Carolina Panthers linebacker A.J. Klein started Sunday’s 35-32 loss to Oakland well.
On one play, he forced quarterback Derek Carr – who was having a perfect first quarter – out of bounds before Carr could get the ball down the field. He showed nice burst, and was in the right spots.
He had a sack. He forced a fumble. He had five tackles in his return from the concussion protocol as a starter in place of Luke Kuechly, who is still in the protocol.
But the Raiders burned him on two huge plays.
“It felt good (being out there), but I know I definitely left some plays out there today,” he said after the game.
They also came at incredibly inopportune moments, from the perspective of the Panthers.
In the fourth quarter, with the score tied at 32, Raiders receiver Michael Crabtree had Klein in a one-on-one matchup down the middle. He tore down the field and in Klein’s effort to keep pace with him, he did not turn to watch the deep ball that spiraled toward Crabtree courtesy of quarterback Derek Carr.
Crabtree made the acrobatic 47-yard catch, helmet comping off in the process, and set up the ultimate game-winning field goal. He was just waiting for a flag to be thrown on the play, and it was as Klein was called for pass interference.
“They ripped my helmet off. I thought there should have been a flag,” he told reporters after the game. “They made it tough, by any means man.”
Klein said his feet tangled with Crabtree’s at the top of the route and he didn’t get turned around in time to make a play on the ball.
“That goes down to technique. I got to be better,” he said.
The Raiders also beat Klein on a two-point conversion and a touchdown.
“Those are plays I wish I had back,” said Klein. “They probably were a deciding factor. And I take responsibility for that.”