Yet somehow they managed to put together a quarter in which almost everything went right, earning their first win of the season after nearly three games filled with mistakes.
Sebastian Janikowski kicked a 43-yard field goal on the last play and the Raiders scored the final 13 points after Heyward-Bey was knocked out and hospitalized by a scary hit to beat the Pittsburgh Steelers 34-31 on Sunday.
"These types of games, in the past, we'd find some way to lose it in the end," safety Michael Huff said. "So for us to find a way to win it I think it's big."
In fact, this was the first time since 2003 that the Raiders (1-2) won a game they trailed by at least 10 points heading into the fourth quarter. Doing it against the powerful Steelers made it even sweeter.
The celebration after Janikowski's kick was in stark contrast to the pall over the stadium early in the fourth quarter when Heyward-Bey was knocked unconscious by a helmet-to-helmet hit in the end zone by Steelers safety Ryan Mundy that was not called a penalty by the replacement officials.
Heyward-Bey was taken to the hospital with a concussion and neck injury. But coach Dennis Allen said he was able to move his extremities and the team said he was in stable condition. Heyward-Bey was to stay in the hospital overnight for observation.
Carson Palmer followed the injury by throwing his third touchdown pass and Janikowski kicked two field goals to beat the Steelers (1-2) and get the Raiders on track after two losses to open the season.
"We kind of felt coming in we were already written off," Palmer said. "And we know we're a good team. We just had some unfortunate things happen the first two weeks and we didn't handle business and play well enough. We knew we could win this game."
The Raiders took over at their 25 with the game tied and 1:42 remaining. Palmer got the drive going with a 24-yard pass to Brandon Myers on third-and-10 and then hit Derek Hagan on a 17-yard pass down to the Pittsburgh 26 with 27 seconds left.
Oakland then ran down the clock to set up Janikowski's winning kick that sent the crowd into delirium less than an hour after silence overtook the stadium when Heyward-Bey was injured.
Mundy's helmet hit Heyward-Bey in the facemask on an incomplete pass in the end zone. Heyward-Bey's neck jerked violently and his head also crashed into the ground. Players from both teams kneeled in prayer as Heyward-Bey was attended to for about 10 minutes.
"We don't play like that," Mundy said. "We don't try to injury people or anything like that. We understand this is people's livelihood. We take that serious."
Heyward-Bey managed to raise his right hand while being taken off the field on a cart to go to the hospital.
Four plays later, Palmer eluded pressure and found Denarius Moore on a 6-yard touchdown pass that brought Oakland within 31-28 early in the fourth quarter.
"For us seeing him give the thumbs up, knowing he was all right gave us more momentum," Hagan said. "That really uplifted us and we came out on top."
Raiders cornerback Pat Lee then forced a fumble downfield by Pittsburgh receiver Antonio Brown that Philip Wheeler recovered at the Oakland 36. Palmer then drove the Raiders down the field and they tied the game on a 32-yard field goal by Janikowski with 6:30 to play.
With the Steelers missing Pro Bowl defensive stalwarts Troy Polamalu (calf) and James Harrison (knee), the Raiders were able to move the ball effectively in the second half.
Darren McFadden ran for 113 yards, including a 64-yard TD burst in the first quarter that surpassed his rushing total from the first two games of the season combined.
Palmer overcame an interception on the first play of the game to go 24 for 34 for 209 yards and three touchdowns, including a 3-yarder to Heyward-Bey late in the first half.
"They outplayed us defensively," Pittsburgh safety Ryan Clark said. "Their defense made the stops when they needed to, and we didn't. It wasn't from a lack of trying. Maybe it was trying too hard."
Roethlisberger was even better, throwing two TD passes to Heath Miller in the first quarter, as well as third-quarter scores to Mike Wallace and Brown. Roethlisberger finished 36 for 49 for 384 yards as Oakland failed to generate any sustained pass rush.
But he failed to convert a third-and-9 under pressure following the two-minute warning to give Oakland the chance at the winning score.
Each team converted a turnover into a touchdown in the opening half with the Steelers taking a 17-14 lead at the break after Roethlisberger led them 64 yards in the final 1:54 without a timeout to set up Shaun Suisham's 33-yard field goal on the final play.
NOTES: Myers left the game with a concussion on the final drive. ... Hall of Famer Marcus Allen lit the torch honoring late owner Al Davis in a sign that his long-running feud with the organization has ended. ... Miller has four TD catches in three games.