Darrius Heyward-Bey had the best statistical game of his career on Sunday. The former first round pick finished off the game against the Detroit Lions with 8 catches for 155 yards and a touchdown. What was perhaps most impressive about Heyward-Bey's performance is how many of his yards were picked up after the catch as he almost never went down on first contact and fought incredibly hard for every inch he could.
However, despite how well Heyward-Bey played against the Lions on Sunday, what will likely be remembered are the two major mistakes he made, both of which can be considered to have played a major role in the Raiders losing the game.
The first major mistake came late in the third quarter. The Raiders had just made a huge stop on fourth and one and started their drive with great field position. The Raiders had a 17-14 lead and could have really made it hard for the Lions to come back had they scored a touchdown. In fact, it looked as though that is exactly what would happen until Heyward-Bey made his first big time mistake.
After back to back productive plays that got the Raiders over the 50 yard line, Carson Palmer threw a ball to Heyward-Bey. Making one of the runs I was talking about earlier, Heyward-Bey broke a couple of tackles and fought his way down inside of the five yard line. Unfortunately, as Heyward-Bey made a final push to get closer to the end zone, a Lions player stripped the ball and the Raiders were unable to recover it. Rather than going up by two scores, the Lions were able to keep it close and maintain hope of a late game come back.
While that play happened with enough time left in the game for the Raiders to make up for it, Heyward-Bey's second big mistake came too late for him or anyone else to make up for it. After Calvin Johnson finished his monster day with a go ahead touchdown, the Raiders had under a minute to get into field goal range for the win.
With under 20 seconds left in the game, Carson Palmer found Darrius Heyward-Bey open around the 37 yard line and delivered the ball right into his hands. Unfortunately, the DHB of years past reared his ugly head and he was unable to come down with a catch that would have put the Raiders easily in Sebastian Janikowski's field goal range. Instead, the Raiders wound up having to attempt a 65 yard field goal. As a result, Janikowski had to keep the ball low to drive it and Ndamukong Suh was able to get a hand on it.
Sure, there were many other plays that, had they gone a different way, the Raiders might have won. However, there is no arguing that Heyward-Bey was responsible for two of the biggest gaffs in the loss. It is great to see Heyward-Bey getting better, but these big time mistakes really need to be stopped if he is ever going to live up to his draft status.