Both were wide right. He made kicks from 22, 54 and 23 yards.

Arizona outside linebacker Joey Porter said he has been playing against Janikowski for a long time. The last time Janikowski missed a field goal 32 yards or shorter was a 29-yarder on Dec. 3, 2006, against Houston.

“We know he can kick it from end zone to end zone, no problem,” Porter said. “But you know, big games, pressure. You can’t take that part out of the game. It’s like a quarterback having a wide-open guy, but it might not be the perfect pass. It’s the pressure of the game. That’s a chip shot for him, but he pushed it. That’s why we love the game.”

It was fitting that this game would end with a big mistake. The contest was littered with them.

LaRod Stephens-Howling returned the opening kickoff 102 yards for a touchdown for Arizona (2-1) and Anderson threw two touchdown passes, including an 8-yarder to Larry Fitzgerald with 1:01 left in the third quarter that proved to be the game winner.

Oakland (1-2) committed 11 penalties for 123 yards, Arizona seven for 104. The Cardinals, coming off a 41-7 rout at the hands of Atlanta, knew they probably should be 1-2.

“In realistically assessing our football team, when you have the number of changes that we have, we understand that we’re going to have to go through a process like this,” coach Ken Whisenhunt said. “If we can eke out wins, I’ll take as many of them as I can get.”

New Raiders starting quarterback Bruce Gradkowski was 17 of 34 for 255 yards and a touchdown with one interception. He threw 12 yards to Darrius Heyward-Bey on fourth-and-10 from his own 36 to keep the final drive alive. But he also was the main culprit in a delay-of-game penalty after another pass interference call – this one against Arizona’s Greg Toler – gave the Raiders the ball first-and-goal at the Arizona 1-yard line midway through the fourth quarter.

The penalty pushed the ball back to the 6 and Arizona’s defense held, forcing Oakland settle for Janikowski’s 23-yard field goal that cut the lead to 24-23 with 7:59 to play. Gradkowski got the start after coach Tom Cable benched Jason Campbell at halftime of last week’s 16-14 victory over St. Louis.

“We had a lot of opportunities, but that one goal-line stand is right now killing me,” Gradkowski said. “I take responsibility. I should have called a time out, but my competitiveness said, ‘We can pull this off.’ I saw the clock and knew I wanted the ball and QB sneak and get in there. I have to be better than that – call a time out, regroup and put it in the end zone.”

Later, Gradkowski’s 35-yard pass to Louis Murphy helped Oakland advance to the Arizona 35, where Janikowski – who has a career-long 61-yarder and had booted a 54-yarder earlier in the game – set up for a 53-yard try. But a false start against left tackle Mario Henderson pushed the ball back 5 yards for a much more difficult 58-yarder attempt. Janikowski had the distance, but was just wide right.

Two of Oakland’s field goals came after Raiders’ punts bounced off the legs of an Arizona player – first Matt Ware, then Rodgers-Cromartie.

Oakland’s Darren McFadden gained 105 yards in 25 attempts, giving him 345 yards rushing in the first three games of the season.

Anderson completed just 12 of 26 for 122 yards and was intercepted once but was 3 for 3 for 41 yards on the drive to the deciding touchdown. Beanie Wells, in his first game of the season after sitting out two games following arthroscopic knee surgery, gained 24 yards on his first carry and finished with 75 yards and 14 attempts. Teammate Tim Hightower had 40 in 11 carries, including a 13-yarder in the final touchdown drive.

The Raiders took a 20-17 halftime the lead with a seven-play, 69-yard touchdown drive, culminating with McFadden’s two-yard scoring run with 10 seconds left in the half. McFadden had a 33-yard run and a 22-yard reception on the drive.

Notes: Oakland cornerback Walter McFadden aggravated a hamstring injury and had to leave the game. … The Raiders scored 20 points in the first half since the 2007 season. … The Cardinals are 6-1 against the AFC and 20-8 at home overall since Whisenhunt took over in 2008. … Jankowski had not missed three field goals in a game since Sept. 9, 2007, when he was 0 for 3 against Detroit.

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