Oakland Raiders: Carson Palmer Misses Golden Opportunity

Jeff Spiegel@jeffspiegelContributor IINovember 5, 2012

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Getty Images

For months and months, Carson Palmer has surely heard the doubters.

The fans still bitter about the lopsided trade that brought him to Oakland and unfairly thrust him into a situation he was weeks away from being able to handle.

But despite all of that, Palmer has done surprisingly well.

Surrounded by an offense in transit and one that has struggled to provide any sort of run support, Palmer has been excellent this season.

Don't believe me?

Consider that Palmer is eighth in the league in passing yards per game, averaging 294 yards despite missing many of his top targets for huge chunks of the season. With 13 touchdowns and eight interceptions, Palmer also ranks above guys like Eli Manning, Joe Flacco and Matthew Stafford in passer rating.

And yet, the haters will find just two words in the previous paragraph: eight interceptions.

So with this as a backdrop, Palmer entered Oakland's home game against Tampa Bay this past weekend needing a big performance for Oakland to get a much-needed win. If the Raiders had any chance at the postseason, this was the type of game they needed to win.

As teams usually do, Oakland began the game hoping to establish the run, but just like they have all season, they couldn't.

In the first half, Oakland ran for just 16 yards on eight carries.

Despite their inability to develop a balanced attack, the Raiders led 10-7 going into halftime, but a disastrous third quarter changed everything.

The Bucs scored 21 straight points in the third quarter as the Oakland defense collapsed, giving them a 28-10 lead. Offensively, the Raiders lost running back Darren McFadden to injury, forcing them to abandon the run—rushing just once out of a total of 18 offensive plays.

As the fourth quarter began with the Raider offense still on the field, Palmer marched Oakland down the field before throwing a touchdown pass to Brandon Myers that cut the lead to 11.

Unfortunately, the Oakland defense picked up right where they left off—with another gaping hole for Doug Martin to run through, deflating the Oakland crowd and extending the lead to 18 with under 14 minutes remaining.

Then, Palmer stepped up.

Over the next 10 minutes, Palmer executed drives of 80 and 65 almost exclusively through the air, including a much-needed two-point conversion that cut the lead to just three points with four minutes remaining.

Needing a stop desperately, the Oakland defense regrouped and forced a three-and-out that gave Palmer and the offense the ball back with 2:51 left on the clock.

Just minutes away from a miraculous comeback, Palmer re-took the field.

In the back of my mind I thought to myself, "This could finally be it—Palmer might march down the field and prove the doubters wrong. This could be the drive when he finally convinces people he's the Pro Bowl quarterback they remember."

And then, almost before the thought could be completed, the Palmer every doubter still believed existed picked the wrong time to materialize.

With 1st-and-10 from their own 38, Palmer felt pressure in his face and heaved the ball up towards Rod Streater. The problem was that Streater was surrounded by three Tampa Bay defenders, making for an easy interception that ended any chance of a comeback.

By the time the final whistle blew, Palmer's numbers were mixed. On one hand were the three interceptions he threw, including two on Oakland's final two drives. On the other, however, was 400 yards and four touchdowns—numbers that he generated despite no threat of a running game and the absence of his top two running backs.

So for Palmer, it was a missed opportunity.

That drive was a chance to turn this team into a playoff contender and to establish himself as the quarterback every Oakland fan hoped he would be. And in fitting Oakland Raider fashion, that hope was met by an interception—almost fittingly by the same team that ended Oakland's hopes 10 years ago in the Super Bowl.

So I'm not saying Palmer is done and that he doesn't deserve a whole lot of praise for even making Sunday's game competitive—because he does. I'm just saying Sunday had a chance to be special, and it's a chance Palmer and the Raiders will never get back.