Thearon W. Henderson
The Raiders have not had quarterback like Carson Palmer for quite some time. He showed on Sunday versus the Buccaneers that he will put it in the air without hesitation. That mentality is a double edged sword.
The Raiders needed Palmer to put the ball in the air in this game after they lost both of their top two running backs. The result was throwing 61 passes, completing 39 for 414 yards.
For the first three quarters, being forced to put the ball in the air was not paying a lot of dividends. They had just one touchdown and just ten points. And the one interception he had resulted in a touchdown by the Buccaneers to help them jump out to a 28-10 lead.
Then the fourth quarter began and that's when Palmer really started connecting downfield. He went 15 of 23 for 149 yards and 3 touchdowns in the fourth quarter alone. That's a whole game worth for most quarterbacks. That was the good. The bad was the two interceptions he threw in that quarter.
He led the Raiders back to within three points on three straight touchdown with the final TD requiring a two-point conversion to bring the Raiders within three points. That two point conversion, he had defenders hanging on him and he put the ball up high for Juron Criner who came down with it in the back of the endzone.
This kind of play has engendered great confidence from his teammates.
"In one word, it's refreshing," says Marcel Reece who caught eight Palmer passes in this game for 95 yards and touchdown. "Carson is a leader out there, he's our leader, and we appreciate him and the way he always stays composed and leads this team. We always know, if we stay within striking distance, we have a chance. That takes a lot off a lot of guys' shoulders, and coaches."
"We trust him, we believe in him and we're ready to play."
The Crowd was going crazy after the improbable comeback especially after the defense had given up three long touchdown runs from Doug Martin. The defense held the Buccaneers this time and the Raiders would have one last shot.
All they needed to do was get in field goal range to tie it and with the way Palmer was throwing the ball, it seemed more than possible. Then on the second pass of the drive, he threw an easy interception. The Buccaneers took the ball at the Oakland 22 yard line and scored three plays later. He then lined up and threw another interception on two plays. It went from great comeback to game over just like that.
"All interceptions you regret," Carson Palmer said after the game. "They made a good play on [the first] one. On the second one, it was jut a little bit off. Not on the same page [between] myself and [Denarius Moore] and mistakes like that you can't overcome, you can't make. Me being the quarterback, I can't do that obviously. You can't throw that ball, you just need to take a sack sometimes if things are off of the same page and come back the next play."
The gunslinger mentality is one of classic Raiders Daryle Lamonica and Ken Stabler. It is how Lamonica got the nickname "The Mad Bomber" and why Stabler is often referred to as the master of the two minute drill. But neither of them were known for the kind of yards Palmer has put up this season and in his career as a Raider thus far.
Palmer's 414 yards ranks fourth most in Raiders' history. He just missed the third overall mark of 417 yards which he set in the final game of last season against the Chargers. He also had the second most attempts (61) and completions (39). Rich Gannon owns the top spots in both of those categories (43 of 64) which he set in the same game against the Steelers in September of his 2002 MVP season.
All those numbers are nice but both of his big passing performances have been in a loss. When the Raiders ask him to throw that much it usually means the defense has put them in a hole of which Palmer must dig out. But in each case, he makes plays and then falls short with a critical interception.
The Raiders know he is no "game manager". They know he has the toughness to hang in the pocket and is not afraid to air it out to make a big play. While that has its rewards, it is the risks that have had the Raiders falling short. It will mean big numbers for Palmer but perhaps not the numbers he really wants-- those in the win column.