MIAMI — Derek Carr’s best throw was his longest , a strike launched from midfield that hung in the balmy night air until Johnny Holton settled under it in the end zone for a 44-yard touchdown.
That early score put the Oakland Raiders ahead to stay, and Carr remained on target to help beat the Miami Dolphins 27-24 on Sunday.
Carr went 21 of 30 for 300 yards with one touchdown and one interception, and helped the Raiders convert 8 for 15 third downs.
Oakland (4-5) won for only the second time since Week 2.
“That’s what we needed,” Carr said. “Guys were on edge this week, a little chippy, including me.”
The Dolphins recovered an onside kick and came up with a takeaway when Oakland fumbled twice on a single play, but failed to convert either opportunity into points.
“That was a big deal stopping them there,” Raiders coach Jack Del Rio said. “An excellent job of putting the fire out.”
Oakland also overcame 10 penalties for 105 yards, including three for unnecessary roughness in the second quarter.
The Raiders’ Marshawn Lynch, returning from a one-game suspension for shoving an official, scored on a 22-yard run, his longest this year. He added another late score and finished with 57 yards on 14 carries.
Miami (4-4) fell to .500 for the third time this season, and lost a close game for the first time in more than a year. In games decided by seven points or less, the Dolphins had won 12 in a row.
Miami’s Jay Cutler, back after missing one game with cracked ribs, completed his first 16 passes and finished 34 for 42 for 311 yards and three scores. His touchdown pass with 1:32 left cut the deficit to three points, but Oakland recovered the ensuing onside kick to seal the win.
“We’ve just got to look at the positives,” Cutler said. “We did some good things. We’re in a good position — 4-4 with a lot of football left to play.”
The Dolphins’ worst-in-the-NFL offence again struggled to run the ball in its first game since trading running back Jay Ajayi. Replacement Kenyan Drake had a 42-yard run — Miami’s longest this year — to set up a touchdown, but he also lost a fumble.
The Dolphins totalled just 86 yards rushing and still don’t have a rushing touchdown this season. They were hurt by 11 penalties for 107 yards.
“It seemed like we were going backward there a few times,” Cutler said.
Holton outmanoeuvred Reshad Jones in the end zone to catch Carr’s 44-yard touchdown pass. Holton’s celebratory dance was impressive, too — he clasped his hands between his knees and hopped along the sideline.
His only other catch this season was for a 64-yard score.
Carr’s favourite target was tight end Jared Cook, who had eight catches for 126 yards.
“He seemed to find a way to get open,” Dolphins coach Adam Gase said.
BEAT THE CLOCK
Carr moved the Raiders 42 yards in the final 26 seconds of the first half before Giorgio Tavecchio kicked a 53-yard field goal, the longest of his career, on the final play to put Oakland up 13-9 at halftime.
The Dolphins’ Cody Parkey missed an extra point but recovered his own onside kick. Miami failed to take advantage, with Kenyan Drake losing a fumble at the 20. Parkey also made a tackle on a kickoff.
Oakland fumbled twice on one play. When Carr was hit by Ndamukong Suh and coughed up the ball, 330-pound tackle Marshall Newhouse scooped it up and took off. He also fumbled when hit, and Miami’s Charles Harris recovered.
Miami: RT Ja’Wuan James went to the locker room midway through the fourth quarter with a left hamstring injury. DT Ndamukong Suh briefly went to the locker room with an unspecified injury but returned to the game and said afterward he was fine.
The Dolphins play their third prime time game in a row when they’re at Carolina (6-3) on Monday, Nov. 13.
Following a bye, the Raiders travel to Mexico City to face AFC East leader New England (6-2) on Nov. 19.